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Wireless IoT Technology and Applications

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(Angel Island State Park, San Francisco/Bay Area, U.S.A. - Jeffrey M. Wang)

 

 

 5G and IoT: Ushering in a New Era

 

 

- Several Key Technologies Driving IoT Development

The Internet of Things (IoT), under the influence of several exclusive technologies, is on the verge of booming into the next major technological wave. IoT has started to shape into reality from its hype by and large due to recent advancements in ubiquitous technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)/Near Field Communication (NFC), Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN), high speed communication (4G-LTE/5G), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), etc. Advanced developments in the sensing and actuating technologies also contribute to the rise of IoT popularity.

Virtualized networks, IPv6, App technologies, marketing automation, cloud/edge computing and the data center will play a vital role in making IoT a success. The data from all those devices will be critical to existing data center infrastructure because it will represent a massive increase in the amount of data and connected nodes to the network. Cloud/edge computing will play a key role in IoT because it can connect many of these devices, some of which will have very low intelligence or functionality. Data analytics will be vital because all the data collected from these devices will lead to the development of smarter applications for industrial and consumer businesses. 

Essentially, IoT is still a relatively new concept and while various speculations and projections have emerged about how it will find use and how it will be further advanced, many bets have it that IoT might end up growing into an entirely different entity than the tech sector imagined or anticipated. 

 

- The Benefits of Licensed and Unlicensed Bands for IoT Deployments

There are expected to be 1.5 billion IoT devices in use by 2022, many of which will be used in enterprise or industrial settings. And while that creates lots of opportunities for businesses, it also creates some challenges related to connectivity. Having a basic understanding of the network that will support your devices - and the implications of making certain choices - is crucial to deploying an IoT solution effectively. Especially, one specific aspect of connectivity - licensed vs. unlicensed spectrum network options - and the impact it could have on the success of your IoT project.

Most IoT systems link networks of sensors via radio waves, which transmit data from one place to another. Radio waves, which are primarily used in communication technologies, are a type of electromagnetic radiation (a form of energy); they make up a small part of what is called the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum, which is divided up into sections called frequency bands.

The EM spectrum is a limited resource - there are only so many radio frequencies in existence. But too much activity on particular radio frequency bands would create interference to the point where nothing would be discernible. Like other countries, the U.S. has tasked a government organization, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to allocate the spectrum so it’s used effectively. Check out this chart showing all the U.S. frequency allocations of the radio spectrum.

Most of the radio spectrum is licensed by the FCC to certain users, for example, television and radio broadcasters. Individual companies pay a licensing fee for the exclusive right to transmit on an assigned frequency within a certain geographical area. In exchange, those users can be assured that nothing will interfere with their transmission. So if you do get interference in a licensed band, you have the right to compel the offending party to correct the problem.  

Alternatively, organizations can still use the airwaves to transmit communications without getting permission from the FCC, but they must transmit within those parts of the spectrum that are designated for unlicensed users. The amount of spectrum that is available for public and unlicensed use is very small - only a few bands. Both the size of the area and the lack of exclusivity mean there’s greater potential for interference from other users located nearby. (It’s like the “wild west” of radio communication.) With the exception of cellular devices, almost all IoT devices operate in the unlicensed spectrum currently.

 

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(Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications)

- Licensed Vs. Unlicensed Spectrum

The big difference between licensed and unlicensed bands is that the licensed bands are allowed to be used only by the company that licensed them, whereas the unlicensed bands are used by anyone who wants to use them.

For your own IoT deployment, consider the implications of using a licensed vs. unlicensed wireless spectrum to support your network. Using a licensed spectrum has following significant benefits: better performance, less noise, and greater reliability - that’s the primary difference when it comes to the licensed spectrum vs. the unlicensed spectrum. So if you do get interference in a licensed band, you have the right to compel the offending party to correct the problem.  

Companies using unlicensed bands for IoT deployments run into reliability and performance issues more frequently than those using licensed spectrum, in part because they simply can’t control what other people do. That makes it a risky choice, particularly for companies concerned with liability and security issues.

Another advantage is performance. Using your own licensed spectrum you can, for example, transmit for three seconds (instead of the unlicensed limit of 400 ms) and send the signal ten times farther, thanks in part to the lower noise level and less competition.

 

- IoT Deployments In The 5G Era

Initial deployments of commercial 5G cellular networks are now under way. Adoption of 5G and the IoT is being driven by a number of factors, including increased demand from consumers and enterprises and the availability of more affordable devices. Significant operator (mobile network operator) investment in 5G technology, spectrum and infrastructure, together with the implementation of global standards, are also helping to drive growth and increase market interest in the IoT. 

The 5G mobile cellular networks being deployed today are evolving from existing 4G networks, which will continue to serve many use cases. Intended to last well into the future, 5G can cater for current requirements, such as smart energy applications, as well as anticipating use cases that are still some time away, such as self-driving cars. As they manage the technology evolution, mobile operators will need to ensure that their networks support both current and future use case requirements. 

5G provides a range of benefits to the IoT which are not available with 4G or other technologies. These include 5G’s ability to support a massive number of static and mobile IoT devices, which have a diverse range of speed, bandwidth and quality of service requirements. As the IoT evolves, the flexibility of 5G will become even more significant for enterprises seeking support for the rigorous requirements of critical communications. The ultra-reliability and low latency of 5G will allow self-driving cars, smart energy grids, enhanced factory automation and other demanding applications to become a reality.

A 4G radio system can support up to only 2,000 active devices in a square kilometer. IoT devices, edge computing technologies, and the continuous growth in personal devices will require more active connections than ever. The 5G standards are designed to support up to 100,000 active devices in the same amount of space and work continues to bring this support closer to 1 million devices.

Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and edge computing will all help to handle the data volumes generated by the IoT, as 5G boosts network capacity. Further 5G enhancements, such as network slicing, non-public networks and 5G core, will ultimately help to realize the vision of a global IoT network, supporting a massive number of connected devices

 

 

[More to come ...]



 

 

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