IoT Connectivity: What are the options?

IoT Connectivity: What are the Options?

When it comes to selecting your preferred IoT connectivity there are a number of things you may want to consider. To help simplify this process, we’ve compiled a short guide to outline the options available and our top tips to think about when selecting the best option for your solutions.

There are numerous ways to connect your IoT devices, some will require a SIM card whereas others will require a gateway, or even connect to a satellite! The type of IoT connectivity you select is critical to the success of your IoT project and each option comes with its own range of benefits. The key here is to really understand what your requirements are and if your chosen connectivity will support your objectives.

What options are out there?

Here at Alliot we specialise in two key technologies: LoRaWAN® and NB-IoT/LTE-M (cellular IoT connectivity). But there are other options out there, these include:

Wired Connections

Wired connections were among the first methods of connectivity used in the early days of IoT. This tends to work well for items that will remain in a fixed position, but there’s little flexibility and there are much more efficient options now available.

WiFi

We’ve all become well accustomed to connecting our devices via WiFi and it often works well for simple home applications. WiFi however is notorious for its limitations with regards to range. Using WiFi for your IoT connectivity would require lots of access points to ensure its reach and it will also eat up a lot of battery power. Battery life is incredibly important when it comes to IoT sensors, especially if you’re installing solutions across multiple sites – replacing all those batteries would prove very time consuming!

Satellite

If you’re looking to monitor parameters in the middle of the ocean, satellite connectivity is the best option. There are geostationary satellites in orbit connecting devices around the world. It’s also reported that low earth orbit satellites are on the cards for companies such as SpaceX.

What options do Alliot Offer when it comes to IoT Connectivity?

LPWAN

Now this is our bread and butter! Low power Wide Area Networks were specifically designed for IoT use. LoRaWAN® devices offer long battery life by periodically transmitting small packets of data to a connected gateway. These gateways then connect to a LoRaWAN® network which offer a long range of up to 10km (depending on location) and don’t interfere with any existing networks or infrastructure.

Cellular Connectivity

Cellular IoT such as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M offer a great alternative to LoRaWAN®. NB-IoT is the newest kid on the block when it comes to IoT connectivity. Like LoRaWAN®, it offers an excellent coverage range and supports a long battery life.

However, unlike WiFi or LPWAN solutions using ethernet powered gateways, cellular doesn’t require an ethernet connection. Connectivity is instead supported by piggybacking on mobile networks. These devices require the use of a cellular IoT SIM card.

The main difference between NB-IoT and LTE-M is the support of mobility on the network. If you’re looking to track assets across multiple locations for example, LTE-M is likely to be the best option for you as it is better suited to faster moving assets that you need more frequent messages from as it supports handover.

Things to Consider…

There are a few things we’d recommend you take into consideration when selecting the type of IoT connectivity for your solutions.

Coverage

We’ve all experienced the loss of phone signal in remote locations. Sometimes cellular coverage can be weaker or unavailable in certain areas. Before going full steam ahead with a cellular IoT solution, it’s important to check the coverage available; we can help you with this.

In some areas, LoRaWAN® could well be the better option for you as you have the ability to create your own network therefore enabling you to ensure a relatively stable coverage across all types of locations. With LoRaWAN® you have the flexibility to create your own coverage by installing gateways, there are no licensing costs for the radio, and you can install them anywhere you want!

Cost & Scalability

Both LoRaWAN® and cellular IoT are future-proof in terms of scalability. With NB-IoT and LTE-M you have the ongoing cost of your SIM cards. The cost of SIM connectivity is low and given the size of your solution can be very cost-effective when compared to the costs involved with setting up a LoRaWAN® solution. Cellular IoT is great option where you only want a very small number of sensors per site, since you don’t need anything other than the sensor and a SIM contract which costs pence per month, per device. In these instances, installing gateways would be prohibitively expensive for a small number of sensors. Plus, you have the added benefit that the network is the responsibility of the mobile network provider!

If, however your solution is going to have thousands of connected devices, LoRaWAN® could prove to be more cost-effective for you as it operates on free (unlicensed) frequencies which you manage yourself so there are no upfront licensing costs to use the technology and you can potentially connect thousands of sensors to one gateway.

Deployment

Both NB-IoT and LoRaWAN® solutions are simple to install. We can even ship devices to you ready to plug & play! LoRaWAN® gateways offer coverage between 10km and 2km based on the installation environment. This is ideal for monitoring sensors deployed within this distance. However, if you’re looking to track assets throughout the country for example, LTE-M may offer a better alternative.

Whatever your requirements we’re here to help. Both cellular IoT and LoRaWAN® offer excellent options when it comes to connecting your IoT solutions. Get in touch today to discuss your IoT connectivity.

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