Radio-Frequency Communication for Connected Devices
Radio-Frequency Communication for Connected Devices

Aug 27, 2020

With an increasing need for a connected lifestyle, the global IoT industry is expected to have 50B connected devices by the end of 2030. Smart infrastructures such as a smart city, a smart grid, smart factories, and smart transportation are some of the major areas of IoT adoption. The future of IoT will drive change in rapidly evolving endpoint device capabilities and communication networks for increased reliability. The most commonly adopted among the available communication technologies are satellite and radio-frequency (RF). [1]

Satellite Communication

Satellite communication enables communication from a terminal or endpoint device to an antenna that’s as far as 10 to 15 miles. Some of the most commonly used satellite communication mediums are GSM, GPRS, 3G, 4G, and 5G. The transmission control protocol (TCP) is one of the main communication protocols in the Internet protocol suite used to exchange data from managed IoT devices to the server. Communications via GPRS are secure because of the cryptography applied on the wireless link between the mobile device and base station. However, communication via satellite communication has its own operational challenges, such as upgrading devices to evolving communication technologies, delaying re-establishing connection during signal drop or data traffic, and high power consumption.

Radio-Frequency (RF) Mesh Networks

Radio-frequency mesh (RF mesh) networks are one of the commonly adopted wireless technologies for endpoint devices.  Some of the widely used wireless technologies under mesh networks are Zigbee, 6LoWPAN, LoRaWAN, Z-Wave, and many more. This RF mesh technology uses radio waves to communicate among connected endpoint devices and send the data from the endpoints to a data concentrator unit (DCU). This DCU unit further transmits the data to the server via satellite communication technologies or another medium over a long distance.

Incorporating radio-frequency mesh communication in endpoints is very efficient because of its distinct features such as communication reliability, affordability, and lower operational challenges, the less likely need for up-gradation of a communication network between endpoints and DCU units. RF communication is self-healing because of its capability to automatically re-establish network connectivity with DCU through alternate frequencies within the allowed bandwidth. Therefore, this reduces the operational challenges when the network is down.

RF Gains Advantage Over GPRS

Communication is the backbone of any smart grid implementation. Cellular networks mostly use licensed frequencies employed by mobile network operators, whereas RF mesh uses license-free communications frequencies (868 or 915 MHz). This brings up the flexibility to create our own private network that suits our needs, compiling existing standards and frequencies approved in different countries. Uptime for the devices is maximum when RF is used as it provides a dedicated link between the device and the data concentrator unit. Further, the RF mesh network has a distinct operational advantage as there’s no or limited need for up-gradation of hardware, which isn’t the case with satellite communication-based hardware. This makes the RF mesh network-based devices stay ahead in terms of adoption for endpoints.

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