IoT Connectivity: A Shortlist of Options

IoT Connectivity: A Shortlist of Options

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The Ultimate Guide to IoT Connectivity

IoT connectivity refers to the technologies, protocols, and networks that allow IoT devices to connect and communicate with each other and the internet.

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Very Engineering Team

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Very Engineering Team

June 29, 2023
9 min read

Imagine living in a high-rise apartment building that can predict (and prevent) when HVAC is about to breakdown, or stepping into a healthcare facility where devices gather patient data in real time for optimal care. From smart homes to healthcare, manufacturing to transportation, IoT devices are transforming industries and revolutionizing how we live. But at the heart of this revolution lies robust and reliable connectivity — the backbone that brings the Internet of Things (IoT) to life. 

Now that we’ve acknowledged the transformational impact of IoT, it’s important to understand the elements that power this revolution. A key component among these elements is the IoT devices themselves.

What Are IoT Devices? 

To get a clearer picture of IoT devices, let’s take a trip to an advanced manufacturing facility. Here, the assembly line is bustling not just with human activity, but with machines carrying out intricate, automated tasks. These machines, equipped with sensors, communicate with each other, making real-time decisions about quality control, maintenance needs, and inventory. In this setup, an anomaly detected by one machine can trigger an alert or an immediate response from another, ensuring the assembly line’s smooth operation. These devices, any physical piece of hardware programmed to interact with people, systems, or other devices across the internet, are the “things” communicating with each other in the system — the ‘T’ in ‘IoT.’

Devices can have a wide range of functions, from real-time sensing and monitoring, to remote control and actuation. Some devices like thermostats, doorbell cameras, etc. can include both sensors and actuators.

IoT devices find applications in consumer, enterprise, and industrial environments, providing real-world functionality and creating a network of connected devices. If you’re contemplating building or utilizing one, be sure to get familiar with these fundamentals

What Is IoT Connectivity? 

Simply put, IoT connectivity refers to the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that allows IoT devices to connect and communicate with each other and the internet. It encompasses the technologies, protocols, and networks that facilitate the exchange of information between IoT devices, enabling them to operate intelligently and deliver value in various applications.

IoT connectivity allows devices to connect to the internet, other devices, or a central hub to transmit and receive data. It enables real-time monitoring, control, and data analysis, paving the way for automation, optimization, and innovation across industries.

Importance of IoT Connectivity

You might think IoT connectivity is all about transferring data, but it’s so much more than that — oftentimes, it plays a pivotal role in shaping the success and effectiveness of IoT deployments. It is, after all, the ‘I’ in ‘IoT’. 

Even intermittent connectivity has contributed to the advancement of IoT. Real-time connectivity isn’t always necessary, especially with low-power devices that communicate infrequently yet bring about significant industry transformations.

Connectivity is crucial as it underpins the functionality and value of IoT solutions regardless of your application. Imagine running a large grocery store chain with IoT-enabled refrigerators. These devices consistently relay temperature and humidity data to a central system, crucial for avoiding spoilage. Without reliable IoT connectivity, this vital data stream halts, potentially leading to significant losses, food waste, and health risks for consumers if suboptimal conditions go unnoticed. Just as your grocery store relies on consistent IoT connectivity, countless other operations depend on it to maintain safety and profitability as well as to ensure seamless functioning. By prioritizing a robust connectivity infrastructure, you’re opening the door to enhanced automation, greater predictability, and increased efficiency. 

Not only that, IoT connectivity also provides the foundation for scaling your deployments, allowing you to add new devices, locations, or applications without disruption.

How IoT Connectivity Works

At its core, IoT connectivity is like an intricate dance of protocols, gateways, and cloud platforms, all working together to enable smooth data exchange and communication.

Protocols serve as the language through which IoT devices communicate with each other and with the broader network. And while each protocol has its own advantages and use cases, they all aim to ensure efficient and secure transmission of data between devices. 

Gateways play a crucial role in IoT connectivity by acting as intermediaries between devices and the central network or cloud. They serve as communication hubs, aggregating data from multiple devices and translating between different protocols.

Once the data reaches the cloud, IoT platforms and cloud services play a crucial role in its management and interpretation. They provide the infrastructure for storing, processing, analyzing, and displaying the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices. With cloud-based IoT platforms, you can expect reliable and efficient management of IoT devices, including device updates, remote monitoring, and control. 

To delve deeper into the functional intricacies of IoT connectivity, you can learn more here.

Challenges of IoT Connectivity

Challenges for IoT Connectivity

Let’s face it – in the world of IoT connectivity, it’s not always smooth sailing. There are a few common challenges that could put a dent in the seamless operation of interconnected devices:

  1. Range: Not all IoT deployments require long-range connectivity, but for some use cases it’s crucial. In these contexts, the ability to transmit and receive data effectively across vast areas presents unique challenges in terms of signal strength, coverage, and network infrastructure.
  1. Scalability: As the number of connected devices and data traffic increases, managing scalability becomes a significant challenge. IoT ecosystems need to accommodate the growing influx of devices, handle data efficiently, and maintain seamless connectivity without compromising performance.
  1. Interoperability: The diverse landscape of IoT devices and platforms often results in compatibility issues and communication barriers. Ensuring interoperability between different devices and systems is vital for smooth deployments.
  1. Security: Protecting against unauthorized access, data breaches, and malicious attacks requires implementing strong encryption, authentication mechanisms, and comprehensive security protocols.
  1. Power Consumption: IoT devices often operate on limited power sources, such as batteries or energy harvesting. Optimizing power consumption and extending device lifespan are critical challenges that often require efficient power management techniques, low-power components, and energy-saving protocols.
  1. Reliability: In addition to the above challenges, ensuring reliable connectivity is a crucial aspect of IoT deployments. With IoT devices that constantly move, or environments that change, it’s essential to have a plan in place for dealing with connectivity failures. 

Types of IoT Connectivity

IoT connectivity comes in various forms to accommodate different communication needs and ranges. Here are the three primary types of IoT connectivity:

  1. Short-range connectivity: This type of connectivity is suitable for devices within close proximity to each other. Examples of short-range connectivity technologies include Bluetooth, WiFi, Zigbee, NFC (Near Field Communication), and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). These technologies are commonly used for smart home devices, wearable devices, and local network connections.
  1. Medium-range connectivity: Designed for devices that require broader coverage than short-range options, medium-range connectivity offers a wider reach. Two prominent technologies in this category are LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution for Machines) and NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT). They provide reliable and efficient communication for applications such as smart metering, asset tracking, and agricultural monitoring.
  1. Long-range connectivity: As the name suggests, long-range connectivity enables devices to communicate over extended distances, often spanning miles. LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), Sigfox, and cellular (particularly 4G and increasingly 5G) are examples of long-range connectivity technologies. These technologies are well-suited for applications such as fleet management, industrial monitoring, and environmental sensing.

How do you know which of the technologies may be best for your IoT project? We go into detail about a few of the common options in these blog posts that compare the differences between WiFi vs. Cellular as well as Bluetooth vs. WiFi

Best IoT Protocols 

Choosing the best IoT protocol for your specific needs depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of your IoT application, data requirements, network infrastructure, scalability, security considerations, and compatibility with existing systems. Here are some common IoT protocols with a brief rundown of their notable attributes:

  1. MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport): A lightweight publish-subscribe messaging protocol for real-time data transmission with low bandwidth and power consumption. 
  1. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): Commonly used for device management, data retrieval, and API integration in IoT. It leverages existing web infrastructure and security mechanisms.
  1. CoAP (Constrained Application Protocol): A lightweight protocol for resource-constrained IoT devices, offering efficient communication over low-power networks and supporting RESTful interactions.
  1. AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol): A robust and reliable protocol for message-oriented middleware, ensuring secure and interoperable communication between IoT devices and backend systems.
  1. Zigbee: A wireless communication protocol designed for low-power, low-data-rate applications, widely used in home automation, industrial control, and smart energy management.
  1. LoRaWAN: An emerging protocol that allows for long-range, low-bandwidth, and power-efficient connectivity. LoRaWAN is particularly useful for battery-operated devices that don’t require continuous connectivity, making it suitable for applications in larger facilities or agricultural operations.

Understanding and selecting the appropriate IoT protocols is crucial. Here at Very, we mostly (but not exclusively) use MQTT. If you’d like to know more about why, you can read this article to get acquainted with our preferred protocol.

Trends in IoT Connectivity

The landscape of IoT connectivity is constantly evolving, driven by advancements in tech and shifting industry demands. And while it’s difficult to say precisely what the future holds, there are several emerging trends that are shaping the future of IoT connectivity, including:

  1. Edge computing: The shift towards edge computing enables data processing and analysis at or near the network edge (rather than in a centralized cloud or data center), reducing latency and enhancing real-time decision-making capabilities.
  1. 5G integration: The deployment of 5G networks unlocks new possibilities for IoT connectivity, offering significantly higher data transfer speeds, lower latency, and increased device density compared to previous generations of cellular networks. 
  1. Hybrid connectivity models: Combining multiple connectivity options, such as a combination of cellular, Wi-Fi, and LPWAN, allows organizations to optimize connectivity based on specific use cases and requirements.
  1. Security enhancements: As IoT deployments grow, there is an increasing focus on strengthening security measures, including robust authentication, encryption protocols, and device management practices.

These trends are reshaping the way IoT devices connect and communicate, opening doors to new applications and possibilities. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay up to speed on new IoT insights.

Use Cases of IoT Connectivity

IoT connectivity is akin to a master key, unlocking countless opportunities across various industries. It’s completely reshaping the way businesses operate and opening the doors to new revenue opportunities. Here are some key use cases that highlight the transformative impact of IoT connectivity:

  1. Process Automation: IoT connectivity enables the automation of various processes, streamlining operations, and reducing manual intervention. It empowers businesses to optimize workflows, enhance efficiency, and improve productivity.
  1. Vehicle Fleet Management: With IoT connectivity, businesses can effectively manage and track their vehicle fleets in real time. It enables features like GPS tracking, route optimization, fuel monitoring, and driver behavior analysis. This can lead to cost savings, improved logistics, and enhanced fleet performance.
  1. Location Tracking: IoT connectivity facilitates accurate and real-time location tracking of assets, people, and inventory. It provides businesses with valuable insights into asset movement, inventory management, and supply chain optimization, enhancing operational efficiency and reducing losses.
  1. Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance: By leveraging IoT connectivity and data analytics, businesses can monitor, analyze, and optimize the performance of their assets. Real-time data collection and analysis enable condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. This approach supports optimal asset performance, reduces costly “surprise” breakdowns, and maximizes equipment uptime. 


Let’s end with a sneak peek into the future. Picture your morning in a few years: your alarm rings, the curtains automatically open to let in the sunrise, your favorite song starts playing, and your coffee machine gets to work on your morning brew. Sounds like a dream, right? But with the continuous advancements in IoT and its connectivity, this dream is closer to reality than you might think. 

These use cases exemplify the diverse applications of IoT connectivity, showcasing its ability to drive efficiency, improve outcomes, and create value across industries. By embracing IoT connectivity, businesses can elevate their operational excellence and establish a competitive edge.