Understanding IoT Modules in 2018

IoT EnvironmentThe Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing and improving the way we work and live but it's only possible with pervasive, flexible and long lived wireless connectivity. At the heart of it all is a tiny device called the IoT Module that is responsible for connecting virtually anything to wireless networks. IoT Modules come with a wide range of wireless technology standards and they provide a variety of features that can impact the success of IoT applications. So, how do you select the right IoT Module for your solution? Let's begin with the basics…


What is an IoT module?

An IoT module is a small electronic device embedded in objects, machines and things that connect to wireless networks and sends and receives data. Sometimes referred to as a "radio chip", the IoT module contains the same technology and data circuits found in mobile phones but without features like a display or keypad. Another key differentiator of IoT modules is that they provide always on connectivity. This is because IoT applications need to send data automatically, in real time without someone hitting a send button. In addition, they are engineered for extreme durability and longevity and need to operate continuously for a decade or more to justify the business case and cost of the technology.

Why is durability so important in IoT modules?

Unlike consumer devices that are typically carried by the end user and used in controlled environments, IoT devices are often deployed in extreme environments and far flung locations like shipping containers or under seawater in harbor management solutions. IoT environments can be tremendously demanding with extreme temperatures, vibration and humidity. In addition, they're often in remote, hard to reach locations making it's cost prohibitive to send a technician out for repairs. It's essential that IoT modules are ruggedized to provide reliable connectivity without service interruption, regardless of location or which wireless network is utilized.

Is there one wireless technology that is better for IoT applications?  It all depends on application needs. 

Design an IoT solution from scratch or connect with a pre-made solution?   

IoT solutions are built to meet unique customer needs and each use-case has specific requirements for connectivity. For instance, large-scale projects connecting tens of thousands of global endpoints are markedly different than those connecting only hundreds of devices. Large projects with complex infrastructures typically require bespoke connectivity solutions that meet specific needs and integrate IoT modules. However, smaller scale projects can leverage pre-designed and pre-certified IoT Terminals that provide plug and play connectivity saving time and development expense. Either way, the next consideration is determining the best wireless technology to meet your business goals.

Which wireless technology standard is best?

IoT modules and IoT terminals use a variety of wireless technologies to stay seamlessly and securely connected. These range from 5G, 4G and 3G cellular solutions for high bandwidth applications like connected cars, to Low-Power, Wide-Area (LPWAN) solutions such as MTC (Machine Type Communication), Bluetooth and LoRa used for intelligent road systems, smart city applications and enterprise applications. Selecting the IoT device with the best features, bandwidth and price point for each use case is an important step toward achieving business and revenue goals. The choices can seem daunting at first, but experienced OEMs and developers can help weed through connectivity considerations to find the best match for each use case.

And preparing yourself with little background knowledge is always a good idea…

The IoT module decision tree: selecting the right IoT module for any use case

IoT ModulesThe right IoT module will help ease development, speed up time to market and ultimately improve ROI. At the beginning of IoT solution design, careful consideration must be given to determine the necessary features and potential world regions where the solution will be. Features must be matched with a price point that makes sense for the business case.

For instance, to design a product that communicates small data bits over European wireless networks, a cost effective 2G or 3G GSM module should do the trick. However, the decision becomes more complex when you intend to introduce a product in one region and expand to other world regions over time. In some cases, like with large global track and trace solutions, a multi mode module that operates on all cellular networks – 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE advanced - might cost more initially; however, it simplifies solution design and logistics which lowers total cost of ownership in the end. In other cases, module footprint compatibility might be all that is needed to develop just a few regionally specific IoT solutions that leverage differing radio bands but only one solution design. In all cases, a smart migration path to next generation technologies can help ensure that a short-term gain in component price will not end up costing more down the road. The key is seamless evolution.

IoT modules and connectivity, the heart of the IoT ecosystem

Pervasive wireless networks, a wide variety of reliable, secure IoT modules and terminals and flexible eSIM and On Demand Connectivity solutions are the key components necessary to connect IoT solutions - the first step in realizing the technology’s limitless opportunities.
Gemalto simplifies the process of getting connected by offering all elements necessary for reliable connectivity. Our solutions are helping innovative industrial leaders push through traditional roadblocks and seize new opportunities to change our world for the better. For decades, Gemalto has been helping customers select the best IoT modules and connectivity solutions for each and every IoT use case. By delivering all components necessary for IoT connectivity – IoT modules, terminals, embedded systems, eSIMs, ODC and more - Gemalto helps simplify and speed the process of getting connected with confidence.  For more information or help selecting the right IoT module for your next project, don’t hesitate to contact a local representative.  

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