September 8, 2020
In IoT systems with multiple sensor devices, it is important to choose the right method of wireless communication. This will help avoid unforeseen costs or loss of critical data. In this article, we will take a look at two common approaches of organizing IoT devices into wireless networks—when you should use them, and what problems you may encounter.
Be it automatic equipment failure detection systems implemented at factories, a smart lighting management system, or an IoT climate control solution—data collection systems typically include a large number of sensor devices (sensor nodes) that collect information about the environment and send it to a central hub (gateway). The gateway transmits the data to cloud systems for processing and analysis. After that, users can access visualized data via web or mobile interfaces and control the system remotely.
A typical data collection process in IoT systems.
In order for sensor devices to transmit captured data for further analysis, they need to be organized into a network. There are two main ways to do this.
In a star network, all sensor devices are connected with a gateway, which serves as a common connection point. All data captured by the sensing devices can only be received and sent through the gateway.
Organizing IoT devices into star networks is a fairly simple and cost-effective approach, as signals are only transmitting back and forth between two points. Another potential advantage is energy savings as star nodes don’t need to be constantly “awake” and can rest between message transmissions, preventing battery drain.
However, star networks have some disadvantages:
In star networks, nodes can lose connectivity due to physical obstacles and environmental conditions.
In a mesh network, all sensor devices cooperate to distribute data in a network of nodes. They not only transmit their own signals, but serve as a repeater, transmitting data from neighboring nodes.
According to Global Market Insights, the size of the wireless mesh market will grow by more than 15% between 2020 and 2026. There are a number of reasons for this:
Mesh networks help avoid “black spots” enabling greater coverage and reliable data transmission.
Despite the many advantages, there are several factors you should consider before implementing a mesh networking infrastructure:
Mesh networking architecture is useful for systems designed to collect data from large areas, overcome obstacles in urban environments, and provide reliable data transfer. Here are some examples of how mesh networks can be applied.
Building an IoT network often involves significant investments. So, it is important to make sure your architecture is extensible and reliable for use cases you can’t imagine today.
Example: street lights. The first generation street light control platforms were designed to turn the lights on and off and retrieve daily status updates. The second generation systems were able to deliver data about energy consumption. Today, street lights are an integral part of Smart City projects, comprising streetlights and proximity sensors to optimize light levels, public safety, and traffic flow. The first generation infrastructure is unable to support the increasing number of sensors needed for new use cases. Therefore, thinking ahead when deploying a networking infrastructure will save companies a lot of money in the future.
If you’re looking to integrate a wireless network into your IoT infrastructure, you must examine not just a singular component, but also the whole IoT system—devices, sensors, embedded software, cloud infrastructure, web, and mobile applications. Sometimes it is difficult to predict how these components will interact, how they will exchange data, and how they will interact with your existing IT infrastructure.
If you need to ensure reliable communication between IoT devices, we can help you create the most cost-effective solution—choose a connectivity option, hardware platform, and communication protocol (or develop a custom one, if required). This is how we did it for our client—a startup in the HVAC market.