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What is the best wireless technology for IoT today?

May 27, 2017

Well, to get it straight away: there is not THE best Internet-of-Things (IoT) wireless technology (transport layer / protocol). However, before you stop reading here: we would like to share our view on today's available IoT protocols and wireless transport layers and what we believe will be gain acceptance in the future.

If you are new to IoT, this link may help you getting a basic understanding of the very diverse IoT landscape: link to IoT protocols.

Here some important points on what we currently focus on:

  • Range: we focus on the last 100m.

  • Power: ultra-low-power. 

  • Connectivity: native IP.

  • Security: end-to-end encryption. Firmware updates over-the-air.

  • Reliability: no single-point-of-failure.

  • Usability: intuitive and easy to understand. Seamless integration.

  • Availability: we focus on what is available today.

 

Range

We focus on the last 100m. So we do not focus on Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like LoRa, Sigfox or NB-IoT. These are interesting these technologies, but as often in life: you have to focus, otherwise you will get lost.

Now, what transport technologies would be an option:

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow)

  • Bluetooth 5 (longest range, coded PHY with 125kBit/sec)

  • Z-Wave

  • ZigBee 3.0 IEEE 802.15.4

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4

 

Power

We focus on ultra-low-power and battery powered devices with optional energy harvesting (where it makes sense). Find below the low-range technologies with our judgment regarding power consumption.

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
    x Too power-hungry

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow)
    ✓ Low-power

  • Bluetooth 5 (longest range, coded PHY with 125kBit/sec)
    ✓ Low-power. Good "range:power" ratio, best solution for peer-to-peer communication (e.g. for wearable devices like smart watches).

  • Z-Wave
    ✓ Low-power

  • ZigBee 3.0 IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ Low-power

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ Low-power, mesh, IPv6

 

Connectivity

Things should be able to connected to the internet seamlessly (remember the "I" in IoT). Therefore, we believe IPv6-support is crucial for an IoT transport technology and IoT protocols.

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow)
    ✓ IPv6

  • Bluetooth 5 (longest range, coded PHY with 125kBit/sec)
    ✓ IPv6
    x No IPv6 support for BLE Mesh v1 (uses 1MBit/sec  --> lower range)

  • Z-Wave
    x No IPv6

  • ZigBee 3.0 IEEE 802.15.4
    x No IPv6

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ IPv6

 

Availability

We focus on what is available as of Q2 2017:

  • WiFi IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow)
    x No silicon / chipsets available yet.

  • Bluetooth 5 (longest range, coded PHY with 125kBit/sec)
    ✓ First chipsets launched and many more will coming out soon.

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ IEEE 802.15.4 2.4GHz chipsets are broadly available. Some with OpenThread SDK support by vendors (NXP, Silicon Laboratories, Nordic Semiconductors, ...).

 

Reliability

What we would like to see in our products: no single-point-of-failure. Meaning: if a device in your network goes down, the rest of the devices should still be able to fulfill their duty. 

  • Bluetooth 5 (longest range, coded PHY with 125kBit/sec)
    x Star topology
    x BLE Mesh v1 exist today, but does not support IPv6

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ Mesh with no single point of failure.

 

Security

 Security in IoT means the following to us:

  • Authentication: only devices which pass authentication can join your network. 

  • Encryption: end-to-end encryption (from device to cloud). This would include e.g. TLS over TCP or DTLS over UDP.

  • Firmware updates: it MUST be possible to update the FW of all devices in the network in order to fix potential security holes.

Here our verdict for the only remaining technology in the race:

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ✓ DTLS over UDP. Authentication is built-in (part of the specification). Firmware updates are possible and do not take too long (data rate of 250kBit/sec).

 

Usability

Technical hurdles for users must be kept to a minimum and devices should be integrated to a network seamlessly.

  • Thread IEEE 802.15.4
    ​✓ Authentication/installation using your smartphone

 

Summary

We believe that for a connected home, Thread would be the best option to go for. But when it comes to wearable devices or peer-to-peer communication: Bluetooth 5 is the right choice.

 

We are happy that you got all down here to this point and we hope you could follow our thoughts about IoT wireless technologies. Please let us know what you think about this blog episode in the comments section below.


Here an overview of the comparison done by The Thread Group which we think is pretty well done (of course a little biased):

 

 

PLEASE leave a COMMENT or SHARE our article. Thank you!

 

 

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