Internet of Things part 4: the right technology for your application
4 Červenec 2018
It is the latest trend: connecting objects. Countless organisations are already investing into making their products smart. They use the resulting information to e.g. optimise the efficiency of their processes, save energy or improve usability. But what is the best way to go about this? Which technology should you choose? And how can you use this technology so it gives you the exact information you need? In this series of blog articles, we will offer you valuable information and guidelines related to the Internet of Things. Dit is part 4: about choosing the right technology for your application.
We live in a new age. A time when everything and everyone is connected and smart devices can communicate with us and each other. This is the age of the Internet of Things. Think of a refrigerator that knows when your milk has expired and automatically orders a new bottle, or a water faucet that automatically detects leaks, shuts off the water supply and then contacts the water company. The developments are moving fast. In 2016, 6.4 billion devices all over the world were connected to the internet. That was 30% more than in 2015. According to the research agency Gartner, this number will grow to more than 20 billion by the year 2020.
Choosing the right technology for your application
All connectivity technologies have their respective pros and cons. If you want to know which technology is best suited for your application, you should first determine exactly what you want to know. If you have a courier service and want to track your drivers, a WPLAN connection is a good option. If you want to enable consumers to order new razor blades with a single press of a button once their current blade becomes dull, it is better to go for a continuous connection using cellular M2M.
What to look out for when choosing a technology?
The size of the required batteries may affect your product’s design. A device with a cellular connection and a ten-year lifecycle, for example, may need three AAA batteries. LPWAN requires a much smaller watch battery, which offers more design options.
Hardware, e.g. a SIM card, and software cost money. From the perspective of hardware costs, there are virtually no differences between the various technologies. If you go for cellular M2M with a SIM card, you will need a data provider, which comes with its own costs. LoRa, Bluetooth, Sigfox and WLAN utilise existing networks, so you do not have to pay data costs. Of course, the requisite infrastructure for these networks has to be available. If that is not the case, creating this infrastructure will lead to more costs. A provider may also charge you for e.g. the maintenance or expansion of the network. These costs are often billed per device per year.
Good data security is becoming increasingly important, especially when you want to transmit large quantities of (confidential) data. A cellular M2M connection offers many advantages in this regard. A SIM card is technically a microprocessor that mostly handles encryption and decryption. This encryption makes it impossible for unauthorised third parties to access the data. The user can turn a device off remotely and access or block the SIM card. If you want to transmit highly confidential data, it is advisable to use a private Access Point Name (APN). This means data is only transferred via a private network connection. LoRa also encrypts its data traffic, while Sigfox does not. Out of the LPWAN technologies, NB-IoT is the most secure because it utilises both network- and device-side authentication. Furthermore, NB-IoT encrypts the data traffic between devices on the network.
Technological developments occur at a dazzling rate. Ask yourself whether the technology and application you choose today will still meet your requirements in ten years’ time. Perhaps you will want to collect more or other relevant data by then. Will the technology of your choice let you do that?
Finally, the location is an important consideration. Not every technology is available everywhere yet.
- WLAN is available in virtually every country in the world. According to the research agency Statista, the number of public hotspots will grow from 90 million in 2016 to more than 500 million by 2021.
- Devices with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) can be used anywhere in the world. BLE does not rely on any existing infrastructure, since the devices form their own network once they are connected.
- LoRa is available in parts of North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia, although the bandwidths differ per location. Europe uses 867-869 MHz and North America uses 902-928 MHz, while the frequency in Asia differs per country (ranging from 40 MHz to 925 MHz).
- Sigfox is available in most European countries, as well as in Australia, Japan, Tunisia, Oman, Madagascar, Laos, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.
- NB-IoT and LTE-M utilise existing 3G and 4G networks, which offer virtually global coverage. LTE-M is very popular in the United States.
Would you like to know more?
Download the entire whitepaper Internet of Things: connecting everything.