The IoT (Internet of Things) is the umbrella term we use to describe electronic devices and sensors that can connect to the internet and communicate with each other. The main idea behind the Internet of Things is that the devices should be able to send data or receive instructions via the internet (or both).
With this, the main consideration of any IoT implementation is how these devices would connect with each other via what we call the IoT network. There are several different variations of IoT networks, each with its own benefits and disadvantages.
Here, we will discuss everything about the IoT network and some of the popular types to understand. By the end, you will have a better understanding of each type and can choose the right one according to your IoT project’s needs.
What Is The IoT Network?
An IoT network is a system that allows the IoT devices to connect with each other without human intervention that also allows an exchange of data and instructions.
When, for example, your smartphone and your smartTV are connected to the same WiFi network, and due to this interconnectivity the smartphone can control your TV, the WiFi network is considered an IoT network.
In General, There Are Three Main Considerations In Implementing An Iot Network:
IoT connections generate a lot of data transactions, so an IoT network must be able to receive a sufficient amount of data depending on the needs of the IoT system.
Power consumption: Coverage Range:
not all of the IoT devices and/or sensors are hardwired and many are battery-powered. So, the network shouldn’t consume too much power to allow longevity.
how big the network can be and how far two different devices can be separated from each other.
The thing is, it’s very difficult at the moment to be perfect in all three aspects of an IoT network, and this is why we have many different variations of IoT networks with their tradeoffs. When discussing the different types of IoT networks below, we will also compare them based on these three factors.
Types of IoT Network
A cellular IoT network makes use of IoT SIM cards to allow the IoT devices to communicate with each other.
The main advantage of the IoT cellular network is its coverage range. Technically, you can connect two different devices that are separated by miles and even thousands of miles, as long as both are in areas where there are cellular data coverages. With 4G LTE and later on 5G IoT connectivity, cellular IoT also offers a high bandwidth capacity.
However, cellular IoT consumes relatively high power, which is its main disadvantage. To tackle this, various providers have provided a different version of cellular network protocols to lower power consumption and improve bandwidth usage.
It’s worth noting that your IoT SIM data plan might support different types of connections. Truphone’s IoT connectivity solution, for example, supports 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE-M.
In IoT implementations, WiFi is a popular IoT network choice for smaller IoT systems. WiFi consumes relatively less power than a cellular network but still has a pretty high power consumption. Also, it has obvious limitations in coverage range, so it’s not a feasible solution for larger IoT networks especially for battery-operated devices and sensors.
However, WiFi is a pretty reliable choice for smaller IoT systems, especially where the devices can be conveniently hardwired to a power outlet. For example, in a smart home setting, we can easily connect smart security cameras, doorbells, Amazon Echo, and other smart home devices to a power outlet, and integrate them all via WiFi.
In a mesh IoT network, the devices or sensors are interconnected to each other like a mesh, so they cooperate with each other to distribute data to the target device. So, all devices within the network would act as a ‘bridge’ to distribute signals and information throughout the network.
LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) is a relatively new option for IoT network connections. The main idea of LPWAN is providing long coverage range on low-power, small and inexpensive batteries.
LPWANs can connect various IoT devices and sensors but are designed to only send small blocks of data for cost efficiency (low data usage). So, LPWANs are better for IoT systems that don’t require high bandwidth.
As discussed, the different types of IoT networks are differentiated based on three main factors: power consumption, bandwidth, and coverage range:
- The cellular network uses a lot of power but has the most coverage range and potential bandwidth
- WiFi, mesh network, and other similar networks like Bluetooth uses low power but has less coverage range. Yet, they offer more bandwidth.
- LPWAN uses very little power and can cover a wide coverage range, but it only offers low bandwidth capabilities.
A cellular IoT network is the best choice if you plan to scale your IoT system, and Truphone For Things is a great option if you are looking for an IoT cellular connection solution.