How to choose your IoT network?

Internet of Things

When deciding to include connected sensors in your company’s strategy, it can be difficult to know which communication network is best suited to your needs.

IoT communication networks make it possible to link the connected object to IoT platforms and send the collected information. Data visualization tools such as a dashboard or a mobile application will then be used to access this information.

These are LPWAN networks which mean “Low Power Wide Area Networks”. At INTESENS we use the Sigfox and LoRaWAN networks but we are also interested in new networks technologies such as LTE-M, NB-IoT or 5G that are becoming more and more relevant.

Features and characteristics

Industrial sensors use in particular IoT networks, which have the advantage of being low speed, long range and low power networks. The objective is to send little but accurate and relevant data.

Networks must cover large areas to receive data from sensors deployed at a national level or to be able to track kilometres of infrastructure, for example along railways.

The main advantage of these networks is that they use low energy consumption sensors, making them as autonomous as possible.

  • Sigfox

Sigfox is a French IoT operator created in 2009, owner of its technology. It is therefore the sole operator of its network and it already covers more than 60 countries in the world.

It specializes in M2M or “Machine to Machine” via a low power network. Connected objects that use this connectivity can send small amounts of information (up to 12 bytes) up to 140 times a day at a low cost. Since most Sigfox sensors are in standby most of the time, their energy consumption will be very low.

Its range can go up to 10 km in the city and can reach 30 or even 50 km in the countryside. Its communication can be bidirectional, which means that the associated objects send the collected data to the cloud and they can also receive data from the company that manages them (8 bytes maximum) mainly for configurations or updates.

  • LoRaWAN

LoRa technology is a technology for connecting objects to the Internet using low-power radio communication. This technology is deployed by several operators such as Bouygues (Objenious) or Orange in France.

LoRaWAN is the acronym for “Long Range Wide-area network”. This protocol is bidirectional and very low-cost, it allows data transmission up to 15 km in cities and up to 45 km in rural areas.

One of the major benefits of this network is to be able to develop a private network so that a company can manage it itself.

Internationally, roaming agreements are planned to provide international coverage because to this day it is still limited.

  • GSM cellular networks (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G)

Provided by traditional telecom operators, they allow large amounts of data to be sent. As a result, they will be extremely energy consuming and will allow large amounts of data to be transmitted. It is recommended to limit this type of connectivity only to permanently powered devices.

However, the arrival of 5G should make it possible to have a lower consumption and allow great advances for the IoT. For now, this type of service is still experimental and will only be available in a few years.

  • LTE-M

This new technology from 2018 was developed for the IoT and stands for “Long Term Evolution for Machines”. It uses licensed frequency bands allocated to mobile operators for 4G.

It can then benefit from features such as real-time connectivity or international roaming. This type of network is recommended when it is necessary to send large amounts of data such as images or voice. Its data rates can reach up to 10 Mb/s, making it quite energy consuming.

The main application of LTE-M is therefore remote monitoring or applications combining voice and IoT.

  • NB-IoT

NB-IoT (Narrow Band Internet of Things) is also a standardized solution based on 4G infrastructure. Its range is about 1 km in urban areas and 10 km in rural areas, but it provides greater penetration inside buildings or underground thanks to its narrow 180 kHz band.

It is recommended for monitoring stationary devices that do not require a large volume of data, such as gas or water meter monitoring.

Its transmission rate is limited to 250 Kbps and its deployment depends on mobile operators and their ability to upgrade their base stations.

Technologies adapted to industrial IoT cases

At INTESENS, our sensors send very short messages that allow us to collect relevant data for the monitoring of critical electrical equipment and infrastructures. For this reason we currently use Sigfox and LoRa technologies as they have a low cost of use and low consumption.

We are working on the integration of these new networks to allow each customer to find the solution best suited to their connected maintenance needs.