The IoT is a maze of communication protocols

The Internet of Things (IoT) communication protocols remain an absolute maze, but Beecham Research, an analyst firm, has published a report designed to help users navigate through the chaos.
By Doug Drinkwater May 21, 2016

Machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) analyst house Beecham Research published a report stating that they were aiming to help enterprise companies match their IoT applications to "The most appropriate connectivity services," a further indication of the variety of options currently available to firms considering IoT projects.

The report "An Introduction to LPWA Public Service Categories: Matching Services to IoT Applications," aims to help enterprises select the right connectivity solution(s) based on their IoT deployment.

While the report notes that most IoT applications are, "Well covered by traditional cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth," it goes onto add that there is growing opportunity for low power wide area (LPWA) technologies—such as LoRa and weightless—which can run IoT applications using very small amounts of data cost effectively and across a large area. These are important points because cost and coverage are often mentioned as serious deficiencies of cellular (4G, 5G) and ZigBee respectively.

It is arguably a sign of a diverse and fragmented market. Beecham’s report calls 
for clarity around the technologies and the providers. Beecham also calls for LPWA connectivity service providers to be referred to as public LPWA services providers or LSPs.

Beecham Research CEO Robin Duke-Woolley admitted that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the IoT connectivity conundrum, a recurring trend perhaps given the majority of the more complex IoT deployment rely on an assortment of different protocols.

"The IoT covers an increasingly wide range of applications and there is no ‘one-type-fits-all’ when it comes to connectivity required to enable them," Duke-Woolley said.

"If this emerging industry is to meet its potential and get anywhere close to the ambitious predictions made by some commentators, it’s time for greater clarity with more focus on the service attributes that IoT applications need," Duke-Woolley said. "This includes key parameters such as battery life and coverage, rather than focusing on the underlying technologies and what frequency they operate at, for example. Most users are not interested in the technical details—they just want something that works in the most cost-effective way for their applications."

The Beecham Research report focused on public services being offered now or planned in the near future, which cater to this burgeoning range of very low data rate applications. These services include those from vendors such as Sigfox, Ingenu and Senet, along with LPWA-based services like KPN, Proximus and Orange and MNOs planning to offer cellular variants LTE-M and NB-IoT.

To be of value to end-users, Beecham said that protocols must deliver the on a number of characteristics, such as good battery, low latency, high scalability and data rate, as well as security, ubiquitous connectivity low device cost.

"We believe that the continuing debate around IoT connectivity technologies rather than services is not helpful for the rapid market development being sought by the IoT industry," Duke-Woolley said. "Our report is aimed at helping users to make an informed decision, by being able to understand what is being offered in a way that relates to the applications they want to use."

This news came right after a Jasper (now owned by Cisco) study revealed the high costs around IoT connectivity. It indicated that between 35 and 50% of operational expense running an Internet of Things network comes from communication costs.

"Today, many companies are moving to mobile networks (or cellular) to give better control over the IIoT experience," said the study.

Doug Drinkwater is editor at Internet of Business, which is hosting the Internet of Manufacturing Conference November 1-2, 2016, in Chicago. This article originally appeared hereInternet of Business is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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