Which wireless standard makes sense for your application?

With wide-scale IoT solutions being implemented, we are seeing an emerging set of new wireless technologies we feel should be included in our guide. Currently, LoRa and SigFox have limited deployments, but we will continue to watch their traction. LoRa seems to be getting popular.

The focus of innovation is on low power protocols that support remote battery-operated devices which send small amounts of data for a duration from months to years. Since remote service costs can be a significant component of the total cost of ownership for a sensor network, we expect one or more of these new standards to take their place beside Bluetooth, Bluetooth LE, Zigbee, WiFi, and cellular. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, so depending on your application, we would choose the optimal technology.

BLEBluetoothZigbeeLoRaWANSigFoxWi-FiCellular

Range

Short (3-10 meters)

Short(3-10 meters unless the power is increased)

Medium range up to 100 meters

Long, 2m-45km

Long, 10-50km

Medium range up to 100 meters

Long, 1-10km

Operating Frequency

2.4 to 2.485 GHz

2.4 to 2.485 GHz

868 MHz (EU, Japan) 915 MHz (ISM, US) 2.4 GHz (worldwide)

109, 433, 868, 902-928 MHz

868MHz, 902-928 MHz

2.4 & 5GHz

1G, 2G, 3G, 4G. LTE, & 5GHz

Data Rate

Low 35 kbit/s

Low and high 1–3 Mbit/s

Low 250k bit/s

Low 300-50k bit/s uses Chirp

Low 300bit/s BPSK, GFSK

High

High

Supports Video Data Rate

No

Limited

Limited

No

No

HD video

HD video

Supports Voice & Text

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Cost

Very low cost

Very low cost

Low cost of parts, implementation can be expensive

Very low cost

Very low cost

Low cost with new Wi-Fi modules

Med cost

Power Consumption

Very low power
Sleep mode

Low power
Sleep mode Long wake-up time

Very low power
Sleep mode

Very low power
Sleep mode

Very low power
Sleep mode

Generally not suited to battery applications, but some standards support low power

High

Networking Topology

Point-to-point

Point-to-point

Point-to-point, star or mesh

Point-to-point, star or mesh

Point-to-point, star or mesh

Star

Star

Typical applications

Widely used for short distances

Widely used for short distances

Widely used in industrial commercial applications like lighting control and process control

Increasing used for IoT industrial and commercial applications

Text & low data, IoT applications like burglary alarms and tracking devices

Excels at carrying Ethernet signals wirelessly Widely used to connect devices to PCs

Mobile phones and devices

Strengths

Low power

Designed to replace wires in portable applications

Excellent for very low data rate in battery powered applications
Can extend transmission distance by passing data from node to node

IP-based wireless interoperability Low cost gateways Location awareness

Rapidly establishing global network, good coverage in Europe

Designed for stationary base station with multiple portable devices Ethernet data rates

Existing global network

Weaknesses

Limited range

Long wake-up time Limited range

Complicated software to implement – some vendors have Zigbee-like solutions to overcome this

No global compliance on radio band Over air software updates possible but impractical

No global compliance on radio band No location awareness Private network is not possible

Can be used for battery operation, if the data is not sent continuously Sleep mode

High power consumption

Home
Power – How much data? How far?

In wireless transmission, there are three things that must be managed: the power that is required to transmit, the data rate, and how far you’re transmitting. This table shows the detailed power calculation for the different wireless technologies for several different data rates and distances. While this is not the only criteria for the wireless technology choice, it provides a useful guideline for assessing the battery requirements. Although SigFox is not included in the table below, it would closely match LoRa.

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