What is Cellular IoT?
The Internet of Things, to provide a brief recap, is the ever-evolving concept of connecting a multitude of devices beyond your typical computer and smartphone to the internet, and this monumental digital revolution has experienced rapid growth over the last decade. Until recently, the majority of IoT devices were connected to the internet through Wi-Fi or LAN (a shortened term for Local Area Network, which interconnects computers and devices within a limited area, i.e., a school, laboratory, or office building), simply meaning they were fully tied to a specific location where WiFi or LAN connectivity was available. Now, with cellular IoT, those constraints are beginning to crumble.
Sometimes referred to as “mobile IoT,” cellular IoT are devices connected to the internet through cellular networks rather than Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and LAN, all of which are restrained to a specific location. It’s a way of connecting everyday objects beyond your own personal gadgets, such as streetlights, parking meters, and the plenitude of industrial applications (manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare) to the internet—all by having them piggyback off the same mobile networks as our smartphones.
Leading Factors that Drive Growth of Cellular IoT:
- Increased Coverage — Unlike Wi-Fi and LAN, 5G cellular networks offer much broader coverage and support a much larger number of connected devices. Now, businesses can connect more devices over a larger area, with higher reliability and speed than ever before.
- Ease and Low Cost of Stationing — While non-cellular IoT devices must be configured to a specific network in order to securely maintain a connection to the internet, cellular devices need only have an activated SIM card inserted and they’re good to go. Simple, fast, and no need for resource investment.
- Ample Remote Management — Increased coverage provided by cellular networks means these networks can be managed remotely from just about anywhere in the world, therefore allowing you to casually monitor connectivity, configure devices, and more from a wider range of locations.
- Network Switching — Same as how your cell phone switches between networks as you’re traveling, cellular IoT devices can swap to different networks without concern for losing signal, an ideal quality for devices such as cars that require a constant connection to ensure safety.
- Low Latency and High Reliability — Many critical applications still rely on old-fashioned radio and technology that’s easy to disrupt. With cellular IoT over 5G networks, emergency service communications can be safer and more reliable, providing real-time data to command centers.
- Security by Design — 5G networks have built-in security measures designed to protect consumers, meaning connectivity now implements protocols such as secure authentication, signaling protection, and data encryption.
Top Industries Being Transformed by Cellular IoT:
- Industrial — With IoT, manufacturing industries can now allow smart automations and other IoT devices to work where humans can’t.
- Resources and Critical Infrastructure — Transportation, water, oil and gas, energy generation and distribution, and mining industries are all prepared to utilize cellular IoT technology, as the use of connected sensors and controllers allows owners and operators to make more informed decisions and thus lower, if not remove, the potential for human error.
- Smart Cities — Through cellular IoT, cities can improve the quality of the services they provide, including policy efficiency, social and economic quality, reducing waste and inconvenience, and maximizing social inclusion, with the central purpose of increasing the safety of citizens.
- Automotive — Self-driving vehicle technology is on the rise, and with cellular IoT, sophisticated systems embedded within the car structures will essentially eliminate human error and decrease the chance of accidents. In addition, self-driving cars will be able to communicate with each other and therefore travel efficiently at optimized distances between each other, lowering the chance of getting caught in heavy traffic.
- Agriculture — Farmers can now use sensors to monitor farm conditions and adjust settings on connected equipment, including water systems and drones used for spraying fertilizer, from anywhere, thanks to cellular IoT and the broader coverage it provides.
Despite all these benefits, cellular IoT isn’t flawless and comes with its own set of challenges. While 5G networks do have built-in security protocols as mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean said protocols provide airtight protection for the consumer, which poses a big problem for businesses. Not only that, but cellular networks are often more expensive than Wi-Fi, making Wi-Fi a more preferable internet connection source when planning to make a big data transfer. Nevertheless, the benefits that come with adding cellular networks to the ever-expanding IoT, for instance increased coverage, reduced latency, increased reliability, and the widened range of remote management provided, are too appealing and advantageous to pass over in worry of obstacles that are ultimately designed to be overcome.