Connectivity is key to IoT products. Connectivity, after all, is what turns simple – well – thingsinto part of the Internet of Things (IoT). Connectivity is what enables the data collected by IoT devices to be analysed, organised and put to tangible use.
When developing a new IoT product in the lab, achieving seamlessly, low-latency connectivity is straightforward. But those are lab conditions. Out in the real world, connectivity is going to be critical to your new device’s performance – so you need to get it right.
What, then, are the major challenges to delivering reliable IoT connectivity? Here are three main areas to think about.
Challenge 1: Power
Most IoT devices are relatively small and simple, relying on battery power. Additionally, they may be deployed in locations where they cannot be maintained or upgraded regularly. As such, energy efficiency is essential. The device’s embedded CPU power cannot be primarily applied to signalling and sending data to other devices, or a central analytics platform.
Maximising the energy efficiency of an IoT device and ecosystem depends, in part, on selecting the right radio access technology and radio frequency (RF) design. This will ensure both that power consumption is minimised in the first instance, and that there isn’t unnecessary RF power output.
Challenge 2: Bandwidth
As we know, the IoT is built on data. Any IoT device needs to be able to collect and transmit data, and potentially collect data back from other devices, or a central control unit too. But bandwidth varies enormously depending on what kind of connectivity protocol you are using, as well as the scale of the final IoT deployment. Is your device going to be one of thousands sending request and response signals to your server? Are your devices going to be spread out over a huge geographical area, or limited to a single building?
Then there’s the kind of data your IoT devices are going to be transmitting. Simple information – a temperature or weight measurement at a fixed time, for example – mean small and simple data to transmit. Continuous tracking of a particular quality – like location – requires more bandwidth. And rich data, like audio and video streams, require even more.
Challenge 3: Security
Security is a key consideration in any context where data is collected, stored, analysed or transmitted. However, it takes on some particular nuances in relation to the IoT.
For a start, IoT devices are essentially endpoints which provide access to a network – and as such, they can be targeted by malicious parties. Furthermore, many IoT devices are too small and simple to incorporate sophisticated security protections themselves. Such devices need to be properly verified and authorised to connect to the network in question, and the data they transmit and receive must be encrypted throughout.
Connectivity for IoT ecosystems is flexible and comes in many forms. Organisations have a choice of protocols and technologies to use when developing and deploying IoT networks. However, when making those decisions it is important to consider how you are going to ensure efficient power consumption, adequate bandwidth and robust security.
Need more advice on how to meet these challenges? Get in touch with Tern today.