BLUETOOTH

An important short-range communications technology is of course Bluetooth, which has become very important in computing and many consumer product markets. It is expected to be key for wearable products in particular, again connecting to the IoT albeit probably via a smartphone in many cases. The new Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) – or Bluetooth Smart, as it is now branded – is a significant protocol for IoT applications. Importantly, while it offers similar range to Bluetooth it has been designed to offer significantly reduced power consumption.

However, Smart/BLE is not really designed for file transfer and is more suitable for small chunks of data. It has a major advantage certainly in a more personal device context over many competing technologies given its widespread integration in smartphones and many other mobile devices. According to the Bluetooth SIG, more than 90 percent of Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, including iOS, Android and Windows based models, are expected to be ‘Smart Ready’ by 2018. 

Devices that employ Bluetooth Smart features incorporate the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0 (or higher – the latest is version 4.2 announced in late 2014) with a combined basic-data-rate and low-energy core configuration for a RF transceiver, baseband and protocol stack. Importantly, version 4.2 via its Internet Protocol Support Profile will allow Bluetooth Smart sensors to access the Internet directly via 6LoWPAN connectivity (more on this below). This IP connectivity makes it possible to use existing IP infrastructure to manage Bluetooth Smart ‘edge’ devices. More information on Bluetooth 4.2 is available here and a wide range of Bluetooth modules are available from RS. 

  • Standard: Bluetooth 4.2 core specification
  • Frequency: 2.4GHz (ISM)
  • Range: 50-150m (Smart/BLE)
  • Data Rates: 1Mbps (Smart/BLE)

LORA

Again, similar in some respects to Sigfox and Neul, LoRaWAN targets wide-area network (WAN) applications and is designed to provide low-power WANs with features specifically needed to support low-cost mobile secure bi-directional communication in IoT, M2M and smart city and industrial applications. Optimized for low-power consumption and supporting large networks with millions and millions of devices, data rates range from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps. 

  • Standard: LoRaWAN
  • Frequency: Various
  • Range: 2-5km (urban environment), 15km (suburban environment)
  • Data Rates: 0.3-50 kbps.

WiFi connectivity is often an obvious choice for many developers, especially given the pervasiveness of WiFi within the home environment within LANs. It requires little further explanation except to state the obvious that clearly there is a wide existing infrastructure as well as offering fast data transfer and the ability to handle high quantities of data. 

Currently, the most common WiFi standard used in homes and many businesses is 802.11n, which offers serious throughput in the range of hundreds of megabit per second, which is fine for file transfers, but may be too power-consuming for many IoT applications. A series of RF development kits designed for building WiFi-based applications are available from RS. 

  • Standard: Based on 802.11n (most common usage in homes today)
  • Frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
  • Range: Approximately 50m
  • Data Rates: 600 Mbps maximum, but 150-200Mbps is more typical, depending on channel frequency used and number of antennas (latest 802.11-ac standard should offer 500Mbps to 1Gbps) 

WiFi

WiFi connectivity is often an obvious choice for many developers, especially given the pervasiveness of WiFi within the home environment within LANs. It requires little further explanation except to state the obvious that clearly there is a wide existing infrastructure as well as offering fast data transfer and the ability to handle high quantities of data. 

Currently, the most common WiFi standard used in homes and many businesses is 802.11n, which offers serious throughput in the range of hundreds of megabit per second, which is fine for file transfers, but may be too power-consuming for many IoT applications. A series of RF development kits designed for building WiFi-based applications are available from RS. 

  • Standard: Based on 802.11n (most common usage in homes today)
  • Frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
  • Range: Approximately 50m
  • Data Rates: 600 Mbps maximum, but 150-200Mbps is more typical, depending on channel frequency used and number of antennas (latest 802.11-ac standard should offer 500Mbps to 1Gbps)