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Three Key Questions to Ask Before Adding Wireless Networking to Your Machine

Updated: May 24, 2019

When it comes to choosing a connectivity solution for their product, OEMs and solution architects today have several critical decisions to make based on technology, distance, bandwidth, form factor, price points, built-in software, support, warranties, long term availability and more. Choosing between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee or even 5G is just the start.. Not all IoT wireless technologies are created equal and which one you choose can have a significant impact on how quickly your solution can be deployed, product lifecycle, performance and on-going maintenance and support costs to you and your customers.

Key Questions to Ask Before You Select a Wireless Technology

Whether you choose to go with building your own wireless module or offloading connectivity from your machine application to a ready-to-use embedded or external IoT gateway, there are several key questions you need to ask before selecting a wireless technology for your machine. These include:

  • What environments will your machine operate in? Will your machine be in an outdoor or indoor environment? One that is crowded with other connected devices or remotely based? Will it be moving around or in a fixed location? Will it need to operate in extreme (cold or hot) temperature environments? These conditions can all impact which solution you choose to use and how it needs to be housed or connected to your machine.

  • What are the range and bandwidth requirements and when is data exchanged? Different wireless connectivity technologies provide different ranges and bandwidths. While you might assume that a truck on the road should have a cellular connection, if the data only needs to be collected when it is being serviced, than a rugged Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection might suffice and be less likely to create cost heartburn for your customer. One strategy is to incorporate a connectivity solution that combines multiple technology standards that can be turned on depending on the situation.

  • What are the cost, power and infrastructure implications of your machine's connectivity to your customer? While technologies like cellular LTE, LoRa (LPWan), and ZigBee continue to drop in cost and make headway into IoT deployments, they are still far outpaced by cheaper and more ubiquitous technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (Figure 1). WiFi or Bluetooth may be used to aggregate all the local connectivity and then bridge to cellular as required. This also allows for deploying software at the edge that can process data locally, store and forward periodically thereby significantly reducing latency, cloud bandwidth, storage and compute costs.

The bottom line? In the near future, wireless connectivity will be considered a standard option - one that customers will expect to receive at no additional cost. Taking time to consider the key environments and scenarios that your IoT application will need to receive and send data in can help development teams achieve higher ROI from their development efforts and ensure that your IoT solution delivers an exceptional and reliable customer experience.

Machinechat is focused on designing next-generation ready-to-use data management solutions that enable OEMs, system integrators and MSPs to Cross the IoT Chasm and bring the next billion devices online - faster, smarter and more successfully. Want to learn more? Click here to receive a copy of the IoT Developer's Quick Guide to Wireless Technologies.

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