News

14/01/2022

IOT Wireless | The rise of connectivity | diversity and choice

Kurt Neubauer

Kurt Neubauer

IOT  Wireless | The rise of connectivity | diversity and choice

In my 40-year career, I have seen hundreds of tech trends come and go, experienced innovation first-hand, and witnessed a worldwide, technological evolution. 

Internet of things (IoT) started as one of these hypes but now, after many years, it has earned its place in the history books as an innovation. Today, IoT is essential to the function of almost every industry, company, and private life. Although many don’t realize this because IoT works quietly in the background. 

One of the core characteristics of IoT systems is wireless connectivity with low power consumption solutions for sensors, actuators, and devices with long lifespans. 

But not all IoT solutions are equal. At Thaumatec labs we have undertaken many experiments and trials to understand how different connectivity technologies interact and how to produce reliable, secure, and well-performing systems. 

We are proud to share with you some of the connectivity insights we’ve gained while working on IoT solutions for clients in the automotive, smart city, healthtech, and safety and security industries.

Kurt Neubauer, Technology Network and SOO

  1. Overview 

Wireless and mobile connectivity is one of the most quickly growing access methods and is used in almost every industry to gain independence from location and enable freedom of movement. Many different radio technologies and standards are available on the market, but they are usually only designed for, applicable with, and perform well in particular use cases

IOT Radio Access Infrastructure:

Thaumatec is using its comprehensive IoT expertise and experience in different types of radio access to create prototypes and design, develop and test wireless and mobile devices and applications to improve these systems. 

Typically, we use 3 types of wireless access: 

  1. Low-power, long-range radio technology

LPWAN (low-power wide area networks) transport data, status and information from connected low power and autonomous sensors and devices to the decision-making application for storage in the data backend. The network infrastructure can be set up in its own network, which requires environmental and maintenance costs or fee-based operator services. When it comes to LPWAN, we offer LoRa WAN, NB-IOT, CAT-M and Sigfox solutions.

  1. Short range radio technology

This refers to transporting data, status and information from close (room- or house distance) sensors, access-points and devices to the decision-making application for storage in the data backend. The network infrastructure can be set up in its own network, which may require environmental and maintenance costs. For short-range radio technology, we offer RFID, NFC, BLE and Wi-Fi-based solutions.

  1. IoT mesh technology and solutions

IoT mesh technologies transport the data, status and information from close (room- or house distance) sensors, industrial areas, and closer rural areas via access points and devices to the decision-making application for storage in the data backend. This is completed without any network planning or any other physical or technical construction works related to connectivity. 

Simply place and play: the radio network configures itself and is prepared to handle many nodes and comprehensive infrastructure. The reliability, performance, safety and security features for this solution have been greatly improved in the last decade. Here we offer ZigBee and Wirepas mesh solutions.

Decision-making criteria 

The differences in these technologies can be examined using the following parameters:

  • Range and urban range
  • Power usage and long life
  • Reliability
  • Security

Performance and data rates

  • Environmental and operating costs

These parameters must be matched, tailored, and customized carefully according to your requirements. For example, IoT applications with radio network functionality often require a combination of two or more radio standards. In some cases, this means a mediation between long and short range, in other circumstances, it ensures security during outages.

Compare your options

This table provides an overview of the existing criteria, capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths of the available technologies. 

Low-power, long-range radio technology:

Comparison parameterLoRa WANLTE NB-IoTLTE-CAT-MSigfox
Urban – rural area range (km)15 – 30303030-50
Urban area range (km)2-55-8113-10
power usage for long life(mw)1001000-50001000-500050
ReliabilityIn the case of full, real-time requirements, LoRa is not the best choice due to message delay constraints.Reliable high level 3GPP standardReliable high level 3GPP standardAlternative network operator, private and independent network, good performance, bigger range
SecurityLoRaWAN™ application payloads are always encrypted end-to-end between the end-device and the application server.Unauthorized use of the dedicated spectrum is subject to prosecution. All mobile operators employ SIMs with secure integrated circuits,layer two tunnelling protocol (L2TP), or internet protocol security (IPsec).Unauthorized use of the dedicated spectrum is subject to prosecution. All mobile operators employ SIMs with secure integrated circuits,layer two tunnelling protocol (L2TP), or internet protocol security (IPsec).In a Sigfox network, each IoT device stores a unique ID, a Network Authentication Key (NAK), and an Encryption Key (Ke), the last two being secret and 128 bits in length.
Performance and data rates (kbps)2711010000.8(140 messages/hour)
1 device costs(per Modul EUR)10-148-1410-406-12
Environmental and operating costs(per monthly fee EUR)1-2 (public)0.25 (private)<1 (100kB)2-6 (1 Mb)<1
Overall performanceLoRa communications are reasonably resilient to detection and jamming and are immune to Doppler deviation. Very low power consumption.Globally available, good safety,global service by operator and vendorsGlobally available, good safety,global service by operator and vendors#1 rating in shipping and services
Typical usageLoRa is a very useful and good choice in case of small data transfers and actions needed in networks to connect small and battery powered devices without cabling.Leased infrastructure and smaller data rate, mobile IoT devices as in vehicles or in non-urban area, agriculture, telematics, real time closeLeased infrastructure and higher data rate, mobile IoT devices as in vehicles, telematics, real time closeCompanies, production, manufacturing sites
Plus & minus+ Open protocol and very low power consumption- Urban range short, not for real time applications, smallest urban range+ power save, simple radio technique, global reach- No HOV, fee to pay,  does not support VoLTE for speech transmission+ TCP/IP use (connect servers), low data on small costs, good coverage (especially USA), global reach- Higher energy consumption, fee to pay+ message efficiently due LwProt, wide coverage- sigfox device interference to wideband systems, one way communication without acknowledgement

Short range radio technology:

Comparison parameterWi-FiBLE (BT 5 best)NFCRFID
Range (max)100m, (11 b/g/n)1 km (11ah)3km + (11af)50m-150m4cm100m
ReliabilityGood performance and long experience on the marketError correction procedures during set up (but reduction on the data rate)NFC possible if devices are switched off or empty battery, no battery NFC tags (power via antenna induction)Specific use, fast connection set up and data exchange, safety features and safety worker suits and gloves, access control solutions
SecurityWired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), weakWi-Fi Protected Access (WPA, WPA2), 256-bit  Key brings some improvement Main security issues: pairing process and BLE in general are passive, eavesdropping, man in the middle. (MITM) attacks and conducts identity tracking.Very limited distance to the reader,2 factor authentication with OSs or web browser, NFC itself not secured against Third Party side channel attacksSecure mechanisms can be applied to prevent attacks: cryptography, automatic detection of rogue devices, cloning resistance, secure storage of critical data in remote databases, use of secure physical modulations and medium access control (MAC) protocols.
Performance and data rates (kbps)till 100 Mbit/still 9.6 Gbit/s (802.11ax)till 2 Mbit/s (Bluetooth 5.0)till 424 kbit/still 100 Mbit/s
Overall performanceSeveral Wi-Fi standards allow selection of the most suitable oneas it is available in all smartphones,highly applicable for monitoring and sensor solutionsAvailable in almost all smartphones,single chip solutions availableFast transaction usage possible due to fast set up with reader, NFC tags and devices in no power mode make inductive accessible, available in more and more smartphonesInduction powered RFID tags without battery/power supply, read/write on tags, many devices at once
Typical usagee.g. applications in smart home area, shops and malls, officesSmartphones and tablets, wireless headphones, digital signage, car stereos, fitness trackers, smartwatches, beacons, HW devices, machine monitoringIdentity documents, contactless and mobile payment, key cards, electronic ticket smart cards, mobile phones, keys/car keysShops, retail, warehouses, Stock lists, inventory data, animal id implants, smart cards (Mifare, Desfire), defense apps, railroads
Plus & minus+ Very popular, little investment, easy installation and integration- Not the most secure + Low power consumption and costs, easy integration- Security issues+ Fast connection set up, e.g. pay and go- No certificate according to common criteria, low data rate+ Fast scanning of many devices- Further security implementations needed

Mesh technology

This table compares the features and specialties of a mesh set up. The physical radio part for both is similar.

Comparison parameterWirepasZigbee
Rural area range5 km100m
Urban area range40m30m
Power consumptionLow power modeRouter: 25uA / 1.5 packets per second non-routing: 12uA with 8 sec access cycle12uA sleeping mode54 mA transmitting mode
InterferenceWirepas Mesh dynamically avoids using the channel that other devices are using nearby.Wirepas Mesh dynamically adjusts the transmission power to the lowest setting to avoid interfering other devicesThe 2.4 GHz band that ZigBee uses is often crowded. Crowded frequencies can cause interference which will result in lost or unreliable signals. You may also experience poor reliability if your devices are out of range.
ReliabilityWirepas Mesh does handle acknowledgements and re-transmitsautomatically for each message in case of packets lost. Messages are buffered until those have been successfully delivered.Router will automatically find an alternative route. No need for an application to have logic.Lower network reliability will occur due to network complexity,more resource usage, and complex object relationships.
SecuritySignaling message encrypted with AES128.Every message encrypted with AES128 CTR 128-bit AES encryption for secure data connections
Performance and data ratesTransmission of maximum 102 bytes dataPackage takes only milliseconds, thanks to 1Mbps bandwidth20kbps – 250 kbps
environmental and operating costs(per Modul EUR)e.g. Worth appr. 10 Eur> 5.00 EUR
Environmental and operating costsNo operating costs for private networkNo operating costs for private network
FeaturesDecentralized operation, low latency mode, Synchronous operation, ,self-healing of connectionsno single point failure, industry standard security, automatic roaming, OTA Update
Low duty cycle,low latency,direct sequence spread spectrum,
Network element size max.>1.000.000 Nodes65.000 Nodes
Overall performanceExcellent self-configuration,highest security and reliability standard,effective operation and maintenance features,highest scalable IoT connectionNetwork increase and complexitycauses lower reliability,latency increases as network size grows
Typical usageindustrial mesh IoT networksSmart lighting, HVAC controls, securityand energy management, home NW
Plus & minus+ rentability for all kind of networks, both big and small + Good performance – Network growthcauses less reliability

Decision

These are just a selection of the radio technologies that we are experienced in. If they interest you, great. But there are many other technologies available that may fit your needs even better.

Before deciding, it’s important to always:

  1. Investigate the relevant use cases
  2. Collect all valid connectivity criteria for these use cases
  3. Check the connectivity standards and technology
  4. Create a decision table and flow

Then, select the best fitting radio technology

Here is an example of a simple decision table which may help:

Making a selection using your most important criteria
Do you need a
data rate >50kbps ?
YESNO
Do you need a
data rate >500kbs
Do you need a
range > 10 km
YESNONOYES
NB-IoTCAT-MLoRASigfox

Bandwidth and range are examples, but you can add any relevant criteria to this process to ensure your project is aligned at all decision levels. 

Conclusion 

To avoid surprises during testing and operation, you should always compare the details of the connectivity technologies you are considering before diving in. At Thaumatec, we have a wealth of experience and knowledge in this field and are happy to help you find a solution that fits your needs. 

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