The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a wireless network of devices which can communicate with each other using the internet. IoT does not include only the smart devices such as smartphones and computers, but also aims to encompass traditional household appliances such as washing-machines and air-conditioners as well. The aim of such networking is to allow these devices to interact with each other and make our lives easier by taking advantage of the World Wide Web. Just think: your refrigerator can order the groceries online based on its contents! But what makes these seemingly ‘unsmart’ devices communicate with each other?
In this article, we are going to learn just that by exploring 5 key wireless technologies that make IoT a reality.
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WiFi (short for Wireless Fidelity) is something that we cannot imagine living without. Whether you are at the airport, in a café or at the library, WiFi technology serves to make our lives easier by keeping us connected to the internet. WiFi is one of the key technologies which allow IoT devices to communicate with each other and exchange data. WiFi is basically a local wireless network that runs based on the 802.11 standards established by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers). WiFi currently operates in the 2.4GHz band. It is expected that with the advent of 5G, WiFi will continue to play an important role for IoT.
Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access, or WiMax, is another technology that enables IoT. WiMax operates using the IEEE 802.16 standard protocols. With faster data speeds and a larger signal range, WiMax can be thought of as the big brother of WiFi. Using this technology IoT devices are able to communicate over larger distances, thereby lending greater capability to the interoperability of these devices.
ZigBee is another wireless standard that is beginning to find applications in the IoT space. Operating on IEEE 802.15.4 standards, this technology is currently used in industrial networks due to its low latency and power consumption. Also, ZigBee technology offers a high level of security as it implements a 128-bit encryption standard.
The humble and ubiquitous Bluetooth, that is available in most smart devices nowadays, is another technology that enables the operation of IoT. Bluetooth operates using the IEEE 802.15.1 standards and uses very little power. This makes it an attractive technology for embedding in devices with limited resources. It is expected that with the advent of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), this technology will play a larger role in the IoT space.
LoRaWan stands for Long Range Wide Area Networks. This low power, low data-rate technology is aimed at enabling IoT devices to communicate over large distances, possibly at a city-wide scale. With secure encryption and a range of up to 20km, LoRaWAN is sure to be a key enabler of IoT.
If current trends are anything to go by, the proliferation of IoT is going to increase exponentially in the coming years. And the above 5 technologies are going to play key roles in the IoT ecosystem.