The scope of our connectedness is broader than many may believe. In 2020, we saw more IoT connections than non-IoT connections for the first time in history. This trend appears to have a consistent upward trajectory, with research indicating that there will be more than 30 billion IoT connections (an average of almost four per person) by 2025.
Connection relies on data networks
This expansion is largely underscored and driven by the data networks that power communication and connectedness. These protocols move data between hardware and devices to subsequent levels in the chain of communication. The network works in tandem with hardware to provide data and information to the end users, but also to drive automation and control.
The importance of finding the right match
Many data networks exist, but each has its own unique mix of features and limitations. Some will be a better match for certain applications over others. Factors like range, scalability, and compliance – for example – all need to work to the specifics of every application.
As smart technologies become more accessible, the need for digital transformation becomes important to relevance and competitiveness. This is because the data insights they provide have the potential to shift benchmarks and disrupt the different operations of buildings, businesses, and cities.
The who’s who of data networks
Keeping an eye on leading data networks and understanding their benefits is an important step for any organisation considering IoT solutions. Bluetooth, Sigfox, LoRaWAN, and GSM are some of the more common IoT data networks available today. Smarter Technologies’ Orion, The Real-Time Data Network recently surpassed LoRaWAN in terms of open coverage in the UK, securing itself as the most established IoT network in the United Kingdom (with rapid growth in more than 32 countries around the world).
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at a side-by side comparison of the two data networks and how their features translate into solutions for the end user.
Comparing IoT data networks: LoRaWAN vs Orion
Before we drill down on the differences, let’s take a look at the similarities. Orion and LoRaWAN are both low-power radio networks. They both provide wireless two-way communication and real-time monitoring, albeit on different frequencies and under different licensing conditions.
Moving over to the differences, these serve as key considerations for anyone looking to take the first steps into smart digital transformation.
Security: Open Source vs Private Networks
LoRaWAN is open source, while Orion is a private, zero-trust network. The difference is the availability of information online and access to the back end of the network. Open source networks have the potential to become corrupted because this information is freely available and devices can be added that compromise security.
Bandwidth and duty cycling
This has a bearing on transmission regularity and penetration. For example, Orion runs on a continental bandwidth of 433/169MHz in the UK and EMEA, while LoRaWAN runs on 868MHz.The practical effect of this is that Orion has better penetration and better range in urban areas because of the lower frequency. Orion can aslo send 50-300 times more messages than LoRaWAN in the same timeframe.
The importance of unified networks
Orion is a unified network, meaning that is one system operator with a single data collection point, and is responsible for all hardware, software, and API connectivity. By contrast, the LoRaWAN network is not joined up. It relies in multiple system operators with no central data collection point. In practice, networks like LoRaWAN are subject to interference from other LPWAN network operators. As the network grows on connected networks, so too does the chance of interference and system failure. The low bandwidth in Europe means that systems failure becomes a distinct possibility in the case of connected networks as the additional networks are added in the area. There is also potential for waiting periods of recovery in the event of system failures.
What to look for in a data network
If you are interested in making the move to smart technologies within your business or organisation, keep these key considerations in mind when it comes to data networks:
● Power consumption
● Positioning resolution (accuracy / latency)
● Data transmission rate
● Packet size
● Compatible hardware
● Security by design
● Regulatory compliance
● Overall cost (device, deployment, maintenance)
● Business applications
● Business outcomes
● CapEx and OpEx reduction / ROI
Matthew Margetts is a Director at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia.