How to Really Plug Into the IoT

The Internet of Things comprises countless wireless devices, but in many use cases, wireless connectivity is not the best approach for connecting nodes to an IoT network.
By GlenNiece Kutsch

Noisy Environments: Transceivers placed deep inside a building—in the basement, for example—will have a difficult time connecting to the wireless network unless a small cell or distributed antenna system is installed to extend coverage to that part of the building. Similarly, noise can present challenges for wireless standards that leverage unlicensed spectrum, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or LoRa, for which nearby wireless signals can overwhelm the wireless host.

Security: Wireless networks radiate RF signals that can be snooped by hackers who can then extract the data. Although copper network cables can emit small amounts of RF as well, it typically requires more equipment, expertise and physical access to hack into a wired system. And if an IoT application is particularly security-sensitive, then a fiber-optic wired connection is the best alternative.

Cost: Wired networks are typically mature, with many existing assets already capitalized, making it faster and less expensive to choose a wired connection over wireless. There is also now the capability to leverage non-traditional network cabling, such as RG-style coax or two-wire phone line, for IoT applications. In many buildings, these cabling types are ubiquitous, and with the ability to support Ethernet and PoE+ standards, companies can reduce the cost of new IoT applications by 40 percent when they leverage this existing cable plant.

Certainly, the Internet of Things will always rely on some wireless connectivity, particularly in locations that are physically unreachable with network cabling. But for ease of installation and maintenance, as well as cost savings from leveraging existing cabling infrastructure, using a wired connection can often be preferable. For some IoT applications, wireless is a fine solution, especially in applications for which low signal quality or reliability can be tolerated and battery-operated devices can be easily accessed. But in many newer IoT applications that require a lot of bandwidth, power or reliability, a wired or hybrid connection is key.

GlenNiece Kutsch is a product line manager for Transition Networks, a provider of innovative, high-value data network integration solutions. Prior to joining Transition Networks, she worked in the broadband (telecommunications, CATV and wireless) connectivity industry. Kutsch holds a BBA degree from Iowa State University and an MBA degree from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

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