The Internet of Things (IoT) can only be as good as the connectivity that will host it. For better or worse, an average reader of this post likely deals with different devices that demand a variety of wireless networks on a daily basis. Personally, I instantly recall the countless times I’ve leeched off cafe WiFi, my Bluetooth headset that keeps booting off my car’s connection, and my cellular data bills that somehow keeps getting larger...
Despite the plethora of wireless networks that we engage with every day, they aren't quite the right fit for IoT applications. Smart devices used for industrial- and enterprise-level IoT require:
- long range (aka wide area)
- low data rate
- low energy consumption
The various popular networks that we use to connect our consumer devices are limiting in one or more of these aspects. WiFi, for example, is not suitable for hosting, say, thousands of smart electric utility meters monitoring the usage of households, businesses, and other electricity-using entities across a metropolitan area. Just think what the price tag would be if that same network was powered by cellular.
Let’s consider a less dense network: a farm where there are multiple types of sensors distributed across many acres of land. WiFi or Bluetooth would certainly not be able to handle that range. And, again, just think what the price tag would be if that same network was powered by cellular.
According to the 2015 Machina Research findings, machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will grow from 5 billion in 2014 to 27 billion by 2024. Machine-generated is on the rise. The need to be able to accommodate this scale efficiently — both money-wise and power-wise — is here and now. That is why MXC has developed MXProtocol specifically for LPWAN technologies.
WTF is LPWAN?
A low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) is exactly what its title makes it out to be. LPWANs operate at a lower cost with greater power efficiency while supporting more devices over a wider range compared to traditional mobile networks. These features are just the right balance to be able to aggressively meet your IoT reality. Check out an earlier MXC Foundation post that provides a handy chart on the specific advantages of LPWAN compared to other network systems.
LPWAN technologies can take many shapes and forms and can use licensed or unlicensed frequencies, as well as include proprietary or open standard options. The leading LPWAN standards include:
- Sigfox protocol
- Ingenu Inc.'s RPMA (formerly On-Ramp Wireless)
- Weightless LPWAN
MXProtocol + M2M + LPWAN = Premium IoT
The beauty of MXProtocol is that it is not only compatible, but bridges the data gap between the LPWAN standards mentioned above. In fact, MXC Foundation is partnered with various LPWAN companies in an effort to make the LPWAN infrastructure the world's largest device data shared economy.
As more LPWANs are increasingly set up, MXProtocol provides the ability to reconcile these competing networks residing in the same region and operating in unlicensed (open for everyone) frequency. Using MXProtocol, micro-payments within the LPWAN infrastructure will be traded from third party sensors/end devices, ensuring data is conveniently, correctly and concisely transmitted in a secure manner, while still being maintained by system administrators. This decentralized and consensus-based mechanism improves the usability of LPWAN, lowering the bar for increased participation by individual network users, corporations and enterprises.
Taking LPWAN to the IoT Level
Topologies and network architectures similar to LPWAN were kicking around in the 1980 and early 1990s. However, it is only within this decade that the emergence of LPWAN as we are referring to it has started to create a buzz. It's popularity grows in tandem with the universal vision of connecting "things" to help make things operate at maximum efficiency and to unlock new standards for safety, improved systems and quality of life.
Countries around the world are joining the race to create the infrastructure necessary to lead in the IoT space, but many of them are currently gearing themselves towards investments in NB-IoT, which is a cellular LPWAN standard. You also may be aware of the race towards 5G which is expected to be officially standardized next year by 3GPP. It's the bet that large network operators are taking.
But, in order to be truly unshackled by proximity (and cost of using) cell towers, to gain greater data protection and to prevent public congestion altogether, using MXProtocol on LPWAN is the truly people-owned network that empowers its users to apply it as they need.