Enabling lower-cost Internet of Things (IoT) devices that use less power and have a very long life will be key for utilities and manufacturers looking to utilize IoT.
Both WiFi and cellular technologies are well-established means of connecting devices and allow a good, reliable connection. The downside is the size and cost of the devices, along with their cost and power requirements. Many IoT devices do not require the higher bandwidth capabilities of WiFi or cellular connectivity. Low-power technologies enable the use of much smaller, lower-cost devices, with a very low power consumption. The data rates typically possible on such networks are much lower than on a traditional cellular network, but in many cases, such rates are adequate for many applications.
For instance, take a water utility looking to utilize IoT to manage remote metering, monitor the network for leaks, and reduce the cost of making personal site visits. Such devices will need to be battery operated. Utilizing low-power network devices, battery lives can be extended from a few years to 10 or more. In addition, there is economic value in placing a much higher number of sensors on the network so that the information on usage and leaks becomes much more accurate. Low-power network technologies can also enable wireless coverage in locations unserved by cellular or WiFi.
Some use cases will require multiple connectivity options, switching between low power and cellular networks depending on availability and usage requirements. Regular readings may be sent over a low-power network, and software updates can be performed over a higher bandwidth cellular connection. Such applications will require connectivity enablers to provide a single platform to enable the management of devices across disparate network types, ensuring that consistent security policies are maintained and end-to-end connectivity is consistently managed.
Low-power networks should not be seen as an outright alternative to existing technologies, but a valuable compliment greatly increasing the range of viable IoT applications and use cases.
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