We are living in the world of technology and we have pretty much reached a point where technology is so integrated with our lives that we hardly notice most of it. We often sit and relax at our homes worrying the least about things because our phones and smart home devices are already taking care of them.
In this era of development, where smart home technology is growing exponentially, we tend to care more about its uses than the technology itself. The truth is what we see of this IoT world is just the upper and simpler level of things; if we go deeper into the technology, we can see everything from how it works to how it’s made.
One of the basic things that can be discussed at this level is the heart of IoT i.e connectivity and networks. If we dive deeper into how multiple IoT systems work, we will realize how most of the IoT systems look very similar but are very different from each other in terms of how they connect things.
You’ll be surprised to know that different IoT devices in a single home may be working using different connectivity methods. All those methods that are used today are:
- Wi-Fi Technology
- Bluetooth Technology
- IEEE 802.15.4-Based Technologies
- Cellular Low-Power Wide Area Network Technologies
- Non-Cellular Low-Power Wide Area Network Technologies (LoRaWAN, Sigfox)
One of these technologies sits at the bottom of every IoT device to give it the ability to talk inside a network. Although we don’t see it, all of the technologies mentioned above vary drastically in terms of range, speed, power consumption, cost and topology. We will talk briefly about all of the above technologies to know about all the options and systems we are available with.
Wireless Home Automation Technology Comparison
Wi-Fi is the trademark name for any Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) that follows the IEEE 802.11 standard for communication. It comes in multiple variants like Wi-Fi 1 (802.11b), Wi-Fi 2 (802.11a), Wi-Fi 3 (802.11g), etc. Wi-Fi is popular in applications involved with transferring large files (using its most common star topology) and higher-bandwidth data transfer applications, such as video streaming.
Bluetooth technology is a low-power wireless solution that operates in the 2.4 GHz ISM band. Moreover, it provides tremendous flexibility in range, bandwidth, and communications topologies to address different IoT applications. Bluetooth LE is most popular in health and fitness devices, smart lighting systems, real-time location systems, and indoor navigation applications.
IEEE 802.15.4-Based Technologies:
This technology refers to the access layer for low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs). Two of the examples for this technology are Thread and Zigbee which are built on top of this specification. They are also characterized by their low power consumption and low data rates. IEEE 802.15.4 is used primarily for small amounts of data over a low range while maintaining low power consumption. These technologies are most commonly used in wireless control and monitoring applications in the smart home space.
Z-Wave started out as a protocol for controlling lighting systems and then evolved into a home automation protocol managed by the Z-Wave Alliance. It is developed in a way so that it avoids interference with the 2.4 GHz ISM band and extends coverage. The primary topology utilized is the mesh topology and is mostly used in smart home applications.
Cellular Low-Power Wide Area Network Technologies:
LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1, or Long-Term Evolution for Machines) and NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT) are both technology standards developed by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) as cellular-based technology solutions for IoT applications. However, these two technologies differ in several attributes that make each of them suitable for different types of applications. The main use cases of NB-IoT include smart agriculture, smart city, and smart meter applications. The main use cases of LTE-M on the other hand; include logistics, healthcare devices as a backhaul communications channel, and automotive applications.
Non-Cellular Low-Power Wide Area Network Technologies:
LoRaWAN is an open wireless networking protocol maintained by the LoRa Alliance. It is built on top of LoRa, a proprietary modulation format developed by a company called Semtech. LoRaWAN is categorized as a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology. It enables long-range communication between devices while maintaining low-power consumption. LoRaWAN is popular in smart city applications, such as smart utility meters, smart parking meters, etc.