Industrial IoT sensors can be used to monitor heaps of metrics, like energy, temperature, pressure, light, and so on. But getting that data to the cloud involves understanding which connectivity uplink to use and which communications protocols.
You can read more about communications protocols here, but today we’re going to focus on connectivity uplink through Wi-Fi, Ethernet, 4G and LoRaWAN. Which is best and when to use each one…
What is a connectivity uplink?
A connectivity uplink (sometimes referred to as a UL), is the connection that allows a communication between computers or assets/devices in your network. You’ll likely be familiar with various connectivity uplink strategies like Wi-fi, Ethernet and 4G, but perhaps have been eluded by some of the more obscure connections like LoRaWAN.
So, with that let’s get into the purposes and uses for each of these.
Using Wi-Fi and Ethernet
We’ll start with the familiar ones. The first question that will be asked when it comes to cloud connectivity for a client’s estate is: “can we connect this gateway to the clients’ network?” The reason being that this is the most convenient and straightforward way of making a connection.
Ethernet or Wi-Fi would be the first port of call for connectivity (4G would usually be used as a backup). Though which connectivity uplink strategy is deployed is often dependent of its use case. An example of this might be when you have a long network change management procedure; getting devices connected to your network is not always plug and play. In some circumstances, network changes need to allow these devices to be connected, and for this reason, security implications also must be considered.
CON: May require you to make network changes to allow your devices/internet traffic outside of your network infrastructure. It can take time for these kinds of changes to be approved, so it’s a consideration worth bearing in mind.
Using 4G as an alternative
Using 4G is notably easier for deployment (the reason being that 4G does not require your network to be updated to allow new devices or new types of internet traffic to be allowed across your firewall. An added benefit is that with new 4G/5G tech, high bandwidth applications can also be supported too due to faster internet speeds.
CON: There is not always adequate signal to connect devices via 4G. Customer environments can have thick concrete walls or lots of machinery that can interfere with the cellular signal. Routing antennas out of areas with lots of interference can work but the longer the cable route is, the more the 4G signal will degrade. Furthermore, it can be expensive depending on your carrier and data plan.
Transmitting small volumes of data with LoRaWAN
For devices that work best with LoRaWAN we use different types of gateways (or “concentrators”) that receive LoRaWAN messages specifically and connect to servers in the cloud. Typically, LoRaWAN will excel when it comes to transmitting small amounts of data over great distances from a wide-spread series of devices. (LoRaWan Gateways can receive data from up to 5km away depending on antenna/gateway configuration) Big bandwidth data wouldn’t be supported by LoRaWAN – things like webpages for example. But small device data telemetry is where LoRaWAN will excel.
- Long distance (5KM)
- can support thousands of devices
- low frequency (868Mhz in Europe) means less interference from buildings and machines.
- Sensors can be battery powered.
- Low bandwidth meaning only LoRaWAN enabled devices can transmit data less frequently.
- Battery powered sensors will have to be changed eventually. But typically, will last between 1-10 years depending on application.