When talking about future-proof solutions we always face a dilemma – we can’t know what the future looks like. We can make educated guesses and we can have well-argued opinions, but at the end of the day we simply don’t know. This doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t prepare for different scenarios and choose technologies that are as future-proof as possible - by nature. This blog concentrates on what makes a wireless last mile technology future-proof.
First of all, technology should never be the starting point; instead we should concentrate on business and application needs. These needs evolve over time and so should the technology. When choosing a wireless connectivity solution for devices one should pay attention to at least five factors:
- Scalability, in terms of the number of devices, network coverage, and data capacity
- Remote upgradeability
- Software & hardware decoupling
- Flexibility for different application needs
- Continuous development
The number of devices and the amount of data they produce is going to grow rapidly. Internet-of-Things (IoT) installations often start small and have planned growth. The actual growth might be considerably faster that the projected one. Thus, the wireless technology should be able to handle the increased number of devices, expanding coverage needs, and increased capacity demands; all at a reasonable cost.
Providing the means for cost-effective upgrades to a vast amount of devices installed in the field is a crucial element for the IoT. In this sense the IoT does not and will not differ from traditional IT or OT systems. There is a need for remote software/firmware updates for optimizations, bug fixes, and security patches. As the IoT applications evolve, new features and performance enhancements may need to be supported with the already installed base of devices.
Software & hardware decoupling
Technologies are evolving fast in order to respond to various needs of the IoT. In the wireless domain the main technologies are the protocols dictating how devices communicate with each other and with the RF chipsets which are running the protocols. Thus, to gain the maximum benefits in performance and cost the wireless protocol should be hardware agnostic. This way the best of both worlds can be combined for specific applications at any given time.
Flexibility for different application needs
To provide a good fit to application needs, the wireless technology should include a degree of flexibility. It should enable energy, latency, throughput, and device-to-device range tradeoffs. This way, the wireless technology supports the applications instead of application adapting to the protocol. Adaptable wireless technology enables businesses to use the same protocol to cover a multitude of current and future applications and even consolidate devices with differing requirements on to the same wireless system.
New potential applications for the IoT popup continuously, and the range of requirements for wireless technologies is wide. Even in established applications, the needs grow as the benefits become visible and more functionality is added to existing systems. Thus, a sustainable technology should be under continuous development to evolve with the applications. Also, short development cycles are important to provide a lean approach with good reactivity and fast time-to- market in emerging areas.
The IoT should evolve to solve business and application needs. To be future-proof and sustainable the technologies used should evolve over time and per application. This is especially crucial with the IoT, which is still a relatively young and rapidly developing area. Due to the extremely vast application space there isn’t, and most probably will not be, a one-size-fits-all solution. It is sustainable and future-proof business to make sure that wireless systems are scalable, flexible and continuously developed. Making sure that the wireless protocol can be used in any device, with any radio chip and on any radio band is a good start.
We often refer to revolutions and disruptions in business language. Those words might make sense technology wise and in the short time frame. However, if we are talking about business needs and long haul, things evolve. Gradual development and change based on business needs makes sense –this is natural development.
– Ville Kaseva, CTO, Wirepas –
P.S. The April blog will discuss functional value in IoT connectivity