IoT remains an absolute maze of communication protocols
IoT remains an absolute maze of communication protocols
IoT remains an absolute maze of communication protocols

IoT remains an absolute maze of communication protocols

IoT communication protocols remain an absolute maze – although one analyst firm now believes it can help you find the way through the chaos.

In a new report published earlier this week, M2M and IoT analyst house Beecham Research said that it was aiming to help enterprise companies match their Internet of Things applications to “the most appropriate connectivity services”, a further indication of the variety of options currently available to firms considering IoT projects.

The report, entitled ‘An Introduction to LPWA Public Service Categories: Matching Services to IoT Applications’, essentially aims to help enterprises select the right connectivity solution(s) based on their IoT deployment.

And while it notes that most IoT applications are “well covered by traditional cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth”, it goes onto add that there is growing opportunity for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies – such as LoRa and Weightless – which can run IoT applications using very small amounts of data,cost effectively and across a large area. These are important points, because cost and coverage are often mentioned as serious deficiencies of cellular (4G, 5G) and ZigBee respectively.

Yet, it is arguably a sign of a diverse and fragmented market that Beecham is now calling for clarity around the technologies, and the providers. The analyst house now calls for LPWA connectivity service providers to be referred to as “Public LPWA Services Providers or LSPs”.

Related: Is LoRa the game-change for the Internet of Things?

No one-size-fits-all for IoT

CEO Robin Duke-Wooley admits that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the IoT connectivity conundrum, a recurring trend perhaps given the majority of the more complex IoT deployment rely on an assortment of different protocols.

“The IoT covers an increasingly wide range of applications and there is no ‘one-type-fits-all’ when it comes to connectivity required to enable them,” he admits.

“If this emerging industry is to meet its potential and get anywhere close to the ambitious predictions made by some commentators, it’s time for greater clarity with more focus on the service attributes that IoT applications need. This includes key parameters such as battery life and coverage, rather than focusing on the underlying technologies and what frequency they operate at, for example.”

Poignantly, he added: “Most users are not interested in the technical details – they just want something that works in the most cost-effective way for their applications.”

The Beecham Research report focuses on public services being offered now or planned in the near future, which cater to this burgeoning range of very low data rate applications. These services include those from vendors such as SIGFOX, Ingenu and Senet, along with LPWA-based services like KPN, Proximus and Orange and MNOs planning to offer cellular variants LTE-M and NB-IoT (the latter which is being trialled by Huawei and Vodafone).

To be of value to end-users, Beecham says that protocols must deliver the on a number of characteristics, such as good battery, low latency, high scalabality and data rate, as well as security, ubiquitous connectivity low device cost.

“We believe that the continuing debate around IoT connectivity technologies rather than services is not helpful for the rapid market development being sought by the IoT industry,” says Duke Woolley. “Our report is aimed at helping users to make an informed decision, by being able to understand what is being offered in a way that relates to the applications they want to use.”

This news came just a day after a Jasper (now owned by Cisco) study revealed the high costs around Internet of Things connectivity. It indicated that between 35 and 50 percent of operational expense running an Internet of Things network comes from communication costs.

“Today, many companies are moving to mobile networks (or cellular) to give better control over the IIoT experience,” read the study.

Related: Vodafone, Huawei open Narrowband lab – will others follow suit?