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What Is IoT Connectivity and Different Types of IoT Connectivity

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is no longer just a buzzword but now a reality. It is estimated that there are more than 10 billion connected IoT devices in 2021, which is still expected to grow to 25 billion devices by 2030.

IoT is essentially about how devices can connect to the internet to send and receive data, so connectivity, IoT connectivity, is a major aspect of any IoT deployment. This article will discuss IoT connectivity, the different available connectivity options, and which one you should choose for your IoT project. Without further ado, let us start right away.

What Is IoT Connectivity?

It refers to the technologies or methods used to connect the different points of the IoT ecosystem: IoT devices, routers, gateways, sensors, applications, and servers, among others.  There are actually so many options available in the market at the moment, around 30 of them being commonly used in various IoT deployments. The question is, why do we have so many variations? Isn’t there a single IoT connectivity technology we all can agree to use?

The simple answer is that because, at the moment, there is no single, perfect connectivity solution that is ideal for all kinds of IoT deployments. 

An ideal IoT connectivity solution should:

  1. Consume as little power as possible;
  2. Has the widest coverage area as possible (i.e., can directly connect a device located in the North Pole with another device in the South Pole;)
  3. Has an infinite data bandwidth.

Obviously, such technology does not yet exist, which is why all connectivity solutions we have at the moment always involve a tradeoff between power consumption, coverage range, and bandwidth. 

With that being said, we can generally divide the IoT connectivity solutions into three major categories:

High Bandwidth, High Coverage Range, High Energy Consumption: With high energy consumption being the main trade-off, this type of IoT connectivity solution can wirelessly send a lot of data at any given time over a great distance. Cellular IoT is an example of this type of connectivity.

High Bandwidth, Low Coverage Range, Low Energy Consumption: Here, the tradeoff is the coverage range, but this type of connectivity is designed to allow a lower energy consumption without compromising bandwidth. Bluetooth and WiFi are examples of this category. 

Low Bandwidth, High Coverage Range, Low Energy Consumption: The tradeoff here is bandwidth to allow a low energy consumption while maximizing coverage range. Useful in IoT deployments where sensors are deployed in remote areas but don’t actually need a lot of bandwidth. A thermostat, for example, doesn’t really require a lot of bandwidth as temperature data is fairly small in size. 

Popular IoT Connectivity Solutions and Their Usages: Cellular IoT ConnectivityWhat Is IoT Connectivity

Type: High bandwidth, High coverage range, High energy consumption

Most of us are already familiar with cellular connectivity in our phones and mobile devices, and cellular connectivity also remains a popular choice for many IoT deployments. The key advantages of cellular connectivity are its wide coverage area without compromising bandwidth, and cellular connections are virtually available anywhere. Cellular connectivity is one of only two solutions (besides satellite) that truly allow global connectivity. 

By partnering with the right IoT data plan that offers global coverage, you can face the current challenges of sending a huge amount of data to IoT devices deployed halfway across the world. The main downside of cellular connectivity is power consumption, so in most cases, the IoT devices can’t be battery-powered when deployed remotely.

Bluetooth

Type: High bandwidth, Low coverage range, Low energy consumption

Bluetooth used to be a fairly power-hungry connectivity option, but with the introduction of Bluetooth LE (Low Energy), it is now an energy-efficient connectivity solution. Bluetooth uses lower energy than Wi-Fi (discussed below) but has lower bandwidth. Popular not only in consumer IoT deployments (i.e., smart home) but also in commercial settings when the range isn’t much of an issue.  

Wi-Fi

Type: High bandwidth, Low coverage range, Low energy consumption

Wi-Fi connectivity consumes less power than cellular while offering a similar level of bandwidth. However, Wi-Fi can only cover a minimal range. Wi-Fi is commonly used in smaller-scale IoT deployments like in smart houses, schools, or offices. However, new Wi-Fi standards HEW (802.11ax) and HaLow (802.11ah) are designed to provide more range and even lower power consumption for industrial IoT implementations. 

LPWANwhat is IoT connectivity

Type: Low bandwidth, High coverage range, Low energy consumption

LPWAN stands for Low-Power Wide-Area Networks. The name suggests an umbrella term referring to various connectivity technologies that allow low power consumption over a wide coverage area. The tradeoff? LPWAN technologies can only send a small amount of data at any given time. 

Data sent over LPWAN connectivity solutions, like LoRaWan or SigFox, must be small and not complex, so LPWANs typically send small packets of information at infrequent intervals. IoT sensors are actually required to send a small amount of data, so LPWAN is perfect for such deployments. 

Conclusion

With the diversity of available options to connect IoT devices, it’s important to make your choice by first assessing your needs: which between power consumption, coverage range, and bandwidth is the most crucial of your IoT projects. 

If, for example, you are planning to scale your IoT project into a global scale, then you should consider cellular IoT connectivity by partnering with the right network provider as your main option. 

Article by

Alla Levin

Hi, I’m Alla, a Seattle business and lifestyle content creator who can’t get enough of business innovations, arts, not ordinary people and adventures. My mission is to help you grow in your creativity, travel the world, and live life to the absolute fullest!

About Author

Alla Levin

Hi, I’m Alla, a Seattle business and lifestyle content creator who can’t get enough of business innovations, arts, not ordinary people and adventures. My mission is to help you grow in your creativity, travel the world, and live life to the absolute fullest!

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