IoT Connectivity

A Quick Guide to

IoT Connectivity

A quick guide to IoT Connectivity cover
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 Last Updated: Sep 3, 2019

The 5 most important elements of connectivity

IoT Connectivity is a broad and complex topic, making it sometimes difficult to know the key to consider when making connectivity decisions for your business.  

To help you on your way, we’ll cover the most important elements of IoT connectivity in this quick guide to help you make the right choice for your unique connectivity needs.

1. Power consumption: how much battery does it consume?

Whether your IoT devices are going to be plugged in 24/7, rechargeable, or replaceable, power consumption will play a key role in the connectivity your project uses. The type of usage, the location of the device or the size of the battery will probably drive your choice of IoT connectivity required for your project.

2. Range: how wide is the area it covers?

Some projects will need as much range as possible, while others may be able to get by using interconnected Bluetooth networks. Either way, you need to know how much range you need to be covered before choosing a connectivity solution, as this will impact other key considerations such as power consumption and cost.

3. Bandwidth: how much data does it transmit?

Most IoT projects only need to transmit small amounts of data at a time, which means that most mainstream connectivity (like WiFi) will be overkill for your project. If your project does require high data output, however, be sure to keep it in mind.

4. Reliability: how reliable is the connectivity and what is your network operator coverage?

Regardless of the size, goals, and lifespan of your IoT network, reliability is key. The more downtime your network has, the less "Internet" your Internet of Things is going to have.

5. Cost: how expensive is the connectivity?

Because of the large-scale and often global nature of IoT projects, connectivity can quickly (and likely will) become your biggest expense. When comparing providers, make sure that you're getting the connectivity you need for a price that suits your budget without compromising on reliability.

Which connectivity solution is right for your IoT project?

In a perfect world, the ideal connectivity solution would have low-power consumption, wide-area coverage, high bandwidth, be extremely reliable and low cost. Unfortunately, the technology isn't quite there yet, although there are several options available that come close.

When choosing IoT connectivity, it's important to know if your IoT project is going to be made up of mobile or fixed devices, as each will have different needs. How spread out your devices are (for example, if they’re in one location or distributed internationally) and where they are physically located (indoors, underground, outside, etc.) will also play a key role in the decision-making process.

The different types of IoT Connectivity

  • LTE Advanced
    A faster and more reliable version of standard LTE, LTE Advanced is great for projects that need the fastest response times, like autonomous vehicles.
  • LTE Cat.0
    For IoT projects with limited network needs, there's Cat.0. It has bare- minimum features (in the good sense!), with a low cost and high reliability.
  • LTE Cat M
    The second generation of Cat.0, Cat M is more effective and efficient, and most importantly, compatible with existing LTE networks. Using Cat M means you won't need to wait for infrastructure to catch up with your needs.
  • NB-IoT
    Designed specifically for IoT, NB-IoT is long-range, consumes low power, and is immune to interference from other types of connectivity, making it extremely reliable.

    See detailed features of LTE, LTE-M and NB-IoT. Source: T-Mobile
    LETM and NB-IoT Performance
  • LoRa
    LoRa (Long-Range) is a low power, long-distance coverage solution. It's only capable of transmitting small data packets at a time, making it a cost-effective solution for most IoT projects.4G LTE: 4G LTE is the latest in cellular technology, making it the go-to solution for high demand networks. It's not very cost-effective, however, and is likely overkill for most IoT projects.
  • 2G and 3G
    The previous generations of 4G cellular connectivity, these networks are still used today for devices like parking meters and vending machines. They can't transmit video, however, which is a limiting factor.
  • 5G
    5G is the next generation of 4G networks and has yet to become officially available. When it is released, however, it is believed that it will have IoT support incorporated in some way.
  • SigFox
    SigFox is a connectivity provider aimed at the IoT market. Their connectivity solution is helpful for mobile devices with low-data needs, like smartwatches and smart meters.
  • WiFi
    WiFi is great for devices in a fixed location with high data demands, but typically has a low range and unpredictable reliability.
  • ZigBee
    ZigBee is a connectivity solution for smaller IoT projects in a contained area, like smart homes, that have low power and data needs.
  • Z-Wave:
    Similar to ZigBee, Z-Wave uses radio waves to create a short-range, low data and power network for small IoT projects.

Massive IoT Projects@4x

Connectivity requirements for different sectors

While every IoT project's needs are a little different, some general themes can be found in each industry. The technology is still new, but IoT has big implications for the way business is traditionally done. IoT networks will be able to cut costs and improve efficiency through automation, over the air updates, predictive maintenance, asset management, and remote monitoring.

Here are just a few of the different ways that IoT connectivity will differ from one industry to the next:

  • Automotive
    Low bandwidth networks with medium to high range will be the most common in the automotive industry, with reliability being a critical issue.
  • Agriculture
    IoT in this industry will primarily be used for optimizing yields and predicting maintenance, so low bandwidth, low range networks are all that's required.
  • Cities
    Due to their size and needs, smart cities need IoT networks that are longer range and highly reliable, with bandwidth typically being low, depending on the needs of the particular city.
  • Utilities
    Because utility devices will be spread across a large geographic location, long-range and high reliability is required.
  • Transport and Logistics
    IoT in transport will be primarily used for tracking and logistics optimization, so a long-range with low bandwidth will be needed by most in this sector.
  • Healthcare
    Most healthcare IoT networks will only consume a low amount of data in a short-range, with medium reliability needs.
  • Construction
    Because construction projects usually take place in one fixed location, a low bandwidth, short-range, and decently reliable network is all that is required.

Factors to consider when choosing IoT Connectivity

Since the IoT connectivity market is still fairly new, picking the right provider requires both careful consideration and judgement. Not all IoT connectivity solutions are completely developed, implementing your desired network could require you to invest in the development of infrastructure – in turn, adding to the overall cost of connectivity. It is also worth considering the accessibility of different connectivity solutions.

The key takeaway here is to closely consider the price of the connectivity solution you want to use, as well as the availability of any provider. Below are some things to keep in mind when considering your options:

  • Price does not necessarily reflect coverage
    Unlike traditional cellular networks – where most of the premium you pay goes towards coverage – IoT network pricing can be affected by variables including different features, and their underlying technology. Make sure the network you choose matches your project's unique needs.
  • Security
    Like any network of data-sensitive devices, your connectivity provider needs to be secure. Otherwise, every device in your IoT network presents a potential risk.
  • The quality of coverage 
    While keeping all of your devices connected is a good start, it's not enough to keep an IoT project sustainable. Your connectivity provider needs a solution that provides your devices with a strong, reliable connection – whether your devices are indoors or outdoors.
  • Multi-network roaming
    Because of the mobile nature of most IoT networks, roaming connectivity is a must. And since no network has truly global coverage, you need a connectivity solution that allows you to roam multiple networks across different carriers. This way, even if your devices are outside of your home network’s range, they’ll still be connected.
  • Network Resiliency
    When things do go wrong, and your devices lose connectivity, how will it affect your data? How long will it take the network to recover? How much will be required of you to bring the network back online? If you're using a resilient network, the answer to all of these should be as close to “Zero” as possible.

Do you have the network coverage you need?

Another important factor that those new to connectivity often overlook is network coverage.

Network resilience is essentially your network's ability to manage any roadblocks, such as network outages and self-heal. In other words, if something goes wrong with your network – how quickly and easily can the problem be restored?

In a network with poor resilience, an outage can become a serious problem. If handled poorly, it can result in a loss of data, security and resources. And network resiliency doesn't just refer to the frequency and severity of network outages, but also the quality of your network's coverage.

A resilient network will have reliable coverage across all its range, meaning you won't have to worry about dead spots when deploying your devices. And in the event that something does go wrong, a resilient network will be able to manage the issue with little interference from you.

If you're trying to determine if your current/potential connectivity provider will offer you the network resiliency you need – just ask yourself these four questions:

Are your devices always accessible?

With a reliable network plan, you’ll be able to access your devices whenever you need, wherever they are. You need a strong connectivity solution that keeps your devices available to you in every situation so that you’re never without critical data. Otherwise, your network is putting you at risk.

Do you have a recovery plan in place?

If disaster strikes, and you do lose connectivity/data/security – does your network provider have a Plan B? And if they do, make sure that they also have a Plan Z. You can never be too prepared.

Is your network secure?

IoT projects are – by their very nature – extremely data-sensitive. They are collecting a broad scope of information across hundreds, or even thousands, of devices. And each of those devices is a potential doorway into your IoT project. If a provider doesn't value network security, they're putting your project at risk.

Does your network delivery data accurately and consistently?

Lastly, you want to make sure that the quality of the network is up to par. Otherwise, you could be losing data, transmitting inaccurate data, or transmitting infrequently – all of which will greatly impair your project's effectiveness.

Finding a secure IoT network

Even for tech-savvy individuals, determining if a network is really offering you the security you need can be a challenging task.

Fortunately, just understanding the basics of IoT network security – like the difference between public and private networks, for example – can make that decision process much easier. 

A public network is one that anyone with the right hardware can connect to – like the internet! A private network, however, is members only. A familiar example of this would be most cellular networks, where you can only access them through a direct agreement.

While public networks are more affordable, they pose serious and obvious security risks. For a secure IoT network therefore, private is the way to go:

VPN

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a network that acts as a middleman between your devices and the rest of the internet. Your device (which should be able to connect to the internet, with or without a VPN) passes all of its information through the VPN – keeping your data confidential and mostly secure.

APN

An APN (Access Point Name) is what directly connects your device to the internet. APNs are what keep smartphones from only connecting to networks they have permission to.

IPsec

IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) is a set of network security protocols that protect and encrypt data. Some form of IPsec is used in most VPNs as a means of securing transmitted data, ensuring that it cannot be read by any interceptor.

Choosing JT as your IoT connectivity provider

If you're looking for the most reliable and flexible network for your IoT project – consider choosing JT IoT as your connectivity provider. Our global network can keep your devices connected across 600+ roaming agreements in more than 180 countries, ensuring your IoT devices will have consistent coverage no matter where they're deployed worldwide.

JT M2M Coverage 2019 Interactive Map

JT currently offers robust cellular connectivity and has a roadmap in place for implementing Cat M and NB-IoT networks as the technology progresses. We also have custom VPNs and APNs, so your devices won't be sharing traffic. Instead, they'll be on a unique network protected by telco-grade firewalls.

Check where we can connect your devices worldwide.

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Conclusion

Deciding which network is right for your IoT project is an important step in making your IoT vision a reality. If you're looking for the most resilient, reliable, and secure network available, considering partnering with JT for your IoT connectivity needs.

To learn more about our IoT solutions, check out our IoT brochure for further information or send us a enquiry today and one of our IoT experts will get in touch shortly.

 

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