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Using Low Power Radio To Enable IIoT Devices

There is a growth in awareness of the IoT and IIoT (Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things, respectively). This has resulted in a growth in businesses looking to understand how they can benefit from IIoT devices.

Industrial Internet of Things

IIoT is the popular term given to devices that connect a user with something else via an internet connection. Think of your FitBit. It monitors your heart rate and sends information to your phone’s app. Within a work setting IIoT devices monitor something like the temperature of the server room or the movement of people instead and also send the information to an app. Corporations are guessing at the potential value of the IIoT to economies with some suggesting that it could be worth $100 Billion by 2020 (Morgan Stanley). Another, Accenture, has estimated $14 Trillion. Statista believes that by 2020 there will be 31 Billion IIoT devices with this number set to double in the following 4 years. However it is looked at, the expected growth of IIoT devices is substantial.

Within the standard business, the IIoT is already transformational. Companies track deliveries in real time; control stock levels on a just-in-time basis; remote sales teams engage with customers and head office simultaneously; and control the environmental conditions of remote locations. This is possible because of IIoT devices. IIoT is an area of significant growth. Businesses are using IIoT principles to improve business performance.

BitBox is leading the design and manufacture of industrial electronics for use in business environments.

IIoT Challenges

One challenge that we come across frequently is the need for IIoT devices to transmit data across large distances, such as sensors that monitor performance and health of equipment. It is therefore easy to assume that devices require WiFi connectivity.

Where devices are in remote locations, it can be desirable to have battery powered sensors, inevitably with the desire that the battery lasts for years. This is an unlikely challenge to achieve as WiFi requires significant battery use. Therefore, WiFi is not always the right answer to connect remote sensors; it has limited transmission distance and will significantly drain a battery.

This is where sub-gigahertz Low Power Radio (LPR) devices come to the fore. These enable low-cost, long range connectivity for relatively small amounts of data – ideal for sensors. A central gateway provides the connectivity to the internet or Cloud by WiFi, Ethernet or 3G/4G. This is a Wide Area Network (WAN). Applications using this structure are ideal for implementing IIoT / Machine 2 Machine (M2M) devices for Industrial purposes.

Wide Area Networks

There are several low power radio implementations competing to create a nationwide Wide Area Network, or WAN. Two main drivers are the LoRA alliance and SigFox, each trying to become established as the de-facto standard internationally. It is possible that one of these will become dominant in offering a national service.

Mesh Networks

To expand a WAN it is possible to use LPR to create a Mesh network where nodes receive and re-transmit data. In this way a transmitter can send data to a receiver by passing through a network of nodes in situations where the receiver is too far away from the transmitter.

What Can Low Power Radio do for IIoT Devices?

LPR devices have a number of applications, including the monitoring of:

  • lighting in communal accommodation or street lighting to report faults
  • lighting to manage costs without compromising safety
  • power consumption by data centre servers
  • and controlling of industrial heating systems
  • air temperature and humidity
  • fluid for leaks
  • pressure (this has a range of applications from fire extinguisher systems to system health monitoring)
  • stock or items stored at specific temperatures.

These IIoT devices, among many, are examples of industrial control systems that have been delivered by BitBox’s electronics design and manufacturing team. With this demonstrable experience, BitBox’s customers benefit from a range of low power sensors using Low Power Radio to connect users with critical business data.

Adopting IIoT Devices

If you have a need for delivering business improvement through the adoption of IIoT devices, get in touch! Our service to you is to help take the seed of an idea and turn it in to a solution that allows you to connect with the things that are important to you. Email our IIoT specialists.