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What are IoT enabling technologies?

We have talked widely about the Internet of Things(IoT) with a particular focus on what it is, how biometric technology impacts IoT technology, and the potential security threats associated with IoT-connected devices.

But what are the technologies that enable the Internet of Things?

IoT primarily exploits standard protocols and networking technologies. However, the major enabling technologies and protocols of IoT are RFID, NFC, low-energy Bluetooth, low-energy wireless, low-energy radio protocols, and LTE-A. These technologies support the specific networking functionality needed in an IoT system in contrast to a standard uniform network of common systems.

As well as these enabling technologies, the IoT also relies on other technologies to maximise the opportunities that are created by the IoT. These include:

  • Big Data
  • Cloud Computing
  • Sensors
  • Analytics Software

These supporting technologies are there to ensure the data from IoT devices can be collected, stored, and analysed. However, let’s take a closer look at the enabling technologies for the Internet of Things.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

RFID provides a simple, low energy, and versatile option for identity and access tokens, connection bootstrapping, and payments. RFID technology employs 2-way radio transmitter-receivers to identify and track tags associated with objects.

Application of RFID technology in IoT is extremely broad and diverse. RFID tags are primarily used to make everyday objects communicate with each other and the main hub and report their status. Retail, manufacturing, logistics, smart warehousing, and banking are among the major industries using RFID Internet of Things solutions.

NFC (Near Field Communication)

Similar to RIFD, NFC is also a simple, low energy solution for IoT.  NFC consists of communication protocols for electronic devices, typically a mobile device and a standard device.

With a straightforward tap-and-go mechanism, NFC makes it simple and intuitive to connect two different IoT devices. Because NFC chips must be in close proximity of each other to initiate a transaction, NFC is a clear sign that the user intends to take a certain action. The short-range of NFC also protects against unauthorised access by hackers.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

This technology supports the low-power, long-use need of IoT function while exploiting a standard technology with native support across systems. Bluetooth Low Energy is well suited to relatively short-range communications scenarios that involve low-to-medium throughput. Telemetry, fitness and health, and human interface device (HID) applications are key targets for this technology.

BLE can also be used for real-time asset location tracking, indoor wayfinding and customer engagement experience.

A key advantage of using Bluetooth Low Energy is that it enables direct interaction with a wide range of modern smartphones without the need for any intermediary. All major smartphone platforms, including Android and Apple iOS, provide powerful and accessible APIs to enable the development of Bluetooth Low Energy applications.

Low Energy Wireless

Power is a problem for IoT developers – and communication links are one of the most power-hungry elements of a typical system. Whilst sensors and other peripherals can be powered down for long periods of time, communications, particularly receivers, often need to be kept in listening mode for transmissions.

Low-energy wireless not only reduces consumption but also extends the life of the device through less use. This reduces the cost and inconvenience of replacing either the devices or their batteries. A great solution is to power the system from energy in the environment, such as solar power.

Low Energy Radio Protocols

An alternative to low energy wireless can be low energy radio, or lower power radio (LPR) as it is sometimes referred to. LPRs offer low power consumption and are seen as an affordable alternative.

Some of the most important requirements of a communications link for connecting IoT devices are wide supply voltage, low power consumption, ultra-low standby current, long-range, and conformance to an international standard, which is probably one of the most desirable requirements as it proves that the device is reliable and of a high standard.

LTE-A (LTE Advanced)

LTE-A, or LTE Advanced, delivers an important upgrade to LTE technology by increasing not only its coverage but also reducing its latency and raising its throughput. It gives IoT a tremendous power through expanding its range, with its most significant applications being vehicle, UAV, and similar communication.

The latest version of LTE standard is LTE-A Pro. Whilst previous versions of LTE operated like a highway of information, with small packets of data traveling from one location to the next, LTE-A Pro operates more like a blisteringly fast, multi-story ‘superhighway’. When you choose an LTE-A Pro embedded module for your IoT devices, you will see massive increases in data speed, capacity, and efficiency.

NEC and IoT technology

NEC provide solutions that utilise these IoT technologies, like BLE, for tracking assets with Juniper Mist Wireless access points that have built-in BLE sensors. These solutions can also be utilised for indoor wayfinding and turn by turn directions.

NEC also incorporates BLE in our iQuarantine solution – providing a way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

NEC are also currently developing pay by face solutions that can utilise BLE as dual-factor authentication and enhanced customer experience with proximity sensing to alert customers with targeted marketing and digital signage.

Summary

As you can see from our list above, as quickly as the IoT is expanding, the enabling technologies need to develop at the same pace to keep up. A great example of this is Wi-Fi Direct.  Whilst Wi-Fi-Direct eliminates the need for an access point and allows P2P (peer-to-peer) connections with the speed of WiFi, but with lower latency, it was quickly left behind. That happened because today’s smart devices need to be highly interconnected with each other to enable more complex scenes or management, and they must be easily accessed from a distance by people who may not be at home. Wi-Fi Direct could not keep up.

IoT enabling technologies will continue to develop and evolve to meet the ever-increasing demands of the interconnected world we live in.

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