You’ve probably heard about the significant benefits of wireless IoT solutions, and you’ve perhaps also wondered how you can use them to make your everyday work more efficient. But there’s a problem: the unconquered jungle of different technologies, devices, systems, and license types. This blog will help you navigate the jungle with six things to consider when choosing a wireless IoT solution.
There isn’t one perfect IoT solution that is the best choice for everyone. We love our own systems, but they might not be the best fit for your use case. The critical differences between wireless IoT systems are seen in their modulation, radio frequency, data transfer, and power requirements. Do you want to use the solution in multiple locations or just one? Do you need access to data storage anywhere, only at the location where the device is installed, or in the same room as the transmitters?
Accessibility aside, you also need to think about which measurements you want to include. What parameters do you want to measure, and does the IoT system you’re considering cover them all? How about the connection between different systems – do you need integration with your existing system, or can it be a separate system? It’s rare to find an IoT system that will work across factory automation, construction sites, laboratories, hospitals, and transport because these applications all have their own requirements.
You should clarify what you want to achieve with a wireless IoT solution, what are the deal-breakers, and what you can live without, if necessary.
Different IoT applications have different accuracy needs. If you don’t need high accuracy, a basic, inexpensive IoT system will do just fine. The more accuracy you need, the higher the demand on data logger performance. In some use cases an error margin of just a single percentage point might be critical.
When selecting an IoT system, always keep in mind the data you want to collect. Do you just need rough indications, or exact readings? Data quality is something that separates IoT solution providers. Many systems are built on wireless data transfer and use off-the-shelf sensors. There are only a few companies like Vaisala who have started out with high-quality measurement sensors and gone on to add wireless transfer to complete the system.
In the end the accuracy you need is governed by what you use your data for. Using inferior measurement technology just because the related software is nice, or the cost low, may turn out to be a false economy if it leads to lower-quality products.
Wireless transfer is really an umbrella term that includes several very different options. It’s critical to know how much measurement data you want to collect and transfer to the system each day. There are systems that are ideal for applications like leakage monitoring, where you’re only collecting small amounts of data, and solutions that are designed for applications that require mass data collection and transfer, for example if you’re working with thermal images.
You also need to think about the range capability for data transfer. How far apart are your transmitters? Are there obstacles such as fireproof doors or steel walls in the way? Is it a problem for you to visit each transmitter to collect the data, or do you need to access all the information from one location?
Network coverage is another issue. In big cities, newer public networks such as LoRaWAN, Sigfox, NB-IoT, or 5G could be a suitable solution; if you’re collecting and transferring data in remote locations you’ll probably need a more mature network technology for your wireless IoT solution.
In summary, you need to consider: how much data you want to transfer per day (not on average, but the maximum amount), where the IoT system will be located, and how you want to gather the data.
Some systems are built to be installed permanently in one location. Wired systems are the most robust example of this, but some wireless IoT solutions are also built with fixed installations in mind. This is usually shown by fine-tuning each device’s adjustments once installed to achieve the best possible radio range. Coverage is typically very good when this type of system is used as a non-mobile solution, but moving the system takes some effort as it needs to be recalibrated.
The other extreme is a very light system designed to be used only when visiting the measurement site. Usually, these types of IoT systems log the data for instant reading as they cannot transfer data over long distances. If this describes your use case you’d probably prefer something very sturdy, or a very light IoT solution.
Things to consider: to what degree do you want to be able to adjust the system once it’s in use? Are you logging data in one specific location or moving from site to site? Do you have access to an IT consultant who can help with a more complex installation, or will you need a ‘plug-and-play’ type system that you can easily install yourself?
Cloud solutions offer various options in terms of granting access. Usually, an IoT system has different user groups to which you can assign different permissions. It’s not a bad idea to check how flexible the system is if you have several different user groups with diverse needs. It’s also a good idea to approach this from a wider perspective than from just inside your own organization: is there a third party like an inspector who you would like to share specific information with? Or perhaps a partner organization that needs access to one or a few specific sites? Take a minute to define all the stakeholders who could benefit from your system – doing so will help you save valuable time for more important tasks.
Access requirements should also be considered from another point of view: should the monitoring system be accessible anywhere, or from one specific location only? Typically, using one PC as a data logger is considered best practice because it’s fool proof and secure. The downside of course is that if the PC in question crashes your data is unavailable.
If you’re considering a cloud-based system you should carefully examine the type of data security capabilities it has in order to mitigate risk.
Depending on your application, the location of your data storage facility can be critical. If you see no issue in where your data flows, consider yourself lucky (or blissfully ignorant). As the amount of IoT data continues to explode, so does the number of hackers. Because of this, it is more important than ever to be careful about how we handle our data in order to protect not only our individual privacy but that of our customers too.
The most frequently asked question regarding data storage is which country is the data center in. Information flowing across borders might be a corporate policy issue. Other critical questions about data handling relate to issues such as privacy policies, the right to be forgotten, who else has access to your cloud data besides the people you have granted it to, and so on. Data security is a critical issue and something that you simply cannot ignore.
There are of course many other factors that will have an impact on your purchasing decisions besides those we have covered in this blog post, but these are the ones we consider to be deal-breakers. While you probably have a long wish-list of features, the most important thing to ask is, ’Does the system do what it is supposed to do, and do it well?’ If the answer is yes, you can focus on fine tuning, but if the answer is no, the reality is that the system is a waste of resources.
Are you interested in reading more about how adjusting the indoor air climate can help preserve precious artefacts? Read our customer story about Creating the Right Climate to the Vasa Museum.
Want to hear more how your application could benefit of our system? Contact us to get in touch with our measurement experts.
The next industrial revolution has already begun – there have been major changes and developments with cloud platforms in the last five years, with industries benefiting massively from the availability of increasingly standardized commercial offerings.
You want to have wireless data loggers but collect the data to designated server? Explore VaiNet technology and viewLinc Enterprise Server software for restricted local access. viewLinc is the preferred monitoring system choice especially in Life Science...