1. Use the Right Technology for the Job
Yes, it’s a frequent discussion point around the IoT and one that we tend to drive at frequently, but the decision of which wireless technology to use is incredibly consequential to building a quality IoT product. It’s a bit like deciding how you’re going to travel for your vacation: you can pretty well ruin a vacation by choosing to take the 30 hour drive instead of the five hour flight. Picking a wireless technology is similar; some trips are just more suited for a flight, and some are just more suited for a drive. Finding the natural fit whose strengths are suited to your design is critical for a better, more efficient product that provides a better user experience.
This might mean deciding between sub-technologies, like LTE-M and NB-IoT, or it might mean deciding between wholly different WAN, LPWAN, or LAN technologies altogether. But it’s important not to shoehorn any design into a technology that isn’t ideally suited for it. If you’re trying to push too much data too frequently through a protocol that isn’t meant to handle it, some part of your design will have to suffer to make that happen.
Consider how and where the device will be used, and your device’s role in the broader ecosystem, to identify the right tools for the job.
2. Combine Cellular with Other Wireless Technologies
An incredibly powerful way to minimize your device’s overall cellular draw is to utilize multiple wireless technologies in your design. This means identifying what your overall device traffic is, especially between multiple deployed devices, and considering if there are better and more efficient ways to collect and distribute data from them.
This might mean, for example, that you have a deployment of 10 or so co-located sensor devices across a facility, all of which are taking measurements and gathering data. Rather than all of those devices transmitting infrequently over cellular, it may be instead that the best option is to deploy also a collector-type device, and for all sensor devices to transmit their measurements via Bluetooth to that collector device. Then, that collector can transmit over cellular on a regular interval, making it the only device that does so. This may mean greater power savings for the sensors, offloading some greater power usage to the collector device, which can be centralized and powered via a DC outlet.
For however it’s implemented, the important takeaway is that integrating multiple wireless technologies can have a dramatic impact on what’s possible with your devices and may enable use cases that are better for your solutions at large. Exploring the ways that your devices are used together, the wireless (and wired) communications available around them, and the advantages of each is a powerful way to achieve efficiencies in your applications.
3. Avoid “Oversharing” When It Comes to the Cloud and Data Management
As a designer, it can be very difficult to put restrictions on your exciting new IoT design. How much should the device be able to send? How current to measurements or data points need to be logged in cloud software? Do we need to know a status every hour, or every minute, or every second? If your answers are more frequent than what is actually needed for your design to succeed, you’re probably overutilizing data – and overutilization has consequences for battery life and data costs.
Even though low power, low data protocols like NB-IoT and LTE-M are designed to make data costs more manageable, a constantly-open data pipe (or worse, a bidirectional one) between client and cloud can have significant costs for OEMs. A successful IoT deployment isn’t necessarily the one that is most up-to-the-minute, or measures the most data points, or fills the most server space. It really is the one that works the most intelligently between the sensor or client level and the cloud to decrease that burden. It’s important to balance what the device sends and receives, what the cloud asks for, and how the two devices interact on a continuing basis.
Learn More in our Cellular White Paper
There are four more lessons that Laird Connectivity outlines in our cellular white paper, involving certifications, antennas, carriers, and more important considerations to building a successful IoT deployment. And it’s important to keep these in mind very early in the design process, because the more time you invest in a path in your design, the harder it may be to reverse gears and adjust the plan for the unexpected.
Read our white paper, “Choosing the Right Route to Low Power Cellular IoT,” to learn more.