mioty: The Answer to Robust Industrial IoT Connectivity

industrial iot connectivity

BehrTech Blog

mioty – The Answer to Robust Industrial IoT Connectivity

The adoption of communication technologies in manufacturing has evolved over several decades, with protocols such as Ethernet/IP, EtherCAT, and Profinet continuing to serve as a backbone for time-sensitive automation and control applications. Today however, the increasing prevalence of sensors connected via the industrial internet of things (IIoT) to provide information for data-driven applications like predictive maintenance are now driving the need for a complementary communications infrastructure.

What is needed is wireless instrumentation that can be retrofitted without interrupting functioning processes while satisfying demanding industrial requirements. Recognized for their unique advantages in terms of range, power, and costs, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) will soon become the standard industrial IoT connectivity infrastructure covering the entire facility and supporting a multitude of uses cases, from simple temperature monitoring in the manufacturing plant to condition monitoring, energy consumption tracking, and worker safety.

IIoT Sensor Networks on the Factory Floor

The manufacturing sector is constantly looking for innovative approaches to increase productivity and reduce costs. Installation of numerous sensors on shop floors provides informative data about the status of critical asset and machinery, as well as the production environment, to improve control over plant operations. For example, air pressure sensors help monitor and maintain optimal pressure levels to prevent dust infiltration in the manufacturing facility, thereby securing product quality in pharmaceutical and microelectronics industries. Vibration sensors recording excessive movement of motors and pumps may suggest possible mounting defects, shaft misalignment, and bearing wear that require proactive responses. Ultimately, the potential for IIoT in manufacturing facilities is boundless.

Coupled with a powerful analytics platform, sensor networks provide inputs that enable condition monitoring and analysis of past equipment failures to detect causes and anticipate fault probability. This enables planning around predictive maintenance and timely replenishment of spare parts based on asset condition to minimize costly downtime and production losses. Unnecessary manual inspection of various machinery components can also be eliminated, saving labor costs.

While industrial Ethernet and classical fieldbus technologies are best suited for real-time automation and process control, they can be cost-prohibitive and too cumbersome when connecting huge numbers of sensors for remote monitoring to the cloud. Thanks to ease of installation and expansion, wireless industrial IoT connectivity solutions have been increasingly implemented in production environments to provide an additional layer for efficient sensor communication. Industry-grade robustness, the ability to integrate massive end-points across the entire factory, network longevity, low power requirements, and cost-efficiency are leading requirements for wireless networks.

Low Power Wide Area Networks

Industrial IoT Connectivity
Figure 1: LPWAN fuels massive sensor data to the cloud for analytics and informed decision-making

Incorporating a family of technologies that utilize sub-GHz bands (e.g. 868MHz in Europe and 915MHz in North America) to transmit low-throughput messages, LPWAN can support the communication of vast battery-operated sensor arrays over long distances. Most traditional LPWA networks operate in the unlicensed ISM (industrial, scientific, and medical) bands, with the exception of a few cellular-based LPWA technologies such as Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT).

LPWAN addresses major drawbacks of short-range radio technologies (e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and cellular connectivity in large-scale IIoT deployments. With a range varying from a few to more than 10 km and deep indoor penetration, LPWAN enables effective sensor communication in remote and underground industrial complexes, and fills other cellular coverage gaps. For example, sensors can be installed at previously unfeasible and challenging positions, or even in hazardous areas. A battery life of more than 10 years considerably simplifies battery replacement and recharging.

Less complex waveforms of LPWAN technologies reduce transceiver design complexity, allowing for comparatively low device costs. Wide area coverage in combination with one-hop star topology reduces the requirement for expensive infrastructure (i.e. gateway) and power consumption of endpoints, as opposed to mesh topology in short-range networks with their relaying functionality. Thanks to low device and infrastructure costs along with low subscription fees, LPWAN can be deployed at a fraction of the capital and operating expenditures of wireless alternatives.

A Critical Examination of Existing LPWAN: Quality-of-Service and Standardization

Existing LPWA networks, however, have their downsides, too. Quality-of-Service problems and the lack of standardization encountered by the majority of unlicensed solutions threaten to limit their industrial application, where carrier-grade reliability is a prerequisite.

Operating in the increasingly congested ISM bands, unlicensed LPWA networks expose interference vulnerability and co-existing weaknesses. Technologies employing an ultra-narrow band technique like Sigfox utilize a very long transmission time of about 6 seconds. The chance that another system also sends telegrams at the same time is relatively high, thus increasing the probability of collision and loss of data. Considering the high electromagnetic interference in factory settings, this can greatly diminish network performance. Long on-air time also has a significant impact on power consumption and imposes higher battery requirements. In addition, the number of transmissions is also limited by duty cycle regulations that defined the relationship between on-air time and silent time.

Industrial IoT Connectivity
Figure 2: Long transmission (“on air”) time makes data highly susceptible to interference

LoRa adopts a spread spectrum modulation scheme to increase data rate and shorten on-air time. During a transmission, the system changes the frequency, resulting in a frequency ramp that occupies much broader bandwidth compared to a narrow band approach. In real-world installations, LoRa networks are very sensitive to interference caused by their own system. Increased traffic within a LoRa network causes an overlay of different telegrams, making it impossible for the receiver to separate them, thereby leading to data loss. Consequently, overall system capacity is confined and system scalability is limited. The use of different spreading factors resulting in different frequency ramps aims to achieve higher network capacity, but introduces other negative effects like different range and data rate for different spreading factors. This requires more effort for network management.

The existence of many proprietary protocols in a fragmented unlicensed LPWAN landscape introduces another major concern for businesses. Proprietary technology such as LoRa entails the problem of vendor lock-in that restricts customers’ innovation capability and flexible reaction to future technological changes. In general, the lack of standardization poses a significant barrier to worldwide IIoT scalability due to reliability and interoperability issues.

Using licensed spectrum, cellular LPWAN like NB-IoT surpass the co-existence and standardization problems experienced by unlicensed counterparts, offering higher quality-of-service. However, it is worth noticing that NB-IoT entails comparatively higher device costs, lower power efficiency, and insufficient coverage (“white spots”) typical of all cellular and operator-based networks. The additional requirement of SIM cards with data volume limits makes these systems more complex and more expensive to deploy and contrary to common perception, cellular technologies do not offer a worldwide solution for IIoT or M2M communication. 

A global standard for robust LPWAN in industrial applications

Answering the call for industrial-grade, worldwide interoperable LPWAN, mioty which leverages Telegram Splitting – Ultra Narrow Band (TS-UNB) technology, has been developed and approved as a global ETSI standard for low throughput networks (TS 103 357). Employing a unique communication method wherein transmission of a telegram (data packet) is divided into short radio-bursts (sub-packets), mioty satisfies other critical network features in IIoT deployments:

  • Robustness and Quality-of-Service: Due to very short “on air” time of sub-packets, interference and collision probability are considerably reduced, guaranteeing high network robustness, even in the congested license-free spectrum. Signal strength through physical interference like concrete walls, steel, and rebar obstructions typical in complex industrial settings, is also maximized. Low-bandwidth and short channel occupation make the system extremely “friendly” to other co-existing radio networks. Forward error correction further enables successful data retrieval even if up to 50 percent of sub-packets are lost during transmission.
  • High scalability: Providing maximum spectral efficiency, LPWA networks using mioty can scale to handle up to 1.5 million daily messages from thousands of sensors in a single network, without degrading range and connection quality.
  • Worldwide compatibility and vendor-independent protocol: As an open standard, accepted worldwide, the protocol can be supported on a global scale and implemented on any commodity, off-the-shelf hardware. The standardized protocol offers end users better investment security and trouble-free, companywide deployments across their global facilities.
Industrial IoT Connectivity
Figure 3: mioty reduces interferer collision probability and maximizes spectral efficiency

Outlook – A New Spectrum of Industrial IoT Use Cases 

Adding carrier-grade robustness, scalability, and compatibility to established long-range, low-power and low-cost attributes of LPWAN, the new industrial IoT connectivity standard mioty, unlocks multiple use cases in manufacturing settings beyond industrial automation:

  • Factory-wide environmental sensors including air pressure, temperature, and humidity, can be deployed to monitor and control optimal ambient conditions for various processes like painting, gluing and drying, etc.
  • Health parameters and operating surroundings of innumerable remote assets (e.g. motors, valves, pumps, tanks, etc.) can be effectively tracked to curtail manual tasks and enable predictive maintenance leveraging analytical models.
  • Wearables transmitting workers’ health and activity status, coupled with environmental sensors (e.g. gas, heat, air quality, etc.), can identify “out-of-tolerance” incidents to enhance worker safety.
  • Energy consumption across various areas of the production complex can be monitored with wireless smart meters to detect power waste sources and improve energy efficiency.
  • Digitized management of critical building facilities (e.g. elevators, smoke detectors, intrusion alarms, etc.) enhances security and safety.

As we look ahead, robust industrial IoT connectivity technologies that meet the new ETSI TS-UNB Standard are poised to add a new IIoT infrastructure for cost-efficient, reliable sensor communication in factory settings.

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The Importance of a Good IoT Monitoring and Alarm System

IoT Monitoring

BehrTech Blog

The Importance of a Good Monitoring and Alarm System for your IoT Network

Your IoT network may have hundreds or even thousands of end devices (sensors) with each sensor sending messages on a regular basis. It’s important to make sure that sensors are getting to the gateway in a timely manner.  

A robust and scalable wireless technology, proper network planning and testing, and an optimal architecture are critical to a well-functioning network. However, unexpected issues including interference, changes in the environment, hardware and software problems, batteries running out etc., can impact your network. You need a solution that can monitor the network for problems and if a problem occurs, can alert your team in real time.

At a minimum, a good IoT monitoring solution consists of two elements:

  1. Configurable thresholds that warn you of a potential issue.
  2. Real-time alerts sent to your team in the event of one of these thresholds being reached.

Configurable Thresholds

A good IoT monitoring system includes thresholds that you can set to inform your team of activity that might bear investigating. Useful thresholds include the following:

Signal Level – Part of planning and testing is determining the level at which your gateway might stop receiving signals from a sensor. It’s useful to set a threshold that warns you if the signal strength is getting close to this level. For example, if you know that your gateway stops receiving signals around -135 dBm, you could configure a threshold of -125 dBm (10 dBm above this level). If the system detects a signal level below this, then an alarm is triggered, and you can investigate.

Signal Level Drops Below an Acceptable Limit – While it’s important to know if the received signal has dropped below a certain level, it’s also helpful to find out if the signal strength from a sensor has dropped from one message to the next, as this could indicate an issue.

Missed Messages – Perhaps the gateway has stopped receiving messages for a short interval before receiving them again. There could be some unexpected interference or maybe a sensor has malfunctioned. In either case, it’s important to know as quickly as possible to ensure that you are not missing important data. Once you identify that there is a problem, you can locate and troubleshoot the sensor.

Messages Are No Longer Being Sent – Maybe a sensor has stopped transmitting messages altogether or for a sustained period of time. For example, perhaps a sensor is supposed to send data every 10 minutes and it has suffered a battery failure. You could set a threshold of 30 minutes. If the 30 minutes have elapsed with no messages, an alert is triggered, and your team can investigate.

Real Time Alerts

Equally important to the thresholds themselves are the ways in which the alerts are sent to your team. While there are many ways to send messages, email and MQTT represent two good options.

Email is still a key method of communication in the enterprise and timely emails help ensure that you are able to act on it immediately.

MQTT is a standard messaging protocol for IoT offering lightweight communication between the gateway and the consumers of the data and it remains an excellent way to receive data in real time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a robust and stable wireless sensor network helps your IT and OT teams sleep peacefully.  Even the best networks, however, can suffer problems from time to time. Having a solution that is capable of monitoring your network for issues and provides proactive real-time alerting to your team when problems occur helps to keep minor issues from becoming big problems.

The BehrTech wireless IoT management platform – MYTHINGS Central includes a number of plugins that extend system functionality. In addition to plugins providing connectivity to platforms such as AWS, Cumulocity, and Losant, MYTHINGS Central also includes the BehrTech Network Monitoring and Alarm Service to alert you of potential issues before they become problems.  

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Smart Museums: 6 Artful IoT Applications for Museums and Galleries

Smart Museums

BehrTech Blog

Smart Museums: 6 Artful IoT Applications for Museums and Galleries

While we often think of the Internet of Things has having a heavy presence in commercial and industrial environments, it also has reached widespread adoption in various public institutions like museums and art galleries. According to the American Alliance of Museums, museums contributed 50 billion dollars to the US economy and generated approximately 850 million visitors in 2019. The significant public interest in maintaining these historic and cultural centers and the increasing demand for creating new and innovative experiences has pushed museum facility managers and curators to adopt various IoT applications. Thanks to the availability and broad spectrum of wireless IoT sensors, these organizations are able to ensure the safety and proper preservation of artworks as well as create more dynamic visitor experiences.

Here are 6 ways smart museums and galleries are using IoT.

1. Artifact Preservation

Historical artifacts are extremely sensitive to even minor fluctuations in humidity, temperature and light. Prolonged exposure to moisture, high temperatures as well as sunlight and fluorescent light can lead to a variety of problems, such as shrinking, warping, decay, fading and discoloration. Prior to the availability of IoT sensors, monitoring ambient conditions was a manual and laborious task. Museum administrators had no clear recourse for improving control systems and making timely adjustments, putting these priceless artifacts at risk for damage.

By integrating IoT sensors into storage and display architectures, museums are now able to collect and analyze critical environmental data such as temperature, humidity and lighting in real time. This data enables staff to adjust the humidity, temperature and lighting of exhibits with precision, helping to cut operation costs, reduce the frequency of restoration projects and protect valuable artifacts.

2. Leak Detection

Whether it is a leaking air conditioner, condensation, groundwater or local plumbing, water damage can have a devastating and costly impact on museums and galleries.

Leak detection solutions notify facility managers at the very first sign of a leak allowing them to take remedial action. For example, water leak sensing cables can be placed on pipes in walls near display areas, or around the perimeter of an especially sensitive area. Spot leak sensors can be used in the top of drop-in ceiling tiles to provide early warning of water leaks coming from pipes, upper floors, or the roof to ensure quick intervention and avoid flooding throughout the gallery or exhibit.

3. Artifact Management and Security

More than 50,000 pieces of artwork are stolen each year around the world and the black market for stolen art is valued at between $6 billion and $8 billion annually. Given many of these pieces are valued at millions of dollars, some even priceless, museum security is of utmost importance. IoT offers multiple ways to help with museum security.

Access Control

In smart museums, IoT sensors attached to windows, doors and artifact display cases can immediately alert museum security upon opening and closing to detect and prevent intrusive incidents. Movement and vibration sensors can also be placed in and around works of art that send an alert, silent or otherwise if they’re touched, signalling to museum employees that there may be a theft in progress. 

Individual Article Tracking 

IoT sensors enabled with near-field communication and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons can track pieces of art wherever they go and provide critical data on their condition. Tied to larger museum networks, this offers the possibility of real-time status monitoring and change detection to help prevent theft.

Occupancy Sensing

Presence detection sensors can help museum guards secure a building after closing, sending real-time irregular movement alerts directly to the main security center for immediate action.

4. Interactive Exhibits

There are more than 35,000 museums in the U.S., so to ensure high attendance numbers, an increase in memberships and more revenue, artists and exhibitors must bring something unique to the table. With the help of IoT devices, artists, museums, and galleries are finding new ways to make their exhibits more interactive from collecting virtual objects, to helping visitors plan out personalized exhibit routes with interactive maps and even enabling artists to create unique installations and experiences.  

For example, new media artist Matt Roberts, uses technology to create a sound experience within the museum space by sampling oceanic currents to provide data that modulates the sounds. The data is transmitted to his exhibit from nearby buoys using IoT-linked weather monitors.

IoT has also been used to create interactive exhibits and events through wearable technologies. For example, the Children’s Museum of Houston launched a spy-themed scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt uses passive low-frequency RFID technology linked to players’ wristbands, which is able to track participants’ progress, location and repeat visits.

5. Visitor Behaviour

From the standpoint of visitors, the attractiveness of the exhibition depends on two characteristics: uniqueness of exhibits and popularity of artists. Presence detection sensors can help curators better understand which areas of the gallery receive the most viewers and which artworks attract the most of attention. These sensors provide real-time data around dwell times within the different rooms as well as specific artworks, providing insight into the interest level of the curated exhibit. Likewise, wireless IoT sensors that measure visitor respiration rate and resting heart rate from a distance, can indicate a physical response to certain artworks. Do visitors’ heartbeat increase when looking at this installation? This information can be used to fuel novel, adaptive and engaging museum experiences.

6. Guest Comfort

As with any business attracting and hosting visitors, ensuring the health, safety and comfort of guests is paramount. Using IoT sensors for Indoor Environmental Quality monitoring is key to ensuring these spaces have clean air to breathe and the ambient temperature, light and noise quality is optimal for visitor comfort.

Likewise, with the help of wireless IoT sensors, museum staff can proactively monitor when consumable supplies such as hand sanitizer, hand soap, paper towel and toilet paper are running low to ensure timely replenishment.

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IoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity Choice

IoT ROI

BehrTech Blog

IoT ROI: The Impact of Your Wireless Connectivity Choice

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is weaving its way into almost every industry today, disrupting the way businesses and manufacturers have operated. All hype aside, embarking on an IIoT initiative is challenging. There is one thing all executives and decision-makers consider when justifying the business case for IIoT deployment and evaluating available technology options: cost.

Cost is a very tricky element as it transcends the immediate investment to incorporate other expenses along the lifespan of an IIoT network. In this regard, Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO) is a more accurate metric to rely on than the mere capital expenditure (CapEx). The TCO equation comprises of multiple elements which can be broadly grouped into two umbrella categories – the one-time upfront investment for designing, building and setting up an IIoT wireless architecture; and recurring costs for operating and maintaining it.

The IIoT wireless technology that you settle on is likely to impact each of the upfront and recurring TCO elements. As such, the right connectivity decision can help you effectively keep costs down to streamline IoT ROI. Note that the TCO variables explained in this guide focuses only on the RF communication network without considering the costs of the cloud and other application platforms.

UPFRONT INVESTMENT

Many companies often regard capital expenses on procuring IIoT devices and network infrastructure as the major slice of upfront investment. With this thinking, you are bypassing other important upfront costs that aren’t immediately tangible, which could erode your margins. Device development, network design, as well as installation and integration costs are TCO elements often overlooked when building and installing an IIoT network.

Device Development and Prototyping

In industrial environments, sensor devices must comply with very specific and rigorous requirements to ensure operational reliability and safety. For example, there can be hundreds of temperature sensor types available just with the precision level needed. Often times, it is extremely challenging, if not impossible to find a commercially available connected device that can fulfill all of your industrial specifications. That’s why an IIoT project often starts with device prototyping.

A prototype is developed using off-the-shelf components like RF modules, microcontrollers, sensing units, antennas, PCB boards, etc. Atop hardware design and mechanical engineering is firmware and application development alongside testing and certification. RF solutions with compatible plug-and-play rapid prototyping tools can greatly simplify and accelerate the development process to save your engineering costs. An example of such tools is the mikroBUS add-on board standard supported by a growing portfolio of more than 600 click boards. MikroBus-compliant clickables can be easily mixed and matched with each other to develop a tailor-made prototype in a straightforward and efficient manner.

Key Takeaway: Accelerate development with plug-and-play rapid prototyping tools (e.g. mikroBUS-standard click boards)

Network Design and Planning

Once you have your IIoT devices available, you’ll need to plan the layout of your wireless network. There are a number of aspects to be considered – how many devices and base stations are required, where they should be installed for optimal RF signals, how to power the devices and so on. Network design costs increase with the number of end devices and supporting infrastructure like base stations and repeaters, as well as the configuration and optimization complexity. The connectivity choice largely influences these elements.

Mesh networks based on short-range wireless technologies generally require much more configuration effort, compared to long-range networks with a star topology. For a mesh solution, you need to ensure devices are distributed densely enough for signals to propagate properly. On top of that, potential failures of strategically placed devices with heavy relaying traffic through them can shut down a major part of the network. In use cases requiring vast coverage and huge network capacity, it can be extremely challenging to plan and optimize the communication path of each mesh device.

Key Takeway: Simplify planning and configuration with a star topology network and minimize infrastructure requirements with long-range, scalable wireless technology.

CapEx / Hardware Procurement

Capital expenditure for hardware procurement is probably the most tangible TCO element. The physical network infrastructure commonly includes sensing devices, base stations/access points, repeaters (if applicable), antennas and any cabling needed. Again, your RF decision directly impacts the amount of equipment needed and thus, your CapEx.

As a general rule, the less supporting infrastructure like base stations and repeaters involved, the less expenditure on hardware, software licensing and cabling runs. Wireless solutions with long range and excellent penetration capability require fewer base stations to cover a vast, structurally dense industrial or commercial campus. Likewise, a robust radio link and large network capacity allow an individual base station to effectively support massive sensors without performance degradation.

On the device side, technologies like Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) have comparatively lower transceiver costs thanks to a simplified RF design. To best manage device costs as your IIoT network grows, it is important to opt for an industry-standard, software-driven wireless technology that doesn’t tie you down to a specific chipset vendor. Standardized technologies fuel global adoption and cross-vendor support, thereby reducing hardware prices and ensuring a sustainable supply of compatible components in the long run.

Key Takeaway: Ensure cross-vendor support with open-standard, software-driven RF connectivity and minimize infrastructure requirements with robust, long-range and scalable wireless technology.

Installation and Integration

The installation cost is proportional to how complex it is to set up the network and whether there is any production downtime involved. With highly retrofittable solutions, you can circumvent expensive shutdowns of the manufacturing line during installation. Low-power RF technologies with battery-operated end devices also help streamline installation complexity by eliminating the hassle of power wiring.

Besides the physical setup, you should also consider the integrability of your IIoT network into existing application systems and IT environment. Harnessing business values from digital architecture requires seamless data sharing across operational systems to derive and execute actionable insights. The more straightforward it is to transfer data to your chosen backend, the less training and labor resource required for IT setup and configuration. RESTful APIs and open source messaging protocols like MQTT and CoAP are powerful tools for a painless and straightforward integration.

Key Takeway: Avoid power wiring with battery-operated devices and simplify IT integration with an API-driven network architecture.

Reoccurring Operational Expenses

Operational expenses encompass ongoing costs associated with the day-to-day administration of your IIoT network. Over the network lifecycle, effective management of OpEx is critical to minimize the emergence of unexpected overhead that threatens to slow down IoT ROI and cut profits. Overall, there are three major OpEx as follows.

Network Management

Having your network up and running is not a one-time task; it requires ongoing management effort. Device on- and off-boarding, report generation, data backup, troubleshooting, firmware and security updates are just a few examples. Labor costs for network management depend on the scale of your IIoT deployment – typically the number of end devices and supporting infrastructure. Since the number of end devices is often fixed to your IIoT use cases, choosing a wireless technology that requires minimal supporting infrastructure (e.g. base stations, routers) is what you can do to simplify network management. As your IIoT network scales, a dedicated, API-driven network management tool for convenient administration and management of the entire data chain will also be necessary to keep costs and complexity in control.

Key Takeaway: Leverage a dedicated network management tool for simple and effective remote administration and troubleshooting

Device Connectivity

Each RF wireless solution has its own pricing model, yet there are a few key points to bear in mind regarding the cost of connecting your IIoT devices. First, public wireless services offered by mobile and other types of network operators often impose monthly access fees on top of data plans or subscription costs. While you don’t need to pay for base stations when using public networks, over time these ongoing access fees can easily outweigh the upfront infrastructure investment of private networks.

Second, it is important to align the connectivity cost of each device with its actual data usage. Often times, an IIoT sensor uses as little as tens of kilobytes per month. Many cellular data plans, on the other hand, start from megabyte-lower limits. This means you have to pay for more than what you actually need. Finally, connectivity costs reflect the cost of the respective wireless spectrum. Technologies operating in the licensed spectrum are inevitably associated with higher data transmission fees compared to those in the license-free spectrum.

Key Takeaway: Avoid ongoing access fees of public wireless services, align data costs with the actual usage and consider RF solutions operating in the license-free spectrum.

Maintenance

Battery replacement and recharge are a daunting maintenance task, especially when your IIoT network starts to scale to hundreds or even thousands of end devices. As such, opting for energy efficient RF connectivity that enables multi-year battery life, drastically reduces manual interventions and battery procurement. This results in massive savings on maintenance and power expenses.

Key Takeaway: Reduce manual interventions and battery costs with low-power connectivity.

Wrapping Up

Despite the vast heterogeneity in IIoT projects and use cases, the TCO elements of an IIoT network examined in this guide are applicable across industries and verticals. Having a clear understanding of potential cost factors will help you better anticipate IoT ROI and justify the long-term business case of your initiative. When designing an IIoT architecture, choosing the right wireless connectivity can enable significant upfront savings while helping streamline operational expenses over the network lifecycle. As a general rule, make sure you go for a solution with:

  • An industry standard technology to circumvent vendor lock-in problems and keep hardware costs effectively low.
  • Star topology and high scalability to minimize infrastructure requirements, simplify network design, planning and management, and accelerate IoT ROI by addressing multiple use cases with a unified architecture.
  • High power efficiency to avoid the hassle of power wiring while lowering maintenance costs.
  • Easy integration into your existing application systems and a dedicated network management tool to lower setup and management overhead.

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The History of IoT and Wireless Connectivity

History of IoT

BehrTech Blog

The History of IoT and Wireless Connectivity

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Heralded as the foundational technology for breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, robotics and other critical technology advances, IoT is ranked as the most important technology initiative by senior executives. When you think about the Internet of Things (IoT), what do you picture? Perhaps a smart thermostat, a connected car, or even one of the innumerable use cases taking over the industrial sector. Having now entered the region of $1 trillion as an industry, the rapid growth of IoT has left many wondering where this revolution came from.

Here is a brief history of IoT and its critical counterpart wireless connectivity.

History of IoT
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The Impact of Private 5G and LPWAN – An Interview with WIN Connectivity

Private 5G and LPWAN

BehrTech Blog

The Impact of Private 5G and LPWAN on IoT

An Interview with Tim Dentry, CTO of WIN Connectivity

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1. Tell us about WIN Connectivity. What is your focus and vision? What are your solutions? 

WIN Connectivity is a connectivity systems integrator and managed service provider. Specifically, we provide connectivity solutions oriented around IoT use cases that often utilize wireless media for mission accomplishment. For example, we provide in-building and external networking solutions in healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and logistics, retail, and commercial real estate (smart buildings solutions). Our solutions encompass wired (fiber-to-the-edge) as well as wireless (neutral host carrier 5G, private 5G/cellular and LPWAN connectivity). We engage as either a Design-Build-Transfer model or using our Connectivity-as-a-Service, which is a Design-Build-Operate model that allows enterprises to consume our solution as a recurring operating cost (OpEx) rather than a CapEx model (or a blend of both, as the customer requires). 

2. How do you see the wireless technology landscape today? What are the biggest challenges?

The wireless landscape today is exciting, especially with the advancements of CBRS/private 5G, as well as proliferation of new and better LPWAN solutions such as mioty.  The US FCC making 6GHz available is also very exciting as it allows enterprises to harness more over-the-air power and bandwidth without having to get licensed.  While some might think that cellular wireless and LPWAN are mutually exclusive, they can actually work together to create a powerful IoT architecture.  Each of these solutions can be leveraged to build an overall IoT connectivity solution that ensures IoT adopters are able to realize the success criteria of their use cases.

Ensuring that the cost of the network does not outweigh the benefits of the network solution is one of the biggest challenges in today’s wireless technology landscape. Additionally, understanding the IoT technology itself in addition to connectivity and security, can be difficult and that’s where WIN Connectivity excels.  We make sense of the technology, security and availability requirements that cross multiple groups within an enterprise, whether it is cybersecurity, infrastructure and data governance. 

3. What value does LPWAN bring to IoT deployments?

LPWAN is a tried and true method for connecting IoT devices over long distances and challenging morphology. LPWAN ensures that massive IoT use cases can be realized because of the resilience of the radio systems and the frequency band.  Moreover, while industry experts discuss the IoT implications of cellular, such as 5G mmWave and CBRS, the reality is that the IoT system manufacturers must factor in the cost for a widely deployed IoT sensor to connect to those networks, or the manufacturers themselves must come up to speed.  With LPWAN, device manufacturers and IoT developers can already take advantage of this. If you think of this in the terms of the Gartner Hype Cycle, LPWAN is poised to accelerate out of the Trough of Disillusionment into the Slope of Enlightenment in less than two years, while 5G’s application for IoT is 5-10 years.  Additionally, unlicensed LPWAN does not require carrier/licensed spectrum (NB-IoT, LTE-M, etc) and thus makes it more efficient and affordable for enterprises who want to invest in IoT. 

4. How can LPWAN and 5G work together in Industry 4.0?

As mentioned, LPWAN and 5G, especially private 5G in the CBRS band,  can actually work together to create a powerful IoT architecture. This is particularly true in challenging environments where great distances often mean that a terrestrial backhaul adds additional cost and complexity in order to get LPWAN generated data from the gateway to an edge compute resource or the cloud.  Private 5G provides cost-effective, reliable over-the-air QoS for massive IoT data.   

5. What Industry 4.0 applications would benefit most from a private 5G and LPWAN connectivity solution?

Industry 4.0 applications that blend the concept of critical IoT and massive IoT to achieve business outcomes.  As an example, a manufacturing facility that is incorporating precise indoor localization and asset tracking, work environment monitoring (workplace safety), predictive maintenance for robotics and automation solutions and autonomous entities that require ultra-low latency to make real time decisions from massive amounts of collected data.  One of my favorite application areas for providing a layered connectivity approach using private 5G and LPWAN is connected farming.  Connected farming relies on sensors deployed over a large geographical area, and often these areas are themselves “not connected.”  Private 5G ensures that real-time or critical IoT apps combine, security and safety in growth farms and pastures, as well as inventory control for the upstream, midstream and distribution stages of farming. All of these use cases require a layered, accretive approach to communications.   

6. What are your predictions for advanced wireless networking in the next 3-5 years?

Private 5G will emerge as a natural alternative to enterprise wireless as the ecosystem becomes more compatible with the technology.  Meaning, as more vendors deploy devices with chipsets that natively support private 5G, you will see more deployments at scale.  Costs for the radio systems will drive downward, similar to what has happened with Wi-Fi, and the complexity to deploy these private 5G systems will also simplify and become truly more software-defined.  Finally, I believe that the industry will start to rationalize roaming seamlessly from public to private 5G networks, but this will require a significant amount of coordination in from the carriers and private network providers. 

Private 5G and LPWAN

Tim Dentry

CTO, WIN Connectivity

Tim is the WIN Connectivity CTO, bringing 20+ years of leadership experience in a variety of technology sectors, including Cloud Architecture and Operations, Cybersecurity, Network Infrastructure and Wireless.  His roles have included engineering, design, quality assurance, application development and infrastructure.  Tim has worked in both established communications companies such as MCI and Nokia (Lucent) and has also been a part of multiple early-stage startups such as Edgewater Networks, taking products from the design phase all the way to implementation and ongoing lifecycle management. Tim provides support for the broader WIN team by focusing on key areas such as technology evolution and selection, product development and design, as well as OSS/BSS and back-office solutions. Tim brings to WIN the experience of leveraging cloud infrastructure to deploy WIN’s technology solutions and is responsible for the lifecycle support of all of WIN’s technology offerings including Connectivity-as-a-Service. Tim is proud to have served in the Marine Corps for fourteen years, and is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

 

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4 Best Practices in Industrial IoT Architecture

Industrial IoT Architecture

BehrTech Blog

4 Best Practices in Industrial IoT Architecture

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The Industrial IoT architecture is made of numerous elements from sensors, connectivity and gateways to device management and application platforms. Assembling these different moving parts might seem daunting, especially for companies who are just at the outset of their IIoT initiative. On top of that, industrial applications entail unique requirements and challenges that need to be addressed tactfully.

The good news is that emerging tools and developments are helping simplify and streamline the process of establishing a viable IIoT architecture. As the IIoT landscape continues to evolve in 2020, here are four best practices tech leaders should consider when architecting their next industrial IoT architecture.

1. Hardware Rapid Prototyping

In the industrial world, the challenge of IoT hardware design lies in the bewildering array of use case requirements. Take temperature sensors as a simple example. Depending on criteria like accuracy, temperature range, response time and stability, there could be hundreds of available sensors to choose from. Most likely, there won’t be an out-of-the-box wireless sensor out there that fully meets your or your client’s specific needs. And that’s where IoT rapid prototyping comes in.

Hardware prototyping standards like mikroBUS allow you to build a customized IoT device prototype in a matter of a few hours and with efficient resources. From a broad portfolio of ready-to-use, compatible sensor, interface and wireless modules as well as compilers and development boards, you can create the optimal hardware mix-and-match that caters to your industrial use case. With rapid prototyping, companies can ratify the technical and business viability of their IIoT solution in a cost-effective and agile fashion, which lays the cornerstone for a successful roll-out.

2. Retrofit Wireless Connectivity

An average factory operates with legacy industrial systems that are nowhere near being connected. While these systems employ a number of proprietary communication protocols for automation purposes, data is captive within discrete control loops, creating numerous data silos on the factory floor. The lack of interoperability among these protocols further hinders the implementation of a factory-wide monitoring and control network.

Emerging retrofit wireless connectivity is critical to an industrial IoT architecture as it enables manufacturers to connect and acquire data from their legacy assets and systems in a simple and cost-effective manner – without costly production downtime and invasive hardware changes. Through the use of an integration platform, operational data can be fetched from controllers through wired-based serial and other industrial protocols, then forwarded to a remote control center using long-range wireless connectivity.

3. Software-Defined Radio

As no wireless solution is use-case agnostic, a typical IIoT architecture is likely to incorporate multiple radio protocols and standards. Plus, many industrial facilities today have already implemented wireless networks (e.g. Wi-Fi, WirelessHART…) to a certain extent, and look to deploy new types of connectivity to tap into other high-value use cases. Thus, it’s critical to create an efficient and backward-compatible IIoT architecture that can accommodate the co-existence of different wireless technologies, which is why software-defined radio (SDR) is gaining momentum.

SDR refers to a radio communication method where the majority of signal processing is done using software, as opposed to the traditional hardware-driven approach. IoT gateways leveraging SDR can incorporate and decode different protocols concurrently to reduce infrastructure cost and complexity. What’s more, adjustments or additions of new wireless solutions to the architecture can be achieved with simple software updates. This allows companies to dynamically adapt to future operational and technological changes while continuing to support legacy wireless devices in the field.

4. Portable, Container-Based IIoT Platform Design

Depending on criteria like security, reliability, data ownership and costs, companies need to choose among an on-premises, public or private cloud deployment, or even a hybrid approach. As the industrial IoT use cases and architecture scale, the decision on the deployment model and/or cloud vendor is subject to change as well.

In this context, an IIoT platform, typically a device management platform, that comes with a portable, container-based design renders industrial users with full flexibility in selecting their preferred backend environment. At the same time, it enables a simple migration to another server as needed without compromising the consistency or functionality of the application. The idea of a container-based design is that individual applications are packaged and delivered within discrete, standardized containers called Docker. With this modular architecture, users can decide which specific platform functions/ applications they want to use and where to deploy them. Thanks to its flexibility and portability, the container-based design facilitates an interoperable and future-proof IIoT architecture that keeps up with the industry’s dynamic needs.

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LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

LPWAN and Bluetooth

BehrTech Blog

LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

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Given its significant benefits in terms of reliability, minimal latency and security, wired communications has been the backbone of industrial control and automation systems. Nevertheless, as the new wave of IoT applications arises, we quickly see wired solutions reaching their limits.

Trenching cables is inherently cumbersome, capital- and labor-intensive, not to mention the fact that damage to wiring brings the risk of production downtime. Due to the plethora of proprietary wiring protocols, any additions or modifications to the architecture is deemed costly and could even entail a “rip-and-replace” of cables and conduits. The bulky and expensive wired infrastructure thus limits the number of connected endpoints and is highly constrained in terms of range and network capacity.

In direct comparison, wireless networks require far fewer hardware components, and less installation and maintenance costs. As there aren’t any physical cables involved, sensors can be easily attached to mobile assets to tap into a new host of operational data. On top of that, wireless networks make data collection in hard-to-access and hazardous environments possible and can flexibly expand to meet your changing business needs.

The central value around IoT is the unprecedented visibility into existing processes, equipment and production environment that empowers strategic decision-making. Think of applications used for asset maintenance, facility management and worker safety. As opposed to high-bandwidth, time-sensitive communications, many IoT sensor networks send small-sized telemetry data periodically or only when abnormalities are identified. Of even greater importance is their ability to connect vast numbers of distributed field assets and devices to bring granular business insights. With this in mind, wireless connectivity is often the better option to bring your physical “things” online.

Given the bewildering range of wireless solutions available in the market today, choosing the right technology is no easy task. Not all wireless technologies are created equal and not all can manage every use case. For this reason, there is a growing demand in multiprotocol support. Devices that combine the complementary strengths of different wireless standards and frequencies in one design, such as LPWAN and Bluetooth, makes it feasible for more complex sensor networks to exist.

LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy: A Match Made in Networking Heaven

Bluetooth’s ubiquity and global, multi-vendor interoperability has made it the core short-range technology for industrial and commercial IoT projects. Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) enabled devices are often used in conjunction with electronic devices, typically smartphones that serve as a hub for transferring data to the cloud. Nowadays, BLE is widely integrated into fitness and medical wearables (e.g. smartwatches, glucose meters, pulse oximeters, etc.) as well as Smart Home devices (e.g. door locks), where data is conveniently communicated to and visualized on smartphones. The release of the Bluetooth Mesh specification in 2017 aimed to enable a more scalable deployment of BLE devices, particularly in retail contexts. Providing versatile indoor localization features, BLE beacon networks have been used to unlock new service innovations like in-store navigation, personalized promotions, and content delivery.

The challenge with BLE-enabled devices is that they must have a way to reliably transmit data over a distance. The reliance on traditional telecommunications infrastructure like Wi-Fi or cellular has put growth limitations on these sensor networks. Long range communication is often a significant obstacle in industrial settings because Wi-Fi and cellular networks are not always available or reliable where industrial facilitates or equipment are located. This is why a complementary, long-range technology is so important.

Geared for low-bandwidth, low computing end nodes, the newer LPWAN solutions offer highly power-efficient and affordable IoT connectivity in vast, structurally dense environments. No current wireless classes can beat LPWAN when it comes to battery life, device and connectivity costs, and ease of implementation. As the name implies, LPWAN nodes are designed to operate on independent batteries for years, rather than days as with other wireless solutions. They can also transmit over many miles while providing deep penetration capability to connect devices at hard-to-reach indoor and underground locations.

In this context, LPWAN extends the power efficient and high data rate capabilities of BLE devices by serving as a reliable and robust backhaul for long range communication in both complex indoor environments and remote locations. This increases deployment flexibility, reduces the need for costly and complex network infrastructure requirements and makes it more feasible for massive-scale sensor networks to exist.

You Might Also Like : Introducing the new mioty BLE Dual Stack

 

For example, LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy together, enable the deployment of IoT networks in a significantly broader geographic area. This flexibility is increasingly important as more IoT sensor networks are deployed in far flung, industrial locations like remote mining, oil and gas and manufacturing facilities.

Together, they also cost-effectively enable critical indoor applications like asset tracking and consumables monitoring that require reliable connectivity for a vast number of end-nodes. The physical barriers and obstructions as well as co-channel interference with other systems often present in indoor environments can create challenges for reliable data communication. However, the long-range, deep indoor penetration and high interference immunity offered by next-gen LPWAN technologies ensures reliable data connection in any large industrial campuses or smart buildings.

Wrapping Up

The success of any IoT deployment is dependent on reliable connectivity, which remains a huge obstacle for numerous industries like mining, manufacturing, oil gas and smart buildings. These industries are faced with complex and often remote environments where traditional wired and wireless connectivity options are not possible as standalone technologies. That’s why combining different technologies that cover each other’s drawbacks while also adding on top their individual advantages is critical for building a reliable and robust IoT network. The combination of LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy in one design, increases flexibility and integration and opens up a new world of exciting industrial and commercial applications. 

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The Evolution of IoT Device Security and Privacy

IoT Device Security

BehrTech Blog

The Evolution of IoT Device Security and Privacy

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As the world starts to look beyond the COVID-pandemic and a “return to business normal”, whatever that may entail, one thing that is certain is that businesses will continue to accelerate towards digital transformation. At the heart of many organisations push towards large scale digitisation will be a continued acceleration to the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With ever-increasing connectivity and volume of devices, we are fast approaching a world that will have between 70-80 billion IoT devices by 2025.

Whilst this growth brings numerous benefits across several business sectors and wider society, it will also inevitably change the way people carry out everyday tasks and potentially transform the world.  Undoubtedly IoT will play an important part in individual lives as well as corporate initiatives going forward and whilst having the latest smart phone controlling a smart home is undoubtedly fashionable, smart lighting can actually reduce overall energy consumption and lower consumer and industrial electric bills and carbon footprints and is therefore much more than a technological gimmick.

Technological advancements in the automotive sector will allow connected and increasingly smart vehicles to create a hyper-connected smart city where vehicles can connect to and “speak” to smart city infrastructures to create an entirely new operational ecosystem for the driver and town planner, as they plan how to move from point A to point B.

Indeed, at its fullest extent the ecosystem of connected smart cities will naturally evolve into connected healthcare. As Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) evolves to remove the constraints of hospital and medical capacity through the creation of elasticity in the medical system, connected healthcare devices will provide society a deeper and fuller point of view of their own health, or lack thereof, than ever before.

However, as is the case in many areas of societal progress, there are trade-offs. With all of these benefits comes risk, as the increase in connected devices gives hackers and cyber criminals more entry points, and to the majority of society, the trade-off or risk to privacy is the greatest concern.

Over the past 2-3 years, there have been numerous reports of hacking groups attacking critical infrastructure, including a power grid in a region of western Ukraine, and hospitals in both Europe and the US, not to mention water plants in Israel amongst others. Unfortunately, these attacks are likely to only represent the beginning, as hackers seek to exploit the ever-increasing connectivity between connected business and connected consumers. As a result, the average consumer is becoming ever more concerned about their privacy, and whilst increasing regulation has sought to address this, placing a fundamental expectation of security and privacy by design into IoT device manufacturing and operations is critical.

So, what issues are businesses, society and consumers concerned about in relation to IoT device security and privacy as we move towards a truly connected world?

The first key issue to address is public perception and public confidence. Whilst technological advancement will inevitably continue unabated, this needs to be the first problem addressed. Regulatory statutes such as EU GDPR, SB 327, and SB 734 represent major steps forward, however there remains a long way to go to address consumer concern. In 2015, Icontrol’s “State of the Smart Home Study” found that 44% of all Americans were “very concerned” about the possibility of their information getting stolen from their smart home, and 27% were “somewhat concerned.” With that level of worry, consumers would hesitate to purchase connected devices.  Whilst progress has been made, it is unlikely that these figures will have drastically changed today, and if anything, the key trend is that security and privacy has become a fundamental buying consideration for many consumers and businesses that remains unresolved.

The reason for this continued reticence is that so many IoT devices remain vulnerable to hacking as researchers have been able, with relative ease to hack into devices readily available on the market, with relatively simple tools and limited time and energy.  This is often because these devices have been manufactured with simple consumer connectivity and usability at the forefront of development – enshrining the principle of security by design.

Security by design, an often used, but not so often understood phrase describes a methodology that ensures IoT security, and indeed privacy, is a crucial objective at all stages of product creation and deployment. It addresses the challenge that, in many historic hardware deployments and instances of IoT design, security considerations were often included late in the design and prototyping phase. By prioritizing speed to market or other design considerations, security requirements can end up being added on. This approach has led to serious security breaches in the past, as IoT device security cannot be easily retrofitted.

The response can be summarised into 3 key steps required to establish a successful IoT device security and privacy strategy:

  • Security by design approach at the beginning of IoT projects
  • Trusted devices IDs and credentials embedded during manufacturing
  • Lock IDs and credentials in secure hardware containers

However, this drive for consumer usability has inevitably left devices open to exploitation by hacker’s intent in breaching business ecosystems which are now extended to the devices installed in people’s homes. The question is, who is liable for any resultant security and privacy breaches, the manufacturer, or the consumer?  My guidance to manufacturers is that “caveat emptor” – buyer beware – is unlikely to be acceptable for legal consideration when such an event is tested in the courts through a somewhat inevitable future class action law suit for a global privacy breach as so few companies themselves are confident that they have sufficiently robust defences to secure all IoT devices against hackers.

The challenge for manufacturing organisations has been the large-scale proliferation of, and demand for IoT devices, which is largely being driven by end-user organisations seeking new data analytics advantages. IoT devices enable organisations and consumers to collect and aggregate data and the sheer amount of data that can be generated is staggering.  For example, a relatively small town of 10,000 connected homes is likely to be able to generate more than 150m discrete data points every day, creates more entry points for hackers and often leaves sensitive information vulnerable.

These data volumes are created as consumers seek to leverage the simplicity of IoT, and in the very early days of IoT deployment companies have sought to collect user data willingly offered by consumers to make business decisions.  As an example, insurance companies might gather data about your driving habits through a connected car or personal fitness trackers, enticing consumers to offer these data insights through incentives, rewards or often discounts for the services.  However, at the point of purchase, did the consumer consider why there was such a willingness to offer such incentives?

Thankfully consumer awareness is changing and as individuals become ever more aware of their personal and family security and privacy, the need for manufacturers and big business to provide sufficient protection of consumer privacy will become greater. However regulatory influence remains in relative infancy and it is therefore likely that IoT device security and privacy will remain a concern of individual consumers, businesses, and society for several years to come.

IoT Data Security

Mark Brown

Global Managing Director, Cybersecurity and Information Resilience (CSIR), British Standards Institution (BSI)

Mark Brown joined BSI on 1 February 2021 in the role of Global Managing Director of the Consulting Services, Cybersecurity and Information Resilience business and has more than 25 years of expertise in cybersecurity, data privacy and business resilience. He has previously held global leadership roles across industry and professional services, including tenures as Global CISO at SABMiller plc, and Global CIO/CTO at Spectris plc, as well as leadership roles as a Senior Partner at Wipro Ltd., and was also a Partner at Ernst & Young (EY) LLP.
Mark brings a wealth of knowledge including extensive proficiency on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the expanding cybersecurity marketplace as organizations grapple with digital transformation and addressing new technology that brings new business opportunities and risks.
Mark is internationally recognized as a leading authority on information resilience with a focus on cybersecurity and data privacy, presenting a focus on the way IT can enable business strategies and currently chair’s techUK’s Industry 4.0 Cyber Security committee advising the UK Government on how businesses can be incentivized to safely adopt new technologies at minimal risk.  Mark is also an elected member of techUK’s Connected Home Group and Medical Device Innovation Consortium’s (MDIC) 5G Enabled Medical Devices working group.

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IoT Standards and Protocols Explained

Industry Standards and Protocols

BehrTech Blog

IoT Standards and Protocols Explained

For businesses, the transformative power of IoT is increasingly significant with the promise of improving operational efficiency and visibility, while reducing costs.

However, IoT does not come without risks and challenges. While concerns over security and data privacy continue to rise, the lack of IoT standards remains one of the biggest hurdles. The increasing number of legacy, single-vendor, and proprietary solutions cause problems with disparate systems, data silos and security gaps. As IoT successes become more dependent on seamless interoperability and data-sharing among different systems, we want to avoid the scenario of a fragmented market with numerous solutions that simply don’t work with each other.

What are Standards?

Before we continue our discussion on standards, let’s take a step back and clarify their definition.

According to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), a standard is a “document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.”

Simply put, a standard is a published document that specifies a product’s functionality and verifies its quality. It establishes a transparent, consistent and universal understanding of a technology by eliminating inefficient variety in the marketplace. Standards, therefore, enhance compatibility and interoperability in product development, fuel global adoption, and production, and accelerate time-to-market.

To better illustrate the importance of standards, let’s look at light bulbs as a simple example. Nowadays, you can easily go to any store and buy any brand of light bulb, assuming that it is compatible with your lamp as the bulb base and threads have been standardized. This greatly boosts user demand, allowing manufacturers to ramp up their production and reduce costs leveraging economies of scale.

IoT Standards and Wireless Protocols

In the IoT realm, networking standards are hands down the most important. Standard protocols define rules and formats for setting up and managing IoT networks, along with how data are transmitted across these networks. Networking protocols can be categorized into multiple layers accordingly to the communication stack (i.e. OSI or TCP/IP model). In this article, we focus on the physical and network access protocols for data transfer from edge devices.

Even before IoT becomes a worldwide phenomenon, there have been a number of standardized wireless technologies that are widely acknowledged and adopted on a global scale. The most successful examples include Wi-Fi (based on IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n specifications for wireless local area networks), Zigbee (based on IEEE 802.15.4 specification for low-rate wireless personal networks) and GSM/UMTS/LTE (based on 2G/3G/4G mobile broadband standards developed by 3GPP).

However, these previously existing standards, are not optimized for a majority of large-scale IoT deployments that require interconnection of huge amounts of battery operated sensors (end nodes). Limited range and coverage, low penetration capability, power-hungry transmissions and high costs are factors that hamper their applicability in many use cases. By exactly filling these gaps, the arising group of low power wide area (LPWA) technologies are now taking over the IoT stage.

The problem is, most existing LPWA networks – typically the ones operating in the license-free spectrum – are proprietary solutions that do not implement a recognized industry-standard protocol. By making their technical specifications publicly available on a royalty-basis, many LPWAN providers are attempting to claim their technologies as “open standards.” Nevertheless, this is not really the case.

Strictly speaking, a standard – or let’s say an industry standard – must undergo a stringent evaluation process by an established Standards Development Organization (SDO). This guarantees the quality and credibility of the technology. Key global SDO examples include ETSI, IEEE, IETF, 3GPP, etc. So far, technologies that actually implement rigorous LPWA standards published by SDOs have been Narrowband-IoT/LTE-M/EC-GSM (standardized by 3GPP) and mioty (based on Low Throughput Networks – TS 103 357 specifications by ETSI).

Benefits of IoT Standards

So, why should you choose a standard protocol over a proprietary one? From an IoT user’s perspective, standardized communication solutions offer significant benefits in terms of:

  • Guaranteed Quality and Credibility – IoT standards ensure that products and solutions are fit for their intended purposes. In other words, communication technologies that adhere to rigorous standards deliver high Quality-of-Service, robustness against interferences and industry-grade security to ensure reliable and secure transmission of massive IoT sensor data at the edge.
  • Interoperability and Innovation Flexibility – Standardized communication protocols can be programmed on various commodity, off-the-shelf hardware (i.e. chipsets, gateways) to support multi-vendor solutions and the interconnection of heterogeneous devices. Beside promoting interoperability in the long run, this helps end users avoid commercial risks of vendor lock-in, whereby a single supplier retains total control over functionality design and future product/technology innovation.
  • Global Scalability – Industrial users with worldwide operations want to adopt IoT connectivity that can be implemented across their global facilities. Standardized solutions function universally and help minimize installation complexity, thereby safeguarding long-term investment.

With a vast assortment of IoT connectivity solutions available on the market, choosing the right technology can determine the success of your digital transformation. By opting for an industry-standard IoT solution, you can secure the longevity and ROI of your IoT architecture by making it quality-assured, vendor-independent and scalable worldwide.

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