LPWAN Basics: What Enables A Long Battery Life

LPWAN Battery Life

BehrTech Blog

LPWAN Basics: What Enables a Long Battery Life

We all know an intriguing quality of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) is its ultra-low power consumption. Most LPWAN technologies claim that they can sustain a battery life of more than 10 years – making them the first “go-to” connectivity type when it comes to battery-operated IoT sensor networks.

But how can LPWANs achieve such a long battery life? In this blog, we’ll cover 3 main approaches.

1. Sleep Mode

LPWAN end nodes are programmed to be active only when a message needs to be transmitted. Outside this time, the transceivers are turned off and fall into deep sleep mode (“idle” time) whereby very minimal power is consumed. Assumed that a node is required to send only few messages (uplink) a day, power usage remains significantly low.

In bi-directional communication, end nodes have to also be awake to listen for downlink messages sent from the base station as well. A listening schedule can then be set up so that nodes only wake up at predefined times to receive downlink messages. Alternatively, nodes and base stations can be coordinated so that a downlink message is sent shortly after an uplink arrives. This helps reduce the time a node needs to be “on” for data reception.

2. Asynchronous Communication

Most LPWANs operating in the unlicensed spectrum employ asynchronous communication with lightweight Medium Access Control (MAC) protocols. For example, ALOHA random access protocol is commonly used. In ALOHA systems, a node accesses the channel and sends a message anytime without signaling the base station for permission or sensing current transmission by other nodes for coordination.

A major advantage of such random access protocols is that no complex control overhead is required. This drastically reduces power consumption and simplifies transceiver design. On the downside, asynchronous communication threatens to greatly hamper scalability. This is because data transmission is uncoordinated among nodes, which increases the chance of packet collision and data loss.

3. Star Topology

Thanks to their long physical range, LPWAN can be deployed in star topology while still effectively covering geographically vast areas. As explained in a previous blog, one-hop star topology saves more energy than the mesh topology of short-range wireless networks by orders of magnitude.

Is Battery Life the Same Among Different LPWAN Technologies?

The answer is definitely no. In fact, power consumption and the resulted battery life can vary significantly not only among different LPWAN technologies, but also among different deployment modes of the same technology. Below we look at 2 major attributable factors.

First, “on-air” radio time – a main indicator of power consumption during transmission – greatly differs across LPWAN systems. To be clear, transmission is the most energy-intensive activity of end nodes. On-air time is the total time a message travels from a node to the base station. Other things being equal, the shorter the on-air time, the lower the power consumption. If the same message is sent 3 times for redundancy, its total on-air time and power consumption triple.

Second, not all LPWANs adopt a combination of all 3 approaches discussed above. For example, to enhance Quality-of-Service (QoS), cellular LPWANs employ a synchronous protocol whereby end nodes have to signal the base station for permission to send a message (i.e. handshake). Besides imposing higher energy requirements due to excessive overhead, this process makes power consumption of each transmission and total battery life unpredictable. This is because it is difficult to predict how many times handshakes need to be performed until a message is allowed to be sent.

Recognized by ETSI, Telegram Splitting introduces a unique transmission method to minimize on-air time while resolving the trade-off between QoS and power consumption.

As a final note, 10 or even 20 years are actually a very long time for a battery lifespan, but to be realized a multitude of factors need to be thoroughly considered. Besides general conditions like message frequency and the type of battery used (ideally ones with low self-discharge rates), at the end of the day, choosing the right LPWAN technology really matters.

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Resolve The Trade-off Between QoS & Power Consumption 

Contact a MYTHINGS™ Platform Expert to learn more.

5 Common Myths about LPWAN for IoT Debunked

LPWAN for IoT

BehrTech Blog

5 Common Myths about LPWAN for IoT Debunked

With 2021 expected to witness an uprising of massive machine-to-machine communication, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are no doubt a central topic among the wireless community. Still, industrial and commercial users who are unfamiliar with this wireless technology might struggle to understand the current landscape and how different technologies compare. To help you get you crack the LPWAN code, we’ve debunked 5 common myths around LPWAN for the Internet of Things (IoT).

LPWAN for IoT

1. All LPWAN technologies are equally low-power

The term Low Power Wide Area is self-explanatory. Even if you haven’t heard of LPWAN, you probably could still figure out that it’s designed for low-power IoT applications. However, don’t fall into the trap that energy consumption is uniform across LPWAN solutions. While all promise a battery life that spans years, there’s a big gap in power efficiency among different technologies under the same conditions. Often, this gap is boiled down to two major factors: on-air radio time of each message; and the amount of packet overhead required. Technologies that send the same message several times for redundancy multiply total on-air time and power consumption respectively. Also, extra energy spent on handshaking quickly depletes the power resource.

Find out more: What Enables a Long Battery Life in LPWAN

2. LPWANs and other wireless solutions are mutually exclusive

There’s a lot of comparison between LPWANs and legacy wireless technologies when it comes to different IoT use cases. Nonetheless, it’s important to know that LPWAN networks do not live in a bubble. Quite the contrary, many scenarios benefit from enhanced flexibility and functionality brought by a hybrid wireless architecture. 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.  Likewise, LPWAN extends the power efficient and high data rate capabilities of short range technologies such as BlueTooth Low Energy devices by serving as a reliable and robust backhaul for long range communication in both complex indoor environments and remote locations. 

3. Most LPWAN solutions are standard-based

As the term “standard” gains significant traction in the IoT age, vendors are looking to make their solution a standard. You could lightly claim a proprietary technology a standard just by publishing its technical specifications for third-party development. But, this doesn’t ratify the quality and long-term viability of the technology. Not to mention, in some cases, like the LoRa network, only part of the protocol stack is truly open. While the MAC layer (LoRaWAN) is made public, the PHY layer (LoRa) is entirely proprietary and tied to a single chipset vendor.

On the other hand, few LPWAN technologies have been standardized and endorsed by impartial, established Standard Development Organizations. One is cellular LPWAN solutions that implement 3GPP standards, and the other is Telegram Splitting as specified in the ETSI standard on Low Throughput Networks – TS 103 357. By going through a formal, rigorous evaluation process, these technologies are verified for convincing, future-proof performance in various network criteria, while coming with a transparent, robust technical framework to fuel vertical and horizontal interoperability.

4. Public LPWANs are omnipresence and borderless

The appeal of ubiquitous coverage offered by public LPWAN might be too good to be true. Trans-border roaming is still a major challenge for technologies like LoRa and NB-IoT, which depend on roaming agreements between different telco providers. And, even if roaming isn’t a prerequisite for many use cases, the coverage of public LPWAN within national boundaries is still far from omnipresence. Urban areas are often less of a concern, but remote industrial areas require extra caution. You’ll need to look at the network operator’s coverage map and make sure your facility doesn’t overlap with the “blind spots”.

Also, when it comes to NB-IoT, the lack of support for cell handover is another factor to consider. If a device is moved out of its assigned cell, it must execute the whole registration process again, which can take up to 30 seconds. As this is cumbersome and power-consuming, NB-IoT pertains more to stationary use cases.

5. Unlicensed-spectrum LPWANs aren’t reliable

For a long time, the unlicensed spectrum has been associated with reduced radio performance and limited scalability due to the high interference in a shared band. Due to low-cost and high-flexibility benefits, the unlicensed spectrum is now a go-to option for many radio developers; but this notoriety doesn’t easily fade away. When it comes to LPWANs and their simplified MAC layer design, reliability concerns further intensify. For this reason, many would advocate for the growing uses of cellular LPWANs in demanding industrial applications. The truth is, with a technology designed from the ground up for interference immunity, you can get the best of both worlds. Such a solution provides robust, scalable and cost-effective connectivity while eliminating the dependency on network operators.

Predicted to generate a market value of $65 billion by 2025, LPWAN is quickly establishing its place in the IoT space. With a lot of excitement around this wireless class, it’s important to understand the truths behind existing solutions, if they suit your use case and what the whole architecture will look like.

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Want to learn more about LPWAN for IoT?

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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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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4 Technical Approaches to Ensure Interference Resilience in LPWAN

Interference resilience in LPWAN

BehrTech Blog

4 Technical Approaches to Ensure Interference Resilience in LPWAN

For Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) operating in the license-free spectrum, a major advantage is low network costs. Nevertheless, given the exponential increase in connected devices, the shared limited radio resources are becoming more and more congested. To enhance Quality-of-Service (QoS) and network scalability, ensuring interference resilience in LPWAN is a major undertaking.

Understanding Interference in License-Free Bands

Interference refers to the unwanted collision of two radio signals in the same frequency – causing data loss. Interference in license-free LPWAN, falls into two main categories:

1. Inter-system interference refers to disturbances caused by radio signals from other systems. As the license-free spectrum is available for everyone, multiple technologies co-exist and access the same frequency resources. For example, most LPWAN technologies including MIOTY, LoRa, and Sigfox commonly use the sub-gigahertz industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands. Similarly, Ingenu – another LPWAN player – shares the crowded 2.4 GHz band with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, among others.

2. Intra-system interference, or self-interference, refers to disturbances caused by devices operating within the same network, such as within a MIOTY network or within a LoRa network. Self-interference is mainly attributable to asynchronous communication using ALOHA scheme in many LPWAN systems. Though greatly lowering power consumption, pure ALOHA-based networks generate significant self-interference due to uncoordinated, random data transmission among end devices.

Inter- and intra-system interference threaten to deteriorate network performance and hamper scalability.

Technical Approaches to Interference Resilience in LPWAN

Amid these challenges, a strong system design is key to ensuring high interference immunity in LPWAN. Below we explain four technical approaches to controlling and mitigating inter- and/or intra-system interference.

1.  Utilizing (ultra-) narrow bandwidths

Compared to wideband approaches based on spread spectrum, (ultra-) narrowband technology alleviates the problem of intra-system interference. Each narrowband message uses a very small bandwidth, allowing for high spectrum efficiency. More messages can hence fit into an assigned frequency band without overlapping with each other, enabling more devices to effectively operate at the same time without interfering with each other. This improves overall network capacity and system scalability. Minimal bandwidth usage additionally reduces noise level experienced by each signal.  

Think of narrow band messages as motorbikes and wideband messages as trucks. On a highway, we can afford a much larger number of motorbikes than trucks without incurring traffic accidents.

2.  Reducing on-air time

In many LPWAN systems, the transmission time or on-air time of a signal can last up to 2 seconds. This is problematic since messages with long on-air time are much more prone to collisions. Longer transmission times also increases opportunities for malicious and sophisticated attacks like selective jamming.

3.  Frequency hopping

By rapidly switching a message among different channels during transmission, frequency hopping improves resistance against inter-system interference. Constant frequency change helps avoid congested channels and makes signals difficult to intercept. On the downside, frequency hopping is very spectral inefficient as larger bandwidth usage is required. Wideband signals transmitted at low rates can easily overlap with each other, causing self-interference and data loss.

4.  Forward Error Correction (FEC)

Applying channel coding or forward error correction allows for detection and correction of transmission errors due to noise, interference, and fading. In unreliable or noisy channels, FEC helps reduce packet error rate and avoid costly data re-transmissions.

So far, no traditional LPWAN systems have succeeded in leveraging all of these approaches in their system design. LPWAN using an (ultra-) narrowband approach offers high spectrum efficiency, but extends on-air time due to very slow data rates. Spread spectrum systems capitalize on the benefits of frequency hopping, but suffer from self-interference and scalability issues due to wide bandwidth usage.

By splitting an ultra-narrowband message into multiple smaller sub-packets and distributing them at pseudo-random time and frequency patterns, Telegram Splitting brings the benefits of all four mentioned approaches to one system. Thanks to its much smaller size, each sub-packet has an extremely short on-air time of only 15 milliseconds. The chance of colliding with other inter- and intra-system signals is hence drastically minimized. Additionally, built-in FEC enables successful message retrieval even if up to 50% of sub-packets are lost along the way.

With the ever-growing device density and communication traffic in the IoT era, interference resilience in LPWAN will continue to be a top priority; as will selecting a robust technology without compromising cost and power efficiency.

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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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[vcv_posts_grid source=”%7B%22tag%22%3A%22postsGridDataSourcePost%22%2C%22value%22%3A%22post_type%3Dpost%26amp%3Bpost_status%3Dpublish%26amp%3Bposts_per_page%3D5%26amp%3Boffset%3D0%22%7D” unique_id=”5e147370″ pagination=”0″ pagination_color=”#ffce00″ pagination_per_page=”10″]PGRpdiBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3RzLWdyaWQtaXRlbSI%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%2BPGEgaHJlZj0ie3twb3N0X3Blcm1hbGlua319Ij48L2E%2BPC9kaXY%2BPGRpdiBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLWNvbnRlbnQiPjxwIGNsYXNzPSJ2Y2UtcG9zdC1kZXNjcmlwdGlvbi0tbWV0YSI%2BPHNwYW4%2BUG9zdGVkIDwvc3Bhbj48c3BhbiBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLW1ldGEtZGF0ZSI%2Bb24gPHRpbWUgZGF0ZXRpbWU9Int7cG9zdF9kYXRlX2dtdH19Ij57e3Bvc3RfZGF0ZX19IDwvdGltZT48L3NwYW4%2BPC9wPjxoMyBjbGFzcz0idmNlLXBvc3QtZGVzY3JpcHRpb24tLXRpdGxlIj48YSBocmVmPSJ7e3Bvc3RfcGVybWFsaW5rfX0iPnt7cG9zdF90aXRsZX19PC9hPjwvaDM%2Be3tzaW1wbGVfcG9zdF9kZXNjcmlwdGlvbl9leGNlcnB0fX08L2Rpdj48L2Rpdj48L2FydGljbGU%2BPC9kaXY%2B[/vcv_posts_grid]

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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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LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring: 5 Use Cases for Industry 4.0

LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring

BehrTech Blog

LPWAN and Environmental Monitoring: 5 Use Cases in Industry 4.0

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When talking about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to interpret its value through the lens of factory automation. For many, a smart factory is a next-gen automation facility with advanced robotic equipment and enhanced real-time production control. High-bandwidth automation networks will have their place in the next industrial revolution, however they aren’t the only value creator. What’s most disruptive about IIoT is the ability to tap into unprecedented insights on the factory floor to optimize processes and boost productivity. And, a large part of these insights come from granular environmental wireless sensors.

Until recently, monitoring environmental conditions across industrial campuses had been prohibitive due to the costs and complexities of legacy wireless solutions. Environmental data is minimal in size, but the number of sensors needed to cover an entire facility is vast. Cellular and short-range solutions are too power-hungry and expensive for this type of low-bandwidth communications and therefore fail to scale with the required amount of end points.

Today, the advent of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) introduces reliable and cost-effective connectivity for environmental monitoring. The technical design minimizes complexity and power footprint on the transceiver to lower device costs while enabling long battery life. Long range and a star topology additionally simplify deployment in large-scale, geographically dispersed facilities.

Environmental data delivers a whole new level of visibility into daily operations. By correlating contextual information with machine outputs and parameters, manufacturers can attain a holistic view of their production, identify bottlenecks and understand what is causing inefficiencies. Below are 5 examples of how LPWAN and environmental monitoring can help improve productivity and safety on the shop floor.

1. Quality Control

Ambient conditions have a significant influence on many industrial processes. For example, optimal air humidity and quality are essential for uniform coloring and painting tasks, alongside stable drying cycles and chemical reactions. Similarly, maintaining favorable room temperatures ensures precise fluid injections and optimal quality of 3D-printed components in industries like auto manufacturing. Having an environmental sensor network in place, manufacturers can oversee important ambient variables that impact production and respond timely to undesirable changes.

2. Worker Safety

Industrial workers are often exposed to a myriad of dangers. According to the International Labor Organization, work-related illnesses and diseases are estimated to incur USD$3 trillion of global economic losses each year. Monitoring workplace surroundings like air quality, combustible gases, heat, noise and radiation, can help better safeguard industrial workers. In conjunction with data from worker wearables, analysis of environmental data allows for identifying prolonged exposure to adverse conditions, out-of-tolerance incidents and potential workplace hazards. This enables managers to take counteractive measures accordingly to ensure worker’s health, safety and productivity.

3. Equipment Maintenance

A wide range of industrial and electronics equipment is subject to damage caused by unfavorable ambient conditions. Typically, excessive indoor humidity is conducive to condensation and corrosion of machinery, while too arid atmosphere leads to friction and electrostatic charge. Likewise, constant monitoring of the room temperature is vital to avoid equipment overheating that shortens its lifetime while presenting fire threats. Leveraging IoT sensors, businesses can have 24/7 insights into these critical environmental factors for effective regulation of heating and cooling devices.

4. Regulatory Compliance

In industries with treacherous extractive processes like mining, quarrying and oil and gas, rigorous environmental monitoring is integral in daily operations to minimize negative ecological implications. In this context, wireless sensors help automate monitoring tasks and deliver round-the-clock visibility to guarantee regulatory compliance. Specifically, they can report on underground water quality for early identification of acid drainage and prevention of widespread contamination. As another example, they can measure ground vibration, air quality and pressure during and after blasting to evaluate its impact on nearby residences and improve the future design.

5. Energy Management

Energy costs lie among the top operational expenses of industrial and commercial facilities. Despite the high overhead, statistics have shown that as much as 30 percent of the energy use is wasted. As companies constantly look to lower energy costs, granular IoT sensors offer an affordable approach to upgrade HVAC systems for higher efficiency. Instead of having a centralized and uniform HVAC setting, facility managers can leverage micro-zoned indoor climate data from IoT sensors to adjust heating and cooling on demand. Such a system helps circumvent the problem of HVAC overuse while optimizing occupancy comfort.

The power of IIoT goes far beyond what factory automation depicts. With ambient conditions having a significant impact on operational efficiency, safety and sustainability, IIoT is set to unlock this insight and open numerous opportunities to improve your business.

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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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Build Scalable and Flexible Networks with the mioty BLE Dual Stack