IoT Connectivity Technologies - Part III
The variety of technology solutions, as discussed in part II, can be overwhelming when deciding the right connectivity for an IoT project.
And different IoT applications have different requirements when it comes to connectivity, below we list several (non-exhaustive) use cases in some commercial areas:
Smart Cities and Smart Mobility - Environment management and public safety, waste management, utility meters, fire detection, smart lighting, air quality measurement, sound noise level measurement, traffic congestion and traffic light control, smart parking, public transport, mobility as a service
Smart Grid and Energy - Network control, load balancing, remote monitoring and measurement, smart metering
Retail - Supply chain control, intelligent shopping applications, smart shelves, and smart product management
Industrial Automation and Smart Manufacturing - M2M applications, robotics, indoor air quality, temperature monitoring, production line monitoring, indoor localization of assets, vehicle auto-diagnosis, machine health monitoring, preventive maintenance, energy management, machine/equipment as a service, and factory as a service
Smart Homes, Buildings - Energy and water use, temperature, humidity, fire/smoke detection, remote control of appliances, intrusion detection systems
eHealth, Life Sciences and Wearables - Patient health and parameters, connected medical environments, healthcare wearable, patient’s surveillance, telemedicine, fall detection, assisted living
When developing devices for any IoT application, factors like location of deployment, cost and scalability must be considered. Regarding connectivity, the perfect option would consume little power and be able to transmit large amounts of data (i.e. high bandwidth) over a long range.
Since this perfect connectivity doesn’t exist, all technologies can be seen to address mainly two properties at the cost of the third.
Once this is clarified the question becomes whether to choose licensed or unlicensed spectrum.
Unlicensed standards such as SigFox and LoRa can be implemented independently and without incurring additional fees since unlicensed spectrum is not owned by any specific mobile network operator. However, they lack benefits that licensed standards such as NB-IoT, LTE-M or 5G can offer: greater reliability and better performance.
Licensed spectrum, on the other side, is highly restricted. Mobile network operators have to buy special licenses to operate with dedicated parts of the spectrum. Except the license holder, no other operator is allowed to use that part of the spectrum band. This offers more flexibility to the operator in deploying their network to manage interference and enables them to offer high and reliable transmission speeds.
Another important aspect relates to network security. For cellular networks the subscription identity is stored on a hardware security module, the SIM card, to achieve maximum protection.
Introduced in the 90s for GSM, it remains the cornerstone of network and subscriber authentication across all generations of cellular networks including 5G. Since it can be prohibitively expensive to replace a SIM (i.e. a technician must manually replace it) or even impossible if the chip was soldered and/or sealed in the device, it created a lock-in to the network provider.
This drawback has been successfully addressed with the introduction of eSIM (embedded SIM) supporting remote provisioning of subscription identity and related credentials, allowing to switch mobile network operators fully automatically.
Different use cases, as listed above, show that there really is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. As each of these IoT use cases presents different challenges and requirements for connectivity solutions, one technology cannot equally serve all IoT applications. At the same it is quite clear that the higher the requirements are for reliability and security, the more likely it is that licensed, cellular technologies are the suitable solution.
At achelos IoT a dedicated team of experts addresses the specific requirements of the global market for cellular connectivity solutions. We provide state-of-the-art software that enables our customers to build intelligent connectivity services for cellular IoT & consumer devices, harnessing the transformative power of eSIM.