People have been talking about it for years – the brave new world of the Internet of Things (IoT), which adds sensors and Internet capability to everyday physical objects. Predicted to be as transformational as the spread of the mobile Internet, IoT is rapidly transforming the way we live and work.
Despite the fact that IoT seems to have become the latest industry buzzword, it is actually not the “new” technology people think it is.
According to Sean Laval, Technical Head of IoT at Comsol, because IoT relies on sensors and Internet connectivity, the capability for smart systems has been around for many years.
“IoT is coming into its own now mainly because low-power wide area networks (LPWAN) are changing the dynamics and the ease with which solutions can be deployed. More importantly, they offer a cost-effective, standardised means for smart devices and systems to connect.”
Based largely on widely available and trusted technologies, LPWAN’s address the entire IoT market, including municipal, industrial, enterprise and consumer uses. This results in wide coverage and competitive pricing, offering the lowest total cost of ownership.
The statistic that by 2020, over 50 billion things will be connected to the Internet is well known. Research predicts that 3 billion of those devices will be connected to LPWAN’s by 2023, according to Machina Research. Laval says that the anticipated mass adoption of this technology is set to drive down hardware costs, densify network coverage and promote healthy competition among service providers.
“As the cost and power consumption of sensors and semiconductor components has fallen, and as battery technology has steadily improved, new opportunities for connected devices are growing rapidly. There are many solutions already available to address this maturing ecosystem, and the increasing uptake of LPWAN technology is the next evolution in wireless data collection techniques.”
As a result of the fact that LPWAN’s offer high redundancy, mitigate the risk of interference, and ensure high quality data reception over long distances – and even underground – they are ideally placed to support the global IoT. “For applications requiring low data throughput, LPWAN’s offers a solution that has the ubiquitous coverage of GSM/3G, with the low device cost and battery life of short-range wireless systems. Essentially, the best of both worlds,” Laval says.
He adds that in order for IoT to truly reach its potential, a universal standard is required which will enable virtually all types of devices, regardless of their application, to connect with each other. The mass adoption of LPWAN technology is already promoting greater standardisation between device manufacturers and vendors, Laval says.
“The LoRa Alliance, a coalition of leading technology vendors such as IBM and Cisco, has been created to ensure specifications are standardised in order to further the global IoT. The Alliance is committed to interoperability, as well as the quality of the network and the end-points, and is focused on furthering the capability of LPWAN technology.”
The combination of improved networks, increased security, and lower cost are combining to create a perfect storm for the advent of the age of ubiquitous IoT, according to Laval. “Together, these factors are combining to create an ecosystem that allows preconfigured devices to be used in any location, making IoT implementations easy. Add to that the fact that once the ecosystem is in place, users have the option to replace old or under-performing devices without sacrificing performance, and it’s no wonder that technologies like LPWA networks are making the future happen, today.”