IoT Metropolitan Area Networks: A Quick Start Guide
The Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is expanding on a global scale. Buildings, cities and industries are undergoing a significant transformation as IoT promises to bring business operations and people’s quality of life to a whole new level. Thanks to ubiquitous wireless connectivity, it’s now possible to turn virtually everything – as simple as a waste bin or a consumable dispenser – into a smart device. Even our surroundings now have a “voice” to report on their current conditions so necessary changes could be made to optimize health and comfort.
Communication protocols have ceaselessly developed to keep up with the insatiable demand for device interconnection, and so does the network type. In our daily work and home environments, Personal and Local Area Networks (PAN & LAN) are almost omnipresent. Aggregating multiple LANs, we have the Campus Area Networks. And, on a city scale, we are moving towards what’s known as Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN). While MAN isn’t necessarily a brand-new concept, its implications and use are drastically evolving as IoT and next-gen connectivity emerge. If you’re an active player in the IoT space, it’s worth exploring what this network type means and the multifold advantages it has to offer.
What Is A Metropolitan Area Network?
As the name implies, MAN signifies a single network that serves a large urban area and spans tens of kilometers in range. Such an area could be a combination of multiple buildings and campuses or dispersed throughout a metropolis. Traditionally, MAN infrastructure is largely underpinned by a nexus of Ethernet and fiber cable lines that aim to deliver high-speed internet access for urban residents. Nevertheless, today, there’s much more to a MAN architecture than what it used to be.
Metropolitan Area Networks in the IoT Age
With the advent of IoT, new wireless technology like Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN), has seen dramatic growth in recent years. Positioned as an IoT accelerator, LPWAN comes with an extensive radio range of many kilometers together with ultra-low power requirements – a unique combination not available with previous wireless classes but highly critical for large-scale deployments of modular, battery-operated smart sensors. As such, LPWAN is quickly penetrating commercial and industrial marketplaces as the go-to wireless option for smart buildings and industrial IoT.
In urban contexts, a robust LPWAN solution can connect thousands of endpoints distributed throughout a high-rise building simply with the installation of one base station and an antenna on the rooftop. Now, imagine most large buildings within a certain geographical area is outfitted with such a base station and antenna. By this time, we establish a so-called IoT Metropolitan Area Network where enterprises and even individuals can seamlessly deploy and connect smart devices capitalizing on this infrastructure.
Who Stands to the Benefits of IoT MAN?
An IoT MAN delivers immediate benefits for all businesses, regardless of their sizes, to tap into the tremendous opportunities of IoT and smart buildings. For a commercial real estate company, the business case of implementing a dedicated LPWA network to add IoT functionality to its large-scale properties is quite evident. However, mid-sized enterprises or retailers who only own a moderate office and store area within a bigger building complex might struggle to quickly gain Return-on-Investment (ROI) and justify such a network investment in economic terms. That being said, the substantial benefits of smart solutions with examples like remote monitoring of space usage, shop traffic or storage conditions of perishable products, are not to be missed.
An IoT MAN fits perfectly in this context by delivering a readily available wireless infrastructure to make IoT accessible for every firm and achieve economies-of-scale. Any enterprise can easily hook their sensor devices to IoT without the hassle of procuring, installing, commissioning and managing the network infrastructure. The high upfront capital cost is replaced with a modest usage-based monthly subscription fee, thereby accelerating ROI.
From Smart Buildings to Smart Cities and Consumer IoT
Deployed on a greater scale of an entire metropolis, IoT MAN promises just the same advantages for a wide range of consumer IoT and smart city applications. Municipalities can leverage pervasive low power wireless connectivity at minimum deployment complexity to fuel city-wide intelligent infrastructure. Environmental metering, waste management, leak detection, smart parking and traffic management are just a few out of many smart city pillar use cases that can benefit from an IoT MAN. By the same token, individual citizens can enjoy unprecedented conveniences of connected life at affordable prices with smart solutions for pet and luggage tracking, connected home alarms, or fall detection and remote health monitoring of seniors.
Wireless Considerations for an IoT MAN
LPWAN is the perfect wireless choice for IoT MAN as it delivers exactly what a new breed of smart use cases requires. The long range and deep penetration traits of LPWAN are particularly pertinent in dense urban settings to enable reliable communications of outdoor, indoor, and even underground endpoints. Likewise, low costs and excellent power efficiency make it feasible to connect physical devices of all sizes and classes for tracking and monitoring purposes.
Having said that, there are other vital network considerations, not all LPWAN solutions can cater to. The exponential growth of connected sensors and data traffic in the sub-gigahertz license-free spectrum is posing serious Quality-of-Service challenges. To ensure future-proofed network operations and seamless integration of new devices into the IoT MAN infrastructure, interference immunity and scalability of the underlying technology are top of mind. In parallel, reliable mobile communication is paramount to capture numerous high-value use cases that involve moving assets and people.
In short, the notion of a Metropolitan Area Network is no longer limited to the idea of ready internet access for city residents. Today, innovative LPWAN technology is giving rise to next-gen IoT MAN that is poised to deliver on the promise of omnipresent and immediately accessible and consumable wireless connectivity. It empowers enterprises, municipalities and citizens to turn IoT and its boundless opportunities into reality at reduced costs, time and complexity.