Starting the topic of IoT, it is impossible to ignore the issue of connectivity – it’s what gives ordinary things new value. Due to the diverse nature of the IoT sector, there is no one-size-fits-all communications solution that will work in every case. 

So when choosing a connectivity method, you should consider various network criteria, as each solution has its strengths and weaknesses.   

In this article we’ll walk through the five most common types of IoT wireless technologies, so you can see which technology best fits your use case. 

  1. LPWANs

Low Power Wide Area Networks can literally connect all types of IoT sensors from asset tracking, environmental monitoring to consumables monitoring and occupancy detection. This family of technologies is purpose-built to support large-scale IoT networks sprawling over vast industrial and commercial campuses. This is due to its structure: LPAWN provides long-range communications on small, inexpensive batteries that last for years. 

The weaknesses of this type of network include limited applicability, since LPWANs can only transmit small blocks of data at low speeds they are therefore best suited for cases that do not require high bandwidth and are not time sensitive. 

In addition, the problem of LPWANs is standardization: not all LPWANs are created equal. On the market we can find both technologies operating in the licensed (NB-IoT, LTE-M) and unlicensed (e.g. MYTHINGS, LoRa, Sigfox, etc.) spectrum, with varying degrees of performance in key network factors. This is an important point that should be considered if the network is to provide reliability, security and scalability in the future.   

  1. Cellular (3G/4G/5G)

3G/4G/5G mobile networks are well known to consumers AND have been well established in the mobile market for years. They offer reliable broadband communications that support a variety of voice calls and video streaming applications. Their drawbacks, however, are very high operating costs and power requirements.   

Cellular networks are not widely used in IoT applications, but they are a good fit for specific use cases, such as connected cars or fleet management in transportation and logistics.   

High-throughput cellular connectivity also works well for traffic guidance and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The latest generation of 5G cells with support for high-speed mobility and ultra-low latency is expected to be the future of autonomous vehicles and augmented reality.  5G also promises real-time video surveillance capabilities for public safety, real-time mobile delivery of medical data sets for connected health, and several time-sensitive industrial automation applications. 

  1. Wi-Fi 

Wi-Fi networks probably don’t need to be introduced to anyone. The network plays a critical role in providing high data transfer rates in both corporate and home environments. However, when it comes to IoT, Wi-Fi has significant limitations in terms of range, scalability and power consumption.  

Large IoT sensor networks are typically battery-powered, especially in industrial use and smart buildings. In such cases, high power consumption prevents the use of Wi-Fi. It is instead a good solution for connecting devices that can be conveniently plugged into an electrical socket, such as smart home gadgets and appliances, digital signage or security cameras.   

The latest generation of Wi-Fi brings significantly increased network capacity (i.e., <9.6 Gbps), which is expected to improve data throughput per user in crowded environments. Admittedly, the development of Wi-Fi 6 will still take a long time, but it offers hope for the public Wi-Fi infrastructure to be ramped up and the customer experience improved with new digital mobile services in the retail and mass entertainment sectors.   

  1. RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses radio waves to transmit small amounts of data from an RFID tag to a reader within a very short distance. The technology has revolutionized retail and logistics: by attaching an RFID tag to all kinds of products and equipment, companies can track their inventory and assets in real time, enabling better inventory and production planning, as well as optimal supply chain management. It is thanks to RFID that devices such as smart shelves, self-service checkouts and smart mirrors exist. 

As you can see, there is no single best way for IoT connectivity. Selecting the best wireless technology for your IoT use case requires an accurate assessment of:

  • bandwidth,
  • QoS,
  • security,
  • power consumption
  • and network management. 

But one thing is for sure – we keep our finger on the pulse and follow any news, especially in the field of Bluetooth Low Energy. Curious about our IoT projects? Check out our portfolio!