IoT Connectivity Options for Businesses

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is fast proving itself to be the future. Devices that can be connected, and share data and information, will revolutionize how businesses are run around the world.

    IoT provides businesses better insight into and control over the objects and environments that previously could only be accessed directly or in direct context. With IoT, businesses can monitor and run operations in extremely remote areas and, more importantly, gain valuable data and insights on assets almost instantaneously within the context of other assets.

    IoT and the technologies that enable it are a game changer for businesses. Global operations can now be managed from a single, offsite location, with hundreds of decisions and actions automated based on the data received from remote devices around the world.

    However, while IoT is set to change the way we conduct business, it has one major limitation - that of connectivity. Your IoT-based solutions and assets are only as effective as the reliability of your IoT connection or the strength of your signal. And while wireless coverage can reach 90% of the population, it only covers 25% of the world’s surface. This might be acceptable for consumer requirements but it’s far from sufficient for remote objects.

    That’s why it’s now more important than ever to discover what IoT connectivity options there are to support your solutions and ensure they operate reliably, effectively and without incident. This blog post will examine how you can find the right IoT connectivity technology for your needs, and provide you with the pros and cons of each.

    Among the IoT connectivity options we'll be looking at are:

    1. PAN connectivity
    2. LAN connectivity
    3. WAN connectivity
    4. LPWAN connectivity
    5. Satellite connectivity

    IoT connectivity options are more available now than ever before. As the world becomes more and more connected, more networking options present themselves as viable solutions for businesses. However, many of these solutions are only effective in certain circumstances. Many IoT connectivity options lack speed and power, or simply do not have the distance capabilities that the business requires.

    Ultimately, understanding the requirements of your business will help you select the right IoT connectivity option, allowing you to provide for your business’ needs while maintaining a reliable connection.

    Let’s take a look at some of these solutions and where they fit in.

    PAN Connectivity Options

    PAN, or personal area network, connectivity options refer to a computer network for interconnecting devices centered on an individual person’s workspace. They are commonly used for data transmission among devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets and personal digital assistants. These devices can communicate with each other through the PAN, or access the internet through the master device the PAN is centered on acting as the gateway. Today, PANs are usually represented by WPANs (wireless personal area networks), which act as short-distance wireless network technology such as Bluetooth.

    Speed and Power:
    PANs were designed for close-range sharing of small to medium sized data. Thus, PANs usually don’t offer the kind of power and speed a business can rely on to carry out complex operations.

    At most the range of WPANs vary from a few centimeters to a few meters, and older PANs rely on devices to be relatively close together in order to share data and information with one another.

    Business Use:
    The case is difficult for using PANs and WPANs reliably for a business. Their short distance limits their scope of usefulness and their speed and power is impacted as a result of this. PANs and WPANs as an IoT connectivity option are thus limited to the basics of connecting personal devices within the company.

    Examples of PANs:

    • Bluetooth
    • Thread
    • Zigbee
    • NFC

    LAN Connectivity Options

    One of the most reliable and long-standing connectivity solutions is LAN connectivity. Standing for Local Area Network, LANs have been used by most companies around the world, and have even gone wireless for greater convenience with the introduction of Wi-Fi. LANs are typically used to interconnect and provide data and internet access to computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office.

    Speed and Power:
    As far as the limitations for speed and power allow, LANs as an IoT connectivity option typically deliver. The speed of a LAN within its range can deliver vast quantities of data very quickly and reliably.

    LANs are designed to provide data and communications within a limited area, usually across a few buildings at their maximum effective range. While speed and power are accounted for when discussing LANs as an IoT connectivity solution, they lack the distance often required by businesses with remote, immovable assets. Likewise, LANs are not an adequate solution for highly mobile connectivity requirements such as emergency, maritime and logistics applications.

    Business Use:
    LANs have already proven their business use throughout recent history and continue to be used today. As an IoT connectivity option, LANs are already a good choice for businesses. However, the severe distance limitations of LANs restrict their application for certain industries, and they’re not at all effective for the operation of remote assets or for assets that have limited connectivity options to begin with.

    Examples of LANs:

    • WiFi
    • Ethernet
    • ARCNET

    WAN Connectivity Options

    Wide Area Networks (WANs) refer to telecommunications networks that extend over a large geographical area for the primary purpose of computer networking, or for our purposes, as an IoT connectivity option. These networks are often established through leased telecommunication circuits, and many businesses and government entities use WANs to communicate and send data to staff, clients, buyers and suppliers from various locations across the world. In many ways, the internet itself may be considered a WAN.

    Speed and Power:
    With the right infrastructure and support, WANs provide ample speed and power for everyday use, often matching or even exceeding LAN solutions.

    WANs have been designed to perform over long distances, and are quite reliable when fully supported by the right infrastructure - however, therein lies the problem. WANs such as LTE, 3G and 2G require a strong signal in order to optimally perform. Without a strong signal, communications and data sharing is not reliable in a professional environment. This is not a problem for areas that have sufficient coverage, however, businesses with remote assets often need an IoT connectivity option to operate out of areas that do not have the infrastructure required to support WAN access.

    Business Use:
    WANs are a solid option as a professional IoT connectivity option. The power and speed of a WAN has historically offered businesses, education institutes and government entities the access they need to operate efficiently. The only downfall for WANs is that they require a strong infrastructure and signal to operate reliably, something that many remote businesses do not have the luxury of enjoying.

    Examples of WANs:

    • LTE-M
    • 3G
    • 2G
    • 3GPP Cellular

    LPWAN Connectivity Options

    Low-power WAN (LPWAN) is a wireless wide area network technology that sends low-bandwidth information through battery-powered devices over long ranges. It is designed to allow long range communications between objects that only require a low-bitrate, such as sensors operated on a battery. The hallmarks of a LPWAN solution are low power, long range and low cost.

    Speed and Power:
    While LPWANs are optimised to run with low cost and over an extreme distance, they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to speed and power. The typical LPWAN data rate ranges from 0.3 kbit/s to 50 kbit/s per channel, which is often not viable as an IoT connectivity option for many assets that handle complicated tasks.

    The distance of an LPWAN is where it really shines. The operating range of LPWAN technology varies from a few kilometers in urban areas to over 10 km in rural settings. It can also enable effective data communication in previously infeasible indoor and underground locations.

    Business Use:
    LPWANs are effective as a professional IoT connectivity option for businesses that require very limited, low bit-rate communications with their assets. The range of an LPWAN makes it effective for assets that only require low-data transmissions such as battery operated sensors. This makes LPWANs a viable choice when other networks simply cannot reach, however, it is still not a reliable IoT connectivity option for business that require more than 50 kbit/s per channel.

    Examples of LPWANs:

    • LoRA
    • Sigfox
    • NB-IoT

    Satellite Connectivity Options

    Until fairly recently, satellite connectivity options for IoT were not the most reliable or effective solutions out there. The costs involved caused many businesses and consumers alike to lose confidence in the solution. However, the ability of satellite connectivity solutions to reach areas that are simply unreachable by any other method has remained while technology has improved the signal and cost of the solution.

    Speed and Power:
    In the past, IoT connectivity via satellite would suffer from things such as bad reception or weather patterns. Today, with solutions specifically made for IoT such as Eutelsat’s IoT FIRST, these problems are no longer as much a threat as they used to be. While not as fast as fibre solutions such as LAN or WAN, the speed and performance of satellite connectivity solutions for IoT is more than acceptable for remote business operations, from simple to more complex applications - unlike LPWAN solutions.

    When it comes to distance and global coverage, satellite connectivity solutions are quite simply the best in the field. There are very few locations where satellite does not cover, and the launching of new types of satellite constellations has only widened the coverage and strengthened the connection.

    Business Use:
    Satellite solutions such as IoT FIRST are the first of many to follow, and are offered at an affordable subscription rate. The vast amount of coverage combined with the speed and bandwidth available to customers makes satellite the ideal choice when considering remote business operations, and a reliable choice when used as backup for the other solutions.

    Satellite solutions for IoT cover the disadvantages of cellular and other terrestrial connectivity solutions, and improve upon many other aspects. It is more reliable, cost-effective and robust - which is what enterprises today need in order to capitalize on IoT.

    Examples of Satellite IoT Solutions:
    Eutelsat IoT FIRST is the first of its kind to focus specifically on IoT for remote businesses. As such, it is the only reliable choice for businesses to invest in for their remote assets. IoT FIRST is a simple, integrated satellite IoT solution delivering two-way IP connectivity between remote assets and the cloud.​ Designed to meet specific IoT technical & business requirements​, terminals have low power consumption with advanced power saving modes, and operate with small, inexpensive antenna​. The hub has high spectral efficiency with no data overheads and can support hundreds of thousands of terminals.

    New satellite solutions launching soon include a new solution for mobile assets. Enabling IoT connectivity with antennas from just 25cm, IoT MOVE is a simple, managed, IP connectivity solution for markets such as logistics, maritime, and construction. Its slim, flat antenna can easily be installed on vehicles, making it ideal for tracking vehicle movements. Early next year, a global hybrid connectivity service called ELO will also be launched. Designed and optimised for LPWA IoT networks, ELO can be seamlessly integrated with terrestrial networks. Unlike legacy MSS solutions, which use proprietary technologies, or New Space systems which must build new ecosystems from scratch, ELO can be fully integrated with key terrestrial players and existing distribution channels, making it an extremely cost-effective solution.

    Find out more

    The future of business is IoT - and in order to obtain reliable results, you need a reliable IoT connectivity option that works for your business’ specific needs and meets its specific challenges.

    If you would like to find out more about IoT connectivity options such as IoT FIRST, or would like to try out the world’s first IoT satellite connectivity option, contact Eutelsat and enquire about IoT FIRST.