Understanding connectivity for “Internet Of Things”

by Sam Serrien - December 17, 2014

The glorious world of Internet Of Things. It all seems so nice and everything seems possible, but as a techie I have the bad habit of immediately searching for the flaws in everything that passes me. Now if there’s one consistent ‘flaw’ that I see returning when we are talking about Internet Of Things, it’s connectivity.

There are several types of connectivity:

  • PAN: Personal Area Network
  • LAN: Local Area Network
  • NAN: Neighbourhood Area Network
  • WAN: Wide Area Network

Image title

IoT devices mainly use PAN, LAN & WAN. Once an IoT device can connect to WAN you’re basically homefree, the sky is the limit. But you need to get to that WAN and that often is the challenge for a range of IoT devices. All IoT devices that use PAN in combination with a smartphone will use your smartphone as their gateway to the internet (WAN). Devices in your house or company can connect to a LAN and find their way to the internet there, so again: no problem.

But what with IoT devices that ‘live on their own’? Tracking for example is one of the most difficult things to get right at this mode because of this connectivity.

Of course, you can connect to a public wifi. But do you have public wifi’s everywhere? No.

You can use a 3G/4G in every device but what if you’ve gota lot of devices? Should you buy simcards for all of them? Get a ton of dataplans? Providers aren’t organized for the future of IoT (yet) so this is not sustainable at the moment. (+ The battery drain will be quite enough).

At this moment tracking devices mainly use Bluetooth and the sorts but it’s flawed imho. For example, take the magnificent (lion winning) wearable that Nivea made (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QI9biMnmrVg). I applaud the innovation and it’s a very smart way of doing advertising. But let’s look at the core: “We want to keep your kids safe”.

When your kid gets out of range of your Bluetooth you know it’s out of range but that’s that. You don’t know where to look. Whether she/he is still in the area etc… That’s sad, because it’s at those moments that you will need it the most.

Another example: carkeys or tags for briefcases… you have a ton of them but they all have the same restraint, once you are out of range, you’ve lost it.

And the devices that do want to give you the perfect tracking ability will have a monthly cost of 12$ and up. Can you see yourself having more than 1 device with that cost? Of course not.

So we can only conclude that at this moment the methods of connectivity are not ready for the revolution of IoT yet. But there’s one company that wants to try and change this.

Meet Sigfox

Sigfox believes that IoT needs its own network. Low energy consumption is critical when it comes to enabling the wealth of use cases for connected devices and this is the key focus for SIGFOX, as opposed to the 2/3/4G operators’ race for higher bandwidth which the IoT devices don’t need.

No geographically dependent costs or location-specific network configurations are needed. Meaning that if you travel you don’t need to reconnect, you don’t need to pay more, it will work everywhere as long as the country is sigfox enabled.

Image title

Image title

So if you are in the business of making IoT devices and you want to make your device individual trackable or connected, make it sigfox ready. It’s not global yet but I have a feeling it won’t take long before it is.

Unlike a lot of technology that comes and goes IoT is here to stay and we can better adapt.

Research & Sources

Sam Serrien

Innovation & Creative Technology director