Data Communication & Protocols
The digital revolution, Industry 4.0…the future for connected objects has arrived! This is not science fiction but a phenomenon everyone is already noticing in their daily lives with televisions, alarms, smartphones, meters, pill dispensers, scales, watches, light bulbs, etc. There are now more connected objects than humans and by 2020 there will be between 50 and 80 billion of the former! As well as economic issues, the IoT comes with technical challenges around the volume of data generated but also, and principally, the autonomy of connected objects.
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G and 4G networks are perfectly able to manage the issues of moving large quantities of data around, dealing with latency in data exchange, connecting with local equipment and ensuring different objects can communicate. However, these energy-intensive technologies are useless or incompatible regarding connected objects’ need for electrical autonomy.
Astek has deep knowledge of new networks which can solve data transfer issues
Expertise in low-power wide area networks such as Sigfox & LoRa
- Low energy consumption
- Long range (10 to 15 km)
- Low latency
- Optimised network architecture
- Low production costs
- Excellent coverage
- Geolocation possible
We have tested and used Sigfox and LoRa in various projects. Sigfox has been running for a few years, whereas the LoRa network is the more recent result of an alliance between several large groups. We worked with Orange on their experimental LoRa platform in the Transfarmers project. This technology has some significant advantages such as its transmission power which adapts to its environment to consume less, a message receipt system, a precise geolocation system and a bigger data stream.
Low-power networks for the IoT will have competition! NB-IoT uses a small amount of LTE network bandwidth such as 4G and, soon, 5G. Although some people may be predicting the end of low-power networks, it is better to see NB-IoT as a complementary solution. One reason for this is that sensitive data security is better guaranteed on operator frequency bands rather than LoRa’s free frequency bands. However, it will take a few more years for NB-IoT to be validated, installed and operational. How much will connected objects consume? In the meantime, LoRa networks will be widely deployed and roaming standards set up between operators.
It is entirely possible that there will be new systems linking the two with a local high-bandwidth component (let’s not forget Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology) converging on a long-range low-bandwidth exit point for notifications. Each project’s needs lead to a particular choice of technologies guided by Astek’s vast project experience.
What the experts say
Fighting energy waste
One of our projects involved major limits on energy waste. We carried out testing to assess how much energy our connected object was consuming. Choosing low-consumption components proved to be wise, with around one µA consumed when the device was on standby and peaks of a few tens of mA when it was using more energy. For the usage required by the client, battery capacity meant the device would be energy-autonomous far longer than its own theoretical lifetime!Christophe R.
For the Transfarmers project, the connected object relays data on compost, temperature, humidity, etc. This is useful in itself but it is even more useful to know the weather forecast and whether a cold front or warm spell is going to arrive and put the ecosystem at risk!Maurizio G.