IoT mesh networks have never been cheaper, or easier
December 19, 2017
Mesh technologies similar to those used in the smart home can also play a role in IIoT markets. The IQRF Alliance mesh topology focuses on bi-directional communications and local, autonomous control.
Now more than ever, the Internet of Things (IoT) is more about smart cities, smart buildings, and Industry 4.0 than about smart homes. Public lighting, parking, and traffic management are typical uses of IoT in the smart city. Thanks to the Internet of Things, for example, we can control traffic and divert it to help improve air quality, reduce road congestion, and so on.
These types of applications typically rely on connectivity technologies foreign to the consumer world. Most engineers have by now heard of LoRa and Sigfox, which are technologies designed to collect data over a relatively large distances using direct communications between devices and a gateway in a star topology.
However, mesh technologies similar to those used in the smart home can also play a role in Industrial IoT (IIoT) markets. The IQRF Alliance's mesh topology, for instance, focuses on bi-directional communications between network nodes, with each device acting as a message "forwarder" to others.
Because of this bi-directional communications capability, IQRF mesh technology is frequently deployed in applications that require local, autonomous control. Data can be collected from sensors and used to control entire groups of devices, such as lights, motors, relays, and so on. The mesh architecture also makes the technology more resilient and reliable than alternatives, even in settings like power plants and manufacturing floors with high levels of wireless interference.
Indeed, IQRF networks are deployed in a range of use cases:
- An IQRF network manages 500, 2 MW infrared heaters at the Nováky thermal power plant in Prievidza, Slovakia to ensure coal wagons stay defrosted and a continuous supply of energy is available to the city
- In Scotland, more than 10,000 IQRF sensors are deployed to monitor railways against possible landslides
- More than 23,000 vehicles at 40 different locations across Prague leverage IQRF sensors in a tracking application
- More than 40,000 street lamps are controlled by IQRF sensor networks in multiple cities
Most importantly, though, IQRF networks are free! They can be deployed without any additional fees for coverage or network operation. Thanks to a local control, it is also cloud-independent, so data can remain securely within a network for sensitive applications. This feature is very valuable in industry and government settings, where data often cannot leave the production area at all.
In an IoT technology hierarchy that requires companies to develop their own devices, gateways, cloud backends, mobile applications, and maintenance infrastructure, it's becoming obvious that everyone cannot do everything. The more efficient approach is for every company to focus on its core competency, and leverage industry-standard building blocks and system integrators for the rest.
That's the vision of the IQRF Alliance and technologies like the IQRF mesh.