Traditionally, IT has connected most devices by wire. As Wi-Fi emerged, IT could connect devices wirelessly, thereby avoiding wiring costs. Sometimes the wiring costs were so high that wireless connections were the only choice.
Where coverage area was the goal, now capacity and performance are the driving design goals.
Capacity/Performance vs. Coverage
When designing Wi-Fi LAN networks, the implementers had hardware and software solutions that could be used to ensure that all or nearly all of the coverage area had a connection to an access point. As the number of access points increased so did the available bandwidth of faster WLAN standards. The latest version is the IEEE 802.11ac standard that can operate at 100s Mbps to Gbps. The continued increase in bandwidth helped offset the increase in wireless endpoints and their available bandwidth.
The advent of IoT endpoints will change the network design. It is likely that a faster LAN will not be enough to support increased IoT endpoints. The LAN designer has to implement networks that will probably have a smaller coverage area. Therefore more access points will have to be deployed. The number of endpoints communicating over the LAN will significantly increase. A large number of small data packets will become more common. Smaller data packets cause a decrease in the LAN efficiency. Further, the LAN performance will need to be high in capacity as well as availability.
What Does IoT Look Like?
The single biggest observation about IoT is the number of potential endpoints that will exist. IoT will also be a contributor to big data. The numbers of endpoints per person today averages about 2.7 with some using up to 7 endpoints. These could be cell phones, tablets, laptops, wearable devices, sensors, etc.....
IoT is expected to deliver many benefits. Endpoints can initiate connections when they have a change in status or have an operational problem before humans will know. Inventory systems can monitor the inventory status independent of where the resource is located. Organizations that appear to be early benefiters of IoT include, healthcare, transportation, "Bringing the Internet of Things to the London Underground," hospitality, mining, warehousing, public venues like stadiums and conference centers as well as home automation.
Retailers like Macy's have wireless connections to their customers as they travel through the store. The wireless connection provides location information so that Macy's can send messages about nearby products and even coupons depending on where the customer is in the store.
Is Wi-Fi the Only Answer?
Wi-Fi will probably be the dominant near-term wireless technology supporting IoT. As endpoint density increases and more precise location data is required, we can expect Bluetooth, RFID, iBeacon and other RF technologies to be implemented for IoT. Bluetooth has a smaller coverage and low power requirement than Wi-Fi. As endpoint density increases, Bluetooth may be the answer because it can increase the endpoint density. If the endpoint does not need much bandwidth, then Bluetooth is a solution. RFID, although limited in its capabilities for IoT, is another contender.
Not all IoT data can be collected by Wi-Fi networks. As endpoints move beyond the coverage areas of Wi-Fi, cell networks will need to be employed. Cell network providers will have deal with an increase in endpoints, some of which will be "always on." Wireless providers may have to create new data pricing plans. Many endpoints may support multiple wireless technologies (cell, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) since they can be transported anywhere.
Challenges of Wireless IoT
IoT will have an impact on both employees as well as customers. Location services will a play big part in IoT services. Wi-Fi can provide locations within 10s of meters. Bluetooth can offer resolution to meters. Location accuracy will be an issue.
The network challenges are many. There will be a significant increase in the data communicated. The data traffic will approach exponential growth. Traffic will be very unpredictable. Consider an announcement at a public venue that causes data to explode but only during the public event.
The number of endpoints to support simultaneously will continue to grow. The traffic generated by these endpoints will probably grow at a faster rate than the addition of endpoints thereby multiplying the traffic.
Some other issues of concern include:
• Access control
• Endpoint management
• Capacity management
• Troubleshooting problems both with the network and endpoints
The network designers will have to balance coverage with capacity. They will also have to deliver capacity that can deal with wide fluctuations in traffic without bringing down the network.
Applications on the network will have to be involved in controlling traffic so that network will not be overwhelmed. Today, most application designs assume that there is always capacity available. So application designers will have to employ some form of traffic throttling within their application to help the network manage traffic bursts.
More blogs resources include "IoT: Benefit or Headache for IT?," "Social Physics and IoT", "The Internet of Things Begets the Industrial Internet", and "The Internet of Things Will Change Your Business Model."