If you’ve been following along in this blog series, you’ve seen how cellular connectivity can be ideal for IoT solutions in logistics, manufacturing, security, asset tracking, among myriad other industries. You’ve also learned what “cellular IoT” really means and some of its associated advantages.
Today I want to take a brief look at another de facto advantage of cellular, which is the utilization of an underlying infrastructure built up over decades.
An overlapping, interconnected mesh of connectivity, if you will:
Specifically, we are going to look at the topic of redundancy and its relation to cellular IoT. How prepared are you for all possible remote deployment scenarios throughout the lifespan of your IoT deployments? Are you banking on a tried-and-true connectivity method?
In this blog series, we are demystifying cellular and taking a critical look at four key topics related to wireless in the Internet of Things:
- What is Cellular IoT?
- The Advantages of Cellular IoT
- Common Use Cases for Cellular IoT
- Cellular IoT Network and Infrastructure Redundancy (that’s this one!)
Why Redundancy is Critical for IoT
What does happen if your device loses network connectivity? Can it still perform the tasks that it was built to do? Or does data accumulate in storage until the device is full, and then it fails hard?
Regardless of the why of a failure, your end users are less likely to blame their Wi-Fi routers and more likely to blame you, the device provider, for not account for all outage scenarios.
This is why redundancy is a critical component of proper cellular IoT deployments. With a contingency plan for every predictable failure point, you can maximize availability and reduce the impact of negative network issues. Even if you’re banking on Wi-Fi, wired Ethernet, or LoRaWAN, cellular can (and should) be a key consideration when crafting a fallback or redundant network solution.
Redundancy is important with the devices themselves, yes, but it’s just as important to work with a mobile network operator that considers redundancy at a higher level.
Cellular Network Redundancy
Many cellular IoT providers offer SIM cards limited to a single mobile network operator in a single geographic area. If this is the case, how do you deploy to rural areas with coverage on another network, not to mention other countries entirely?
A proper cellular IoT company will offer solutions that work with highly-regarded providers and their first-class partners in neighboring regions. When you can’t predict the country of deployment or the solution itself is meant to travel between geographic regions, a seamless reconnection from network to network is critical.
It’s also important to factor in which wireless standards your IoT module is using. For example, if you’re moving from a region with primarily GSM support to LTE, will your solution gracefully recover?
Cellular Infrastructure Redundancy
If you consider a traditional Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet deployment, your network relies on a single node or gateway to function. Your devices will only be connected to the network as long as that centralized connection point is also live.
Cellular, on the other hand, has a massive advantage in terms of overlapping tower coverage. If access to one cell tower is lost, there is a high probability of another tower taking over (albeit with possibly a weaker signal, but a signal nonetheless).
With this method of overlapping cell tower zones, your devices will always have a fallback connection should a centralized access point go down.
There is always an inherent risk with connecting to the Internet. We constantly work to mitigate those risks with SSL certificate verification, robust authentication protocols, VPNs, and the like.
Cellular holds numerous security-related advantages for those of us building in IoT:
- Mobile networks securely authenticate devices via SIM cards.
- Devices don’t “share” the network like they do on Wi-Fi, so they can’t interact with each other.
- Cell network firewalls can limit device connectivity to only core functions.
- Device manufacturers can provide a VPN tunnel from device to cloud without exposing it to a public Internet connection.
Using an IoT connectivity option with redundant network, infrastructure, and security is paramount. Cellular IoT is the best choice for a wide range of IoT applications, and the baked-in advantages of utilizing an existing mature network can’t be understated.