In previous articles we have talked about Smart Cities and Industry 4.0, both topics related to the Internet of Things. In this article we will talk about the communication networks used to communicate the IoT objects in applications that require narrow band, called LPWAN.
We can affirm from what has been shared in previous articles that communications are part of the core of the Internet of Things. Without communications, objects could not perform actions depending on the data received from another object, this is a fundamental premise of the Internet of Things.
It is worth noting that in order to communicate objects within an IoT network a cellular network can be used. But, unless the application requires a high bandwidth, which we will see later, this solution would be oversized. This is where LPWANs come in.
LPWANs (low power wide area networks) constitute, together with cellular networks, an alternative for applications related to the Internet of Things. Its use is so massive that statisca.com considers that by next year there will be around 3.5 billion IoT devices interconnected with each other through LPWAN networks.
These networks meet the characteristics that make them ideal for the Internet of Things. They basically transmit small amounts of data over long distances. Let us take as an example a meteorological station that every given time sends the data acquired through the sensors to the data center so that they can be studied. This application probably does not require a large bandwidth, so in this case LPWANs would be optimal.
However, there are applications in which we need a large bandwidth, so this technology would not be feasible. An example is that it is necessary to stream a video camera to a security center.
In addition to LPWANs, there are many other technologies that can be used in narrowband applications such as Bluetooth Low Energy and ZigBee. The main reason why these are not used in Internet of Things applications is that they do not transmit data over long distances.
Features of LPWAN
Below we mention the three characteristics of these networks that make them ideal for IoT applications:
- This technology is designed for the wireless transport of data between devices separated by distances in the range of kilometers and not meters.
- They are not feasible if a large bandwidth is needed, the idea is to regulate the non-constant transport of small amounts of data.
- They are based on the use of devices whose batteries last for years instead of weeks and months, guaranteeing low power consumption.
Disadvantages of LPWAN
Despite the great practical application of these networks in narrowband IoT applications, there are cases in which they are not feasible, below we detail the disadvantages of this technology:
- The low transmission speed does not allow handling large volumes of data, so applications where it is necessary to transmit photos or video are discarded. Although it allows the creation of networks of sensors and devices, it does not mean that they are always feasible in these applications. If the volume of data to be transmitted is very large, these networks cannot be used either, so the scenario cannot be very complex.
- There are reports of signal attenuation problems when the LPWAN network includes devices located in buildings or separated by physical elements, operating more efficiently in open spaces with assured lines of sight.
- The connectivity between devices and their application or server is not constant and can be unidirectional from the device to a capture element, which hinders activities such as controlling the movement of objects in real time.
- Another element that LPWAN implementations have to contend with is transmission reliability. LPWAN implementations introduce different encryption and authentication processes to solve this protocol deficiency.
In the next article we will be giving details about the different implementations of LPWAN today. The use of these networks has experienced exponential growth in recent years due to the implementation of applications related to the Internet of Things.
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