Todays interenet of things market includes countless consumer gadgets such as routers, Internet-connected video cameras and smart TVs, as well as innumerable enterprise IoT devices for business, scientific and industrial applications.
Products in the latter category have traditionally been a “systems” sale, so they were expensive, pricing was secretive, consulting and installation services were usually part and parcel of a sale, and the real cost of a solution was dependent on how much you were willing to pay.
But enterprise IoT selling tactics are changing in response to the commoditization of IoT. Products are becoming cheaper, more easily sourced, transparently priced and much simpler to install. Unfortunately, not all players in the IoT world have responded to this trend, so buying some enterprise IoT products can be a lengthy and unnecessarily complex process if you’re dealing with the “old school” vendors.
I experienced this firsthand in a recent consulting engagement that involved the analysis of enterprise IoT temperature monitoring technology as well as a hands-on evaluation of a selection of leading products. While temperature monitoring might seem a little specialized, that exploration yielded useful lessons that pertain to the broader enterprise IoT market, particularly remote sensing.
Before getting into the issues involved with selecting solutions, however, it’s important to review what an enterprise IoT system looks like. You can break down the general enterprise IoT architecture into three main parts:
- Endpoints that include one or more sensors;
- Gateways that aggregate data from multiple sensor endpoints and forward it onto the backend services; and
- Backend services where the sensor data are analyzed, stored, routed, and displayed.
With that in mind, here are 10 questions to consider when sourcing an enterprise IoT remote sensing solution.
1. How much data will your sensors generate and how often?
The size of most IoT data payloads transferred from sensor endpoints to gateways is usually around 50 bytes. But aggregate the data transmissions of, say, 1,000 endpoints each reporting their measurements once every 20 minutes, and the local bandwidth usage becomes significant. Another concern is that most of the wireless technologies used for enterprise IoT systems are in the unlicensed ISM band, so interference from sources other than your own systems could become a future concern and underlines the importance of planning for both the short and long term.
2. What sensor endpoint networking technologies are appropriate for your environment?
Communication can get tricky when you’re connecting a cluster of sensor endpoints to a gateway inside a building. The premises’ structure (walls, ductwork, electrical cabling, roofing) can cause all sorts of wireless communications problems including attenuation, reflections, and interference that collectively weaken and distort signals. Technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth only deliver short-range connections (300 feet maximum) and a poor radio environment can reduce that range considerably. Products using Bluetooth BLE, ZigBee, and Z-Wave mesh technologies look promising for building robust sensor networks, but currently they are less common in the enterprise IoT market. Currently, your best bet for enterprise IoT networking are the “chirp” spread spectrum technologies such as LoRaWAN and some of the