IoT Sensor-Based Networks
IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a general term used to describe a system of connected objects such as machines, sensors, actuators, or any electronic device with the capability for communication. Each object within this system can communicate wirelessly with other objects, either directly or over a larger network. IoT communication works intelligently and automatically, without human intervention needed to enable the communication.
An IoT Solution Requires
Embedded devices, with each device having the ability to collect and/or process data
A wireless network for the transmission of this data
Some way to control the devices within the network
There are a wide variety of uses for IoT solutions in many different settings. For example:
- To detect issues with equipment such as gas or water leaks or mechanical breakdowns in a wide variety of settings, from hotels and office buildings to manufacturing facilities and natural gas terminals.
- To gather mission-critical data continuously, such as at a power plant where safety is critical.
- To measure and adjust environmental variables such as temperature, humidity, and lighting, whether for comfort, efficiency, or the requirements of work such as refrigerated shipping.
- To gather data across a wide area such as a farm or vineyard and make adjustments (for example, automatically activating an irrigation system in a particularly dry spot) for improved performance.
- To detect motion in an area and take action such as activating an automatic door, turning on security cameras in the area, or turning off a faucet when no one is there.
IoT solutions can not only gather information, but with the right equipment, they can also automatically adjust for conditions using programmed algorithms or even artificial intelligence. The automation provided by IoT solutions can result in cost savings as well as improved performance and scalability.
There are a number of different types of networks that can be used for IoT communications, and each has its benefits depending on the setting:
- Enterprise WiFi is already available in many locations, making it a popular choice. However, because WiFi networks can get congested quickly and have higher power usage, WiFi performs best in environments where sensors and actuators are stationary and somewhat sparsely placed, without many obstructions to the wireless signal.
- Cellular networks are also widely available and perform well in terms of latency and coverage, but public networks can get expensive and congested. This has led some enterprises to build their own private cellular networks with their own security policies and traffic control. This solution offers improved reliability and capacity over a larger area than WiFi networks and can exist alongside WiFi without interference. Typically, enterprises will reserve private networks for regular traffic that requires low latency and high throughput; critical infrastructure may require the improved performance and standards offered by public 5G networks.
- Bluetooth offers a simple way to connect devices over a short distance with low power consumption. This method may be most suitable for stationary devices that are within a short range of each other.
- Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) offer good coverage with lower power requirements and less cost over broad distances. LPWANs offer broader coverage like cellular networks, but less bandwidth and lower data rates, so they are best used for applications that don’t require constant data collection and immediate response. Although purpose-built networks are an option, technology such as NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) is also available and uses “spare” bandwidth on public LTE networks to transmit data.
- Proprietary networks such as ISA100 Wireless balance requirements for power consumption and latency. For example, ISA100 Wireless offers improved security and communication, but relatively slow transmission and limited capacity, making it well-suited for applications in situations like industrial and manufacturing settings that require small amounts of data (such as temperature and pressure data and equipment diagnostic information) to be transmitted within a fixed period.
With the information and automation enabled by IoT solutions, businesses can adjust quickly to changes in their environment, allowing for improved efficiency, quicker responses to problems (or even preemptive fixes before a problem arises), and better performance at a lower cost.