The IoT in 2018: Four reasons to excited, four reasons to be worried
A surfeit of wireless options and emerging technologies will complicate design decisions
IoT developers can draw from a wide variety of wireless connectivity options such as NFC for short-field, Bluetooth for short range, Wi-Fi for medium range, LoRa or Sigfox for long range, and LTE for wide-area. In many respects, the eventual choice is not so difficult in concept because each connectivity option serves a specific set of requirements -- Bluetooth for interacting with mobile devices, Wi-Fi for connecting local devices in the home or office, LoRa or Sigfox for connecting widely dispersed devices with a hub/edge device, LTE for connecting geographically isolated devices, and so on.
In practice, IoT developers find themselves on the cusp of deployment of next-generation connectivity solutions that could leave their systems at a disadvantage. For example, emerging support for Bluetooth V5's mesh capabilities and IPv6 offers an attractive solution that can extend Bluetooth support to medium-range services.
Perhaps the biggest gamble for developers relates to the timing of deployment of wideband services. Carriers have begun to deploy LTE narrowband services such as LTE Cat M1 and NB-IoT, which offer simpler, lower throughput capabilities than more familiar LTE services. As a result, implementation in chips such as Sequans Monarch devices (Figure 9) offer low power operation while providing the advantages of wide-area connectivity and sufficient throughput for typical IoT requirements. Even greater uncertainty exists concerning 5G services. Promising a unifying framework for connectivity, 5G services are beginning to enter the carrier deployment phase. Of course, developers constantly deal with tradeoffs between what’s the most promising technology and when will it be practicable.
Figure 9. Reduced requirements in narrowband LTE lets semiconductor manufacturers implement this protocol in low-power devices such as the Sequan Monarch IC. (Source: Sequans Communications)