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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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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What is LPWAN | A Deep Dive into Low-Power Wide Area Networks

LPWAN

BehrTech Blog

What is LPWAN?

A Deep Dive into Low-Power Wide Area Networks

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As global IoT connections exponentially grow to 22 billion in 2025, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are expected to be a prominent facilitator. The central value of IoT is the unprecedented visibility into physical assets, processes and people to enable informed decision making. Often times, this visibility comes from granular, battery-powered IoT sensors distributed over large, structurally dense campuses like factories, mine sites, oil fields and commercial buildings.

Legacy wireless technologies can’t keep up with the range, power and cost requirements in IoT sensor networks. Traditional cellular connectivity (e.g. 3G, LTE…) and wireless local area networks (i.e. Wi-Fi) are too expensive and power hungry for transmitting small amounts of data from a large number of sensor devices. Other solutions like Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave have highly constrained physical range; and even though many of them employ a mesh topology to extend their coverage, the multi-hop relaying nature is power-consuming while entailing complex network planning and management. As such, mesh networks are suitable for medium-range applications at best.

A LPWAN is unique in that it overcomes these pitfalls to deliver an efficient, affordable and easy-to-deploy solution for massive-scale IoT networks. They are ideal for low-bandwidth applications with small payloads, such as air quality monitoring, occupancy detection, asset tracking and environmental monitoring.

LPWAN Network Architecture and Key Characteristics

An LPWAN employs a star topology in which a base station collects data from numerous remote, distributed end nodes. With the exception of cellular LPWAN (i.e. NB-IoT), the connection between end nodes and the base station is non-TCP/IP to avoid hefty packet headers. After receiving and demodulating messages, the base station then relays them to the backend server through a standard TCP/IP backhaul link (e.g. Ethernet, cellular, etc.). For public LPWAN services, data must be routed through the network operators’ server before reaching the end user’s applications, while in privately managed LPWANs, data can be directly transferred to the user’s preferred backend for complete data privacy and control.

The appeal of LPWAN is derived from its two signature features that used to come as a trade-off in traditional technologies: long range and low power consumption. While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can only communicate over tens or a hundred meters at best, an LPWAN is able to transmit signals up to 15 km in rural areas and up to 5 km in urban, structurally dense areas. This wireless family also provides deep penetration capability to connect devices at hard-to-reach indoor and underground locations. On top of that, it comes with a simple, small-footprint transceiver design to minimize cost and power consumption on the end node side. The idea is to leave all the heavy-lifting to the base station and keep the data frame as short as possible.

LPWAN Power Efficiency and Range

Long Range

Range is often measured in terms of receiver sensitivity – the lowest signal power for a message to be detected and demodulated. In LPWANs, receiver sensitivity can reach -130 dBm, as compared to a moderate -70 dBm sensitivity in Bluetooth. This high receiver sensitivity is typically achieved by reducing the signal bandwidth and thus experienced noise levels (i.e. (Ultra-)Narrow Band) or adding processing gain (i.e. Spread Spectrum); both come at the cost of lower data rates.

Besides these special modulation techniques, the use of sub-GHz frequency bands in most LPWAN solutions, instead of the popular 2.4 GHz band, further improves range and penetration capability. As the wavelength is inversely proportional to free space path loss, the long radio waves in sub-GHz systems can travel over kilometers in open areas. Compared to 2.4 GHz signals, they can also better penetrate through walls, trees and other structures along the propagation path, while bending farther around solid obstacles.

Low Power

LPWAN systems adopt multiple approaches to optimize power efficiency, securing many years of battery life on end nodes. First, outside the transmission time, the transceivers are put into deep “sleep” mode whereby very minimal power is consumed. In bi-directional communications, a listening schedule is defined so that the device is “awake” only at predefined times or shortly after an uplink is sent to receive the downlink message.

Second, though not all, many LPWAN technologies employ a lightweight asynchronous protocol at the Medium Access Control layer to minimize data overhead. Pure ALOHA – a very simple random access protocol – is a common choice. In pure ALOHA, a node accesses the channel and transmits a message whenever data is available. There is no time-slotted coordination or carrier sensing, and even acknowledgment of received messages is often bypassed to further reduce the power footprint.

Finally, the one-hop star topology introduces great power benefits. While certain mesh solutions (e.g. Zigbee, WirelessHART) have been previously implemented for battery-operated, industrial sensor networks, they consume more power than an LPWAN solution by orders of magnitude. This is because, in a multi-hop mesh topology, a device must spend extra energy on listening for and relaying messages from other devices. On the other hand, a star network allows devices to “turn off” and stay most of the time in sleep mode.

LPWAN - Mesh vs Star Topology

All that said, power efficiency can drastically vary among LPWAN technologies. This is because transmission time or on-air radio time of each message is very different across systems, and transmission is technically the most energy-consuming activity. Short on-air time means that the transceiver can turn off faster to further reduce power consumption.

The Current LPWAN Landscape

The LPWAN landscape can be confusing at first sight, given the plethora of available solutions on the market. Nevertheless, if we take a look at the underlying technology, LPWAN solutions can be broadly grouped into four major types: cellular LPWAN, Ultra-Narrowband (UNB), Spread Spectrum, and Telegram Splitting. Among these four, cellular LPWAN is the only category that operates in the licensed spectrum, while the latter three mostly leverage the license-free Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency bands.

While introducing low cost and quick deployment benefits, the use of the license-free spectrum raises considerable Quality-of-Service (QoS) and scalability challenges. In most solutions, there exists a persistent trade-off between QoS and power efficiency. As mentioned earlier, the lightweight asynchronous protocol at the MAC layer is widely used in LPWAN for its power advantage. Nevertheless, when multiple radio systems co-exist and share the same spectrum resource, uncoordinated transmissions in asynchronous networks significantly increase the risks of packet collisions and data loss.

Mitigation mechanisms like Listen-before-Talk, handshaking and acknowledgment to ensure QoS inevitably come with heavy overheads or frequent signaling, which means more power consumption. As wireless IoT deployments and radio traffic exponentially grow, warranting network reliability and scalability while optimizing battery life will be a major undertaking in many LPWAN technologies.

Standardization is another important consideration, given its critical role in enabling a robust and vibrant IoT ecosystem. A standardized technology provides a rigorous and transparent technical framework to fuel both vertical and horizontal interoperability. So far, there have been only two camps of LPWAN technologies that succeeded in standardization efforts and are endorsed by formal standard organizations. One is cellular LPWAN that implements 3GPP standards, and the other is the Telegram Splitting technology based on the newly released ETSI standard on Low Throughput Networks – TS 103 357.

Some industrial alliances have also been established around certain proprietary LPWAN technologies to promote standard development. However, these efforts do not ratify the viability of the technology and might not cover the whole network stack. It’s common that only the MAC layer is made open, while the physical layer remains entirely proprietary, like in the case of the LoRa Alliance. Having part of technical specifications publicly available on a royalty-basis doesn’t necessarily make the technology a truly open standard. Also, these industrial activities do not incorporate a stringent technology evaluation and quality testing process, as in an SDOs’ formal procedure.

A Technical Review of Four Major LPWAN Technology Groups

After a quick glimpse into the existing LPWAN landscape, we’ll now dive into each type of LPWAN technologies and review their major technical features.

1. Cellular LPWAN (Licensed Spectrum)

LTE-M and NB-IoT are the two major variants of cellular LPWAN. Both employ a narrowband approach, wherein the received signal bandwidth and data rates are reduced to improve range and building penetration ability. Compared to LTE, their transmission power and technical design complexity are also drastically reduced to achieve low-cost, low-power qualities. NB-IoT, however, uses a much smaller system bandwidth (200 kHz) than LTE-M (1.4 MHz) and is thus a better choice for underground and indoor applications.

Thanks to their operations in the licensed spectrum, cellular LPWAN solutions introduce great Quality-of-Service advantages, as there is no co-channel interference from external systems. They additionally employ time and frequency synchronization alongside handshaking for very high transmission reliability and network scalability. That being said, these mechanisms come at the cost of power efficiency due to the required data overhead [1]. Besides consuming extra energy, handshaking makes the battery life of a node unpredictable, since it’s difficult to decide how many times the process needs to be repeated for each transmission.

Compared to the unlicensed counterparts, cellular LPWAN provides relatively higher peak data rates (i.e. > 1 Mbit/s for LTE-M and 250 kbit/s for NB-IoT), which further increases power budget requirements. Available as managed connectivity services from telecom providers, their coverage at remote locations might not be guaranteed, and network longevity is at stake due to the unforeseeable technology sunsetting. If your IoT end nodes are mobile, NB-IoT won’t be in your best interest as it’s mostly designed for stationary devices.

Given their pros and cons, cellular LPWAN options are best suited for higher data rate IoT use cases and in smart city scenarios where telecom infrastructure is mature. On the other hand, they aren’t optimal for applications where ultra-low power is at a high priority. The same goes for industrial deployments which often take place at remote locations and require the supported communications network to sustain over several decades.

2. Ultra-Narrowband – UNB (License-free Spectrum)

To minimize the subjected noise level and optimize receiver sensitivity, Ultra-Narrowband solutions contract the signal bandwidth to as small as 100 Hz. Besides extensive range and excellent penetration, UNB approach allows for high spectral efficiency as each signal occupies very minimal channel bandwidth. High spectral efficiency means that more messages can fit into an assigned frequency band without overlapping with each other, thereby improving overall system capacity and scalability. Sigfox and Telensa are representatives of UNB-based LPWAN technologies.

Ultra-narrow band signals, however, introduce very low data rates which translate into long on-air radio time. For example, systems like Sigfox feature a 100 Hz signal bandwidth and a data rate of 100 bps (EU mode), which means a 12-byte transmission could last for as long as 2 seconds. This presents several challenges. First, long on-air time inevitably comes with more power usage as the transceiver needs to be active for a longer period of time. Second, under EU duty cycle regulations (i.e. 1%) imposed by ETSI, a device operating in the 868 MHz band can “speak” for only 36 seconds per hour. As such, the longer each transmission takes place, the fewer total messages are allowed to be sent. In the USA, FCC regulations limit the frequency occupation time of each message to 0.4 seconds, requiring a different network design with a higher data rate and shorter overall network range.

Another issue with long on-air time is impaired Quality-of-Service. Coupled with asynchronous communications, longer time in the air interface exposes a message to a higher chance of data collision, especially in a crowded license-free spectrum with heavy radio traffic from multiple co-existing systems. Certain solutions apply redundancy in which the same data is sent several times in an attempt to improve message reception. However, this measure proves to be counter-productive, as it increases total on-air time and energy usage per unique payload, while further limiting effective data amounts that can be sent per hour.

Another drawback of UNB networks is its sensitivity to multipath fading caused by Doppler effects in mobile end devices or those situated close to fast-moving objects (e.g. near a highway). To avoid packet errors due to Doppler shifts, UNB nodes should be stationary or moving only at minimal speeds.

3. Spread Spectrum (License-free Spectrum)

As a common LPWAN modulation technique, Spread Spectrum overcomes the very slow data rate and Doppler fading issues experienced by UNB solutions to a certain extent. In Spread Spectrum, a narrowband signal continuously changes frequency, resulting in a frequency ramp that occupies a much wider channel bandwidth. More bandwidth use essentially comes with a higher experienced noise level. As such, processing gain is added to improve the Signal-to-Noise ratio and overall system range. Spreading Factors (SF) signify the level of processing gain with higher SF enabling longer range at a lower data rate.

Compared to UNB signals, Spread Spectrum signals are more robust against interception and eavesdropping attempts. Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) implemented in LoRa technology is a representative variant of this modulation scheme. A recent study shows that CSS systems can effectively support mobile nodes at a speed of up to 40 km/h.

On the other hand, the major limitation of Spread Spectrum solutions is their inefficient use of the spectrum resource, since more bandwidth is required to transmit only a small data amount. This induces bad co-existing behavior and serious scalability problems. In the limited sub-GHz radio spectrum, high wideband data traffic combined with uncoordinated transmissions in pure ALOHA can cause message overlays and eventually packet errors. This challenge further intensifies in long-range applications using a high spreading factor, due to the low data rate and thus, longer on air-time of messages.

The uses of different spreading factor and bandwidth combinations (i.e. orthogonality) and a higher number of base stations are common approaches to partly remedy this issue. However, tuning each base station to different frequency entails complex network management and requires radio system expertise.

4. Telegram Splitting (License-free)

Telegram Splitting is the latest and so far, the only standardized LPWAN technology in the licensed-free spectrum. Introducing a new radio transmission approach for UNB signals, the technology aims to surpass the trade-off between Quality-of-Service and power efficiency commonly faced in previous LPWAN solutions. MYTHINGS by BehrTech is the only solution that implements Telegram Splitting and fully complies with the ETSI TS 103 357 standard.

Telegram Splitting systems feature a data rate of 512 bit/s. At the physical layer, the technology divides a UNB telegram into multiple equal-sized sub-packets, each of which is randomly sent at a different time and carrier frequency. As each sub-packet has a much smaller size than the original telegram, its on-air time is drastically reduced to only 16 milliseconds. The accumulated on-air time of a 10-byte as an example is only 390 milliseconds. Short on-air time combined with the virtually random distribution of sub-packets over time and frequency significantly mitigate their risk of being hit by interferers. On top of that, even if up to 50% of sub-packets are affected, Forward Error Correction ensures that the full message can be retrieved at the base station.

As such, although asynchronous communication is used for ultra-low power benefits, Telegram Splitting delivers very high interference immunity and system capacity. Specifically, a single base station is able to handle more than one million messages a day as specified in the ETSI TS 103 357 standard. Also, in an Industrial IoT-equivalent scenario, Telegram Splitting has been proved to drastically outperform Chirp Spread Spectrum in LoRa in terms of message deliverability and network reliability.

In addition to Quality-of-Service, the characteristics of Telegram Splitting, at the same time, offer great power benefits. After the transmission of each sub-packet, there is a significantly longer transmission-free period in which the node goes into “sleep mode”. Short on-air time and longer off-air time minimize power consumption while giving the battery time to recover, which in turn significantly extends battery life.

Short time in the air interface of sub-packets combined with coherent demodulation additionally diminish Doppler fading effects. And, even if some sub-packets suffer from deep fades, FEC ensures that message detection and retrieval is minimally affected. With this, Telegram Splitting systems can connect end nodes moving at up 120 km/h [5] – a feature not available in previous LPWAN technologies.

Conclusion

Providing a unique combination of long-range, low-power and low-cost advantages, LPWANs are poised to become the backbone of battery-operated IoT sensor networks across verticals. Nevertheless, not all LPWAN technologies are created equal, and there exists a persistent trade-off between Quality-of-Service and battery life among most solutions. At the same time, the lack of standardization and limited mobility support are other challenges not to be overlooked. Recognized for its versatile technical design, Telegram Splitting represents a new LPWAN generation to surpass these limitations and provide a robust, scalable and power-efficient architecture for massive-scale IoT deployments in the industrial and commercial marketplaces.

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The Greatest Use Case for Two-Way Communication in LPWAN

Two-way communication in LPWAN

BehrTech Blog

The Greatest Use Case for Two-Way Communication in LPWAN

When devising an IoT architecture, the subject of unidirectional (one-way) vs bidirectional (two-way) communication is likely to come up at least once. In Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) for remote telemetry applications, bidirectional connectivity has aroused mixed feelings among many industrial adopters. Due to security concerns, there’s been a common preference for unidirectional communication to connect LPWAN sensor networks.

Yet, as the industrial IoT knocks on the door, two-way communication is revealing a new host of compelling use cases that were previously less known. For those looking to get a better grasp of this topic, this blog delves into how industrial users can reap the benefits of bidirectional connectivity for granular LPWAN telemetry sensors while clearing major concerns around it.

The Concept of Two-Way Communication in IoT

Way before the term “Internet of Things” exists, M2M two-way communication had been part of our daily life. Think of the last time you send and receive an SMS on your phone or trying to upload and download something from the Internet with your PC.

As IoT ushers in a new wave of connected devices, we continue to witness growing pervasiveness of two-way connectivity, particularly in the consumer space. For example, by setting up the connection between your wearable device and smartphone, you can have incoming calls displayed on your smartwatch and easily choose to answer or decline them from the wearable screen. Similarly, it is easy to view and adjust the settings of your smart thermostat via the phone while being away from home.

As in the first example, bidirectional communication can be established directly between two devices. But with the cloud, you more often see it associated with data exchange between devices and a cloud-based analytics platform via an IoT gateway – as in the second example. Leveraging machine learning and AI algorithms to analyze user preferences, the cloud then processes these inputs and issues a response to the IoT device.

Two-Way Communication
In most IoT consumer use cases, device-to-cloud bidirectional communication is leveraged for ease of use and enhanced user experience.

How about the Industrial IoT Space?

Industrial users are usually hesitant in adopting IoT two-way connectivity for telemetry applications due to its security implications. Until today, bidirectional communication mostly pertains to time-sensitive, closed-loop communication between controllers and I/O modules that are contained on the shop floor. The idea of exposing critical operational data to the Internet via two-way wireless connectivity now stirs up concerns around data privacy and malicious attempts. Plus, the fact that many legacy systems are designed with minimal security features in mind further magnifies these concerns.

Another major reason why two-way communication takes little spotlight in industrial LPWAN is that it isn’t a prerequisite for many condition-based monitoring use cases. Quite often, companies only focus on fetching data from previously isolated and disconnected assets for fine-grained operational insights and integration into higher management systems like ERP. Decision-making is then executed through separate workflows such as dispatching technicians for asset maintenance or setting up supply orders – rather than actuating field sensors.

The Greatest Use Case for Two-Way Communication in LPWAN Sensor Networks

What industrial users often miss out when considering bidirectional communication is its enormous benefit for device configuration and management. With the emergence of industrial innovations that rely on extensive telemetry networks like the digital twin, the ability to provision and configure sensor networks at scale has become more imperative than ever.

In LPWAN deployments with a vast number of endpoints, manually registering each device to the network is a labor-intensive and daunting process. Leveraging two-way connectivity, you can automatically authenticate and provision remote endpoints over the air (OTA). Likewise, if a device is no longer needed, you can conveniently retire it from afar – without the need to travel to the site.

Beyond device on- and off-boarding, bidirectional communication is also a game-changer for seamless and hassle-free configuration of field devices throughout their lifecycle. This advantage is particularly pertinent in industrial operations where regular sensor calibration is key to accurate process and asset measurements.

Under changes in ambient conditions, mechanical wear and tear or a shift in the required operating range, industrial sensors are subject to measurement errors from time to time. For this reason, calibration which us relevant adjustment(s) in sensor configuration, must be performed periodically to minimize unwanted deviations in sensor outputs. The process can be very time consuming, especially if devices are hard to reach. With bidirectional communication, you can issue calibration metrics to remote IoT sensors in simple steps to save big on time and costs.

For the new generation of smart sensors purpose-built for functionality and power efficiency, over-the-air device configuration is even more important. Instead of capturing a single parameter, today’s smart sensors are self-contained and designed with multi-sensing capability in mind. In this context, two-way IoT connectivity enables simple (re-)configuration of different sensing functions, as well as message frequency along the line – to optimize device performance and battery life.

For example, you can switch off irrelevant sensing units to drastically save on energy and later switch them back on when the need arises – all conveniently from the control center. Likewise, if the sensor is transmitting too often, it’s easy to adjust the message frequency from afar.

Coming Back to the Security Question…

Contrary to popular belief, two-way wireless connectivity doesn’t always mean Internet-connected. (Third-party) cloud architecture might seem prevalent in IoT, but it’s by no means a must – especially in industrial deployments. With a privately managed and controlled network, bidirectional communication between connected devices and your backend/ management console can stay safe on-premises.

Two-Way Communication in LPWAN
In industrial contexts, private IoT deployment allows users to secure bidirectional communication on-premises.

Two-Way Communication in LPWAN

While most legacy solutions offer bidirectional communication at the user’s disposal, their underlying mechanism is fraught with a major pitfall that risks message delay. Typically, in an LPWAN network, a downlink message is issued to end devices only if an uplink message has been sent. To minimize power consumption, the device is active just for a few seconds after the uplink transmission to listen for whether a response is coming back. However, it’s common that data processing at the backend for downlink communication can take longer than the provided time window. As such, sensor devices could go back to sleep before the downlink arrives, meaning it must be postponed to the next time an uplink is sent – which could be an hour or even a day later.

To mitigate this risk of obsolete messages, the MIOTY protocol used in MYTHINGS networks allows devices to go back to sleep immediately after the uplink transmission and wake up only some seconds later to listen for the response. By giving the backend sufficient time to schedule downlink messages, this mechanism enables a highly responsive, yet power-optimized LPWAN networks.

Wrapping Up

For industrial IoT applications that rely on vast, granular LPWAN telemetry networks, two-way communication is often less about actuating field sensors. Instead, its greatest use case lies in the ability to manage and (re-)configure sensor devices at scale and conveniently from afar. The larger the network, the greater the benefits. With the right architecture, security and data privacy concerns can also be ruled out to help you fully harness the value of your connected infrastructure.

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IoT Connectivity: 4 Standards That Will Shape 2020 and Beyond

IoT Connectivity

BehrTech Blog

IoT Connectivity: 4 Standards That Will Shape 2020 and Beyond

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IoT connectivity is fundamental and it’s no exaggeration to say that the wireless technology selected has a profound impact on the success of any IoT initiative. That’s why tech leaders are constantly on the hunt for the latest wireless trends and technologies to unveil potential business values and adoption opportunities. For those looking to stay ahead of the wireless curve, in this blog we identify four emerging IoT connectivity standards that are poised to shape the digital landscape in 2020 and beyond.

IoT connectivity


Also Recommended for You: [Free Ebook] The Ultimate Guide to Wireless IoT Connectivity for Massive-Scale Deployments 


1. Standard-based LPWAN

Geared for low-bandwidth, low computing end nodes, the newer Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) offer highly power-efficient and affordable IoT connectivity in vast, structurally dense environments. No current wireless classes could beat LPWAN when it comes to battery life, device and connectivity costs, as well as ease of implementation. Due to this unique combination of features, LPWAN has established itself as a key driver of massive, latency-tolerant sensors network in industrial IoT, smart building and smart city sectors.

While there are a plethora of LPWAN protocols available today, you might want to look into the distinct advantages of standard-based technologies. Given the explosive growth of IoT connected devices, Quality-of-Service, scalability and interoperability will be cardinal criteria in your wireless decision. Carrier-based standards like NB-IoT and LTE-M, together with MYTHINGS – an IoT connectivity solution based on the latest ETSI open standard for low-throughput networks, have emerged to complement proprietary technologies (e.g. LoRa, Sigfox etc.) and specifically address these requirements.

In terms of applications, NB-IoT and other carrier-based LPWAN standards are set to be a core pillar of the future smart city networks. Leveraging existing cellular infrastructure, these managed networks provide extensive coverage in urban areas, while removing infrastructure expenses. On the other hand, for industrial deployments where data security and ownership prevail costs, privately deployed solutions like MYTHINGS will rise as a preferred option. Besides, industrial facilities are often located in remote regions that are poorly serviced by network operators.

[bctt tweet=”LPWAN has established itself as a key driver of massive, latency-tolerant sensors network in industrial IoT, smart building and smart city sectors.”]

2. 5G

The latest cellular standard has been the subject of endless discussion and excitement across the board. And while telco service operators have successively announced the launch of early next-gen cellular networks in several countries since mid-2019, 3GPP Release 16 and with it, the “full 5G vision” is still yet to come. Planned for completion in late 2020, Release 16 will bring major enhancements on ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC). On top of that, it will introduce a host of improvements as part of the “5G efficiency” roadmap – including reduced network congestion, higher power efficiency and enhanced mobility. With that said, 5G roll-out will span over the next few years and devices supporting full features are further down the road.

Besides its destined role in the consumer mobile market, 5G is deemed to be a major catalyst for other emerging tech trends like augmented/virtual reality and connected vehicles. Providing reliable and omnipresent IoT connectivity in urban areas, the technology will also play a vital role in telehealth innovations alongside public safety and mission-critical communications.

In terms of Industrial IoT, 5G is positioned to be a core enabler of time-sensitive networking for factory automation. With the introduction of the private 5G deployment option, cellular operators aim to tackle the burning security and data ownership concerns among industrial users. Yet, the high costs and nascent hardware (i.e. base station) support still leave a big question mark over the business case of private 5G networks.

3. Wi-Fi 6

While the term Wi-Fi 6 (aka 802.11.ax) has been hovering in the air for some time, its full specifications and official launch only came later last year. Given Wi-Fi’s prevalence in our daily life, it’s no surprise that the latest generation has garnered rapt attention at the CES this year. There’s already an abundance of compatible gadgets, and as hardware prices continue to drop, 2020 is expected to be a major turning point for Wi-Fi 6 adoption.

A primary upgrade of Wi-Fi 6 over its predecessors is the greatly enhanced overall network bandwidth (i.e. <9.6 Gbps). And, while ultra-HD video streaming might be the first thing that comes across your mind, the improved throughput indeed aims to address a more IoT-specific challenge – device co-existence. Rather than enabling a single device with lightning speed, Wi-Fi 6 targets to support a much larger number of endpoints per router concurrently – without compromising data throughput per device. To do so, the router employs multiple antennas, and the total used spectrum is divided into a much larger number of sub-channels for simultaneous data streams from multiple devices.

As with previous generations, Wi-Fi 6 will be the backbone of broadband IoT connectivity in home and enterprise networks. Simultaneously, by mitigating the congestion issue, the technology is poised to level up public Wi-Fi infrastructure and transform customer experience with new digital mobile services. In-car networks for infotainment and on-board diagnostics will be the most game-changing use case for Wi-Fi 6. Yet, the development is likely to take some more time.

4. Bluetooth 5.X

Built upon the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specifications, Bluetooth 5.0 introduces a major leap in terms of throughput, speed and range. Previously, the use of BLE was limited to low throughput endpoints like beacons and wearable only. So, you would need the classic, power-hungry Bluetooth protocol for any forms of audio transmission. Today, Bluetooth 5.0 offers a highly energy-efficient option to stream audios and send large data files without quickly draining your device battery. If speed isn’t a top requirement, Bluetooth 5.0 also allows devices to communicate at low data rates in exchange for a much-improved range of up to 200 meters, making the technology ideal for next-gen smart home gadgets.

Bluetooth 5.1 and, most recently, 5.2 are the two latest derivatives of the fifth Bluetooth generation. While not significantly different from Bluetooth 5.0, they offer compelling features for highly precise direction finding and indoor navigation services. The protocols employ innovative Angle-of-Arrival and Angle-of-Departure (AoD) techniques to enable sub-meter localization ability. On the other hand, the downside of these approaches lies in the complex and expensive hardware design of the fixed locator receivers or beacons as they require an array of antennas for signal reception or transmission.

Bluetooth 5 versions support the mesh-based architecture to enable extended range for indoor positioning systems and low-power industrial sensor networks. However, it’s worth noting that the mesh topology is inherently energy-intensive and when it comes to large-scale deployments of IoT connected devices, network planning and configuration can be a major undertaking.

Final Thoughts

Each of these IoT connectivity standards is likely to secure their place in the IoT world, and it’s up to you to decide which technology is the best fit for your digital solution and use cases. Often times, industrial and enterprise users will end up with a hybrid and constantly evolving architecture that incorporates multiple wireless technologies to fully harness the IoT potential. In this context, it’s paramount to devise a flexible, robust and backward-compatible wireless infrastructure that can seamlessly scale to meet your changing needs. And, this should be considered right from the outset of your IoT project.

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Where Do My IoT Sensors Live?

sub-GHz ISM bands

BehrTech Blog

Where Do My IoT Sensors Live?

An Overview of the Sub-GHz ISM Bands

We’ve heard the numbers; IoT devices will reach 50 billion by 2025 etc. Most of these devices will be wireless, but where will they reside on the radio spectrum? Within the radio frequency (RF) spectrum there are both licensed and unlicensed bands. While a few Low Power Wide Area Networking (LPWAN) solutions such as NB-IoT operate in the licensed portion of the spectrum, most other solutions such as MYTHINGS and LoRa operate in the sub-gigahertz (GHz), the one unlicensed portion of the spectrum reserved for industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) devices.

Operating in the unlicensed spectrum, sub-GHz ISM bands have some significant benefits for organizations such as reduced deployment cost as there is no need to pay for licensed bandwidth as well as the fact that the traffic resides in a completely different part of the spectrum from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, there is still potential traffic from devices on the same LPWAN system, devices on different LPWAN networks, as well as traffic from other types of devices such as RFID tags and alarm systems. In this blog, we examine the history and characteristics of ISM bands.

Brief History of Radio Spectrum

Radio communication was invented towards the end of the 19th century. In its infancy, radio was mostly used for Morse communication largely for maritime and transoceanic communication. In those days, there was little-to-no regulation of radio traffic. The regulation of radio began in Europe in the early 20th century, however it wasn’t until the sinking of the Titanic, that the US adopted the Radio Act which legislated the requirement for radio station licenses.

The invention of AM radio and the ability to transmit voice led to the first commercial radio stations and with it, an explosion of amateur and commercial broadcasters. The invention of FM radio and its lower interference features made the radio spectrum much more dynamic. As the popularity of radio increased, the US government, in 1934 created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the radio spectrum in the United States.

Introduction of the ISM Band and Regulations

In addition to the broadcasting of voice and music, new applications and technologies began to use the radio spectrum. Examples include microwaves for cooking food, industrial induction heating, as well as medical applications such as diathermy machines using radio waves to apply deep heating to the body. The International Telecommunication Union set aside a portion of the radio spectrum and established the Industrial Scientific and Medical (ISM) bands in 1947 to provide dedicated spectrum for non-telecommunication devices.

Initially, the ISM bands were limited to Industrial Scientific and Medical devices, and telecommunication usage was forbidden. However, over time, the explosive growth of microelectronics and computing along with the attractiveness of an unlicensed spectrum, several factors brought about the pressure to use these unlicensed bands for wireless communication. In 1985, the FCC in the United States decided to allow communications on the ISM bands. However, soon after, rules were put in place to require pre-certification of all new products using unlicensed bands. To enforce these new regulations, the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI) was created in 1988, and in 1989, new regulations were introduced within the FCC.

There are actually several bands within the radio spectrum set aside for ISM equipment. Some such as the 2.4 GHz band (used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) is of worldwide standards. Others are regional with specific ranges being governed by individual countries or regions.

As mentioned, LPWAN solutions operate in both the unlicensed or licensed bands. The unlicensed ISM bands used by LPWAN solutions operate below the 1 GHz level. The following figure displays the sub-GHz radio spectrum bands and the amounts of spectrum set aside by various regions around the world.

sub-GHz ISM bands

Other Uses of the Sub-GHz ISM Bands

In addition to LPWAN wireless solutions, many other technologies and devices operate within the same sub-GHz ISM bands. These types of devices include radio frequency identification (RFID) devices, garage door openers, cordless telephones, wireless drones, wireless microphones, baby monitors and alarm systems.

Regulations to Keep Usage Under Control

Because anyone can use the sub-GHz ISM bands, it becomes difficult to limit the number of devices operating within them. As such, regional and national regulatory bodies have created rules and regulations to control usage within these bands and prevent them from becoming saturated.

One common regulation is to establish a limit on the maximum transmission (Tx) power of the transmitting device. For example, in the US, the limit on Tx power is 24 decibels per milliwatt (dBm) which translates to 250 milliwatts. In Europe, the limit is more often 14 dBm (25 milliwatts).

A limit on transmission power may not be enough to protect bandwidth usage. If devices are allowed to take a very long time to transmit, and especially if there are many devices on the network, additional devices might be prevented from using the channel. To address this issue, some regions implement a duty cycle. A duty cycle represents a percentage of time that a device can be actively transmitting in the band. For example, a duty cycle of 1 percent means that a device can only actively transmit 1 percent of the time. In a given hour, a device could transmit no more than 36 seconds. Alternative and complementary policies can be used as well including “frequency hopping” which forces the radio technology to use different sub-channels within a band to prevent one channel from being saturated.

Still, even with limits on transmission power and duty cycles, there is the potential for a very large number of devices transmitting in a campus environment, such as a factory or a building. As such, you need to ensure that your LPWAN solution offers superior robustness and can scale as needed. MYTHINGS by BehrTech with its patented Telegram Splitting technology offers superior power efficiency, high distance, robustness, scalability and supports mobility of 120 km/h and beyond.

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[IIoT Survival Guide] 11 LPWAN Deployment Mistakes to Avoid

LPWAN Deployment

BehrTech Blog

11 LPWAN Deployment Mistakes to Avoid

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) provide the long-range, power-efficient and affordable connectivity needed for next-generation IoT networks. But, LPWAN deployments can be a highly complex endeavor and if you’re unfamiliar with radio frequency technologies, you might find yourself struggling to piece together the different capabilities and moving parts of an LPWAN architecture.

Making fundamental mistakes from the outset can result in the long-term failure of the entire IoT initiative and significant financial loss. Many things could go wrong – inadequate technical planning, a lack of consideration for future needs, insufficient testing or poor device and data strategies – the list goes on. Having said that, don’t let these difficulties deter you from harnessing the exciting opportunity and potential benefits of LPWAN.

The success of every LPWAN deployment depends on a successful marriage between technology and strategy. A best-in-class technology purpose-built for scalability and interference resilience, complete with native security and device management features, will greatly simplify deployment and shorten the Time-to-Market of your IoT solution. However, organizations must understand the existing and potential pain points the technology is expected to solve to truly understand the value they can derive from it. Equally important is the awareness of the potential data and security risks and how to best prepare for them. The digitalization journey can be daunting at times, but with a clear vision and strategy complemented by a leading-edge solution, the outcomes are truly rewarding.

In this IIoT Survival Guide, we deep dive into the key technological and strategic mistakes to avoid when setting up your LPWAN network.

Download the Guide here.

LPWAN Deployment Mistakes

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5 Reasons You Need an IoT Device Management Platform

IoT device management

BehrTech Blog

5 Reasons You Need an IoT Device Management Platform

As IoT adoption continues to develop, companies are struggling to assemble the moving parts in the digital ecosystem. Given the sheer complexity of IoT, it’s not uncommon to overlook important elements of the equation. If you think smart devices, connectivity and cloud analytics are all you need in an IoT architecture, you’re missing out on a major piece of the puzzle – network and device management.

There’s a simple explanation of why network and device management, despite its fundamental role to IoT success, could be easily overlooked. Businesses, especially those at the outset of IoT adoption, are often unaware of why they need it in the first place. In this blog, we dive into five reasons why a network and device management platform is a linchpin in your IoT value chain.

IoT device management


Also Recommended for You: 5 Things to Look for in An IoT Network and Device Management Solution


1. Accelerate Time-to-Market and Reduce Costs

An out-of-the-box network and device management platform helps solution developers shorten development and testing time to bring products to the market in a timely fashion. When bundled with a connectivity offering, the platform provides everything you need to immediately get the network up and running. In addition, a future-proof architecture enables you to readily roll out large-scale deployments and supercharge future growth of your IoT solution. Plus, simplifying and automating network and device administration tasks allows you to focus on your core expertise and effectively keep costs down.

2. Enable Secure Device On- and Off-boarding

A smart device isn’t automatically connected to your IoT network, nor should it be. You need a secure approach to configure and add only authorized devices into the network architecture, and an network and device management tool helps you do so in a simple and straightforward manner. Via a web interface, you can authenticate end nodes and establish secure communications by registering and attaching them to the authorized base station(s) – using their network keys and identification credentials. Only after the onboarding process, is the node permitted to join the network and securely transmit data with network-level encryption. Similarly, if deployed nodes are no longer needed, you can conveniently offboard them from the web UI – without having to travel to the field.

3. Streamline Network Monitoring and Troubleshooting

As your IoT deployment scales to hundreds or even thousands of geographically dispersed nodes, a manual approach to troubleshooting is inefficient, expensive or just practically impossible. On the other hand, by leaving end nodes completely unattended, you risk failing to receive business-critical data when it’s needed the most. A network and device management platform provides you with a single-pane, top-down view of all network traffic, registered nodes and their status. If you have multiple base stations in one network, it serves as a central hub aggregating data across base stations. This is particularly useful in monitoring and diagnosing unexpected issues on both network- and device-level.

Real-time visibility into incoming data, battery level and keepalive messages from individual nodes allows you to immediately identify and determine root causes of bottlenecks. For example, if a node intermittently fails to deliver messages, it could mean that the radio traffic is overloaded. On the other hand, if it completely drops out of the network and stops sending messages, there could be a hardware defect or a firmware bug. Likewise, with continuous battery level monitoring, you can schedule maintenance for multiple devices at once to save time and costs.

4. Simplify Deployment and Management of Downstream Applications

An IoT device management platform also acts as the bridge between the edge network and users’ downstream data servers and enterprise applications. A versatile solution allows for simple integration with any backend systems of your choice, whether on-premises or in the cloud, leveraging protocols such as MQTT, and API calls. As such, you can seamlessly deploy and scale IoT applications to adapt to changes in your business requirements – whether adding new devices to the same application or connecting to a new analytics solution. You can also gain a view into all current integrations and applications from a single window to streamline the management of your entire IoT project.

5. Mitigate Security Risks

Given the ever-growing sophistication of cyber-attacks, Internet-connected components of the IoT network including base stations and routers must always be armed with the latest security features. A manual approach can’t keep up with the demand for constant and timely updates of these critical network infrastructures, particularly those that are remotely deployed. In this context, an IoT network and device management tool can provide automatic operating-system and security updates from afar, allowing you to save costs while assuring that remote base stations are best prepared against malicious attempts. On top of that, round-the-clock network monitoring facilitates timely identification of abnormal patterns such as a surge in data traffic that might indicate a breach.

As IoT initiatives increasingly move beyond proofs-of-concept, businesses need an effective and secure approach to operate and control their networks at scale. An IoT network and device management platform offers simplified provisioning, centralized management and real-time insights into all current devices and integrations to help companies stay on top of their deployment. Coupled with a robust and scalable wireless solution, it allows you to seamlessly expand your IoT network and solutions at minimal cost and complexity.

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