Cellular IoT & Data Connectivity

RemoteHVAC, an IoT company

Here at RemoteHVAC, we have developed a high-performance building analytics platform to help facility managers and building owners monitor their building performance. In order to truly track the performance of buildings and their core systems, we need to ensure that we get the correct data. To do this we create a sensor network and merge it with your existing building management system data. The tool is available on any internet compatible device, providing users with a detailed analysis of building operations, comfort levels, and environmental impact.

The Internet of Things

IoT is taking all the things in the world and connecting them to the internet- so it can send information, or receive information, or both. Things that collect and send information are sensors and can be for temperature, motion, moisture, vibration, air quality, light, and many more. Things that receive and act on information would be printers, car keys, electronic gates etc. Things that collect, send, receive and act on information- such as a heating fan- could turn on and off as needed, based on the set temperature required.

At RemoteHVAC we gather the data from the above sources on a proprietary collection device and push the anonymized data points to the cloud for fast and rich analysis. This provides facility managers and building owners with a much deeper level of insight and understanding of their building operations.

A Balancing Act

Say you want to send information wirelessly over a long distance. To increase the range you either have to increase the signal power (increasing battery consumption) or decrease the signal bandwidth. Therefore each sensor type needs to be deployed with the correct balance of transmission frequency as well as the correct level of signal power and bandwidth.

Cellular IoT options

Data points are collected, and sent to the cloud, before being processed in some way. But, how does it get there? There are many options to transmit data, and there are many considerations. At RemoteHVAC, we collect data from all over a building- so, we needed to rely on a wireless network that could pick up data from every corner, every floor and every room of a building. Below, are some examples of current wireless network options available.

Frequency Range Data Rates
Bluetooth 2.4GHz 0.5-100m 1Mbps
Cellular 900-2100MHz 35km (GSM), 200km (HSPA) 35kps-10Mbps
LoRaWAN 867-869 MHz (Europe) 2-15km 0.25-50kbps
NFC 13.56MHz 10cm 100-420kbps
Sigfox 900MHz 3-50km 10-1000bps
Thread 2.4GHZ N/A A 6LoWPAN protocol
Wifi 2.4GHz 5GHz 20-50m with a greater range outdoors 150-200Mbps (600Mbps max)
Z-wave 868-915MHz 30m 9.6-100kbit/s
ZigBee 2.4GHz 10-100m 250kbps

The importance of power

If you consider your phone- it uses a lot of power to send a lot of data over a medium distance (Wifi or Cellular), but you can charge your phone battery when it dies, so it’s power usage and battery capacity isn’t really a problem. But, if you use a sensor to send information (either waking from an external trigger or at a preprogrammed or timed interval) - you don’t want to have to charge that every day. Ideally, sensors will transmit small packets of information for years or even a decade with a single battery charge. With IoT applications, many technologies are suitable for low data rates (transmitting only small amounts of data) and don’t require the efficiency of consumer applications.

At RemoteHVAC we deploy and use sensors spread across buildings and even spread across estates, so the hardware relies on battery power. Rather than using power-hungry devices, a trade-off on power consumption is needed. The sensors are not constantly active- but transmit at various minute intervals. Other sensors only ‘wake up’ when they are needed, so their infrequent reporting requires less power.

What is a meshing network? Or a mesh of sensors

A mesh network is where data can be transferred node-to-node without adding routers. This is because each node is a data source and a repeater, allowing data to hop from node-to-node until it reaches a designated end-point or gateway (A gateway is like a bridge between the sensors and the cloud). This node-to-node method increases the range of a network with the consequence of adding complexity, reducing network capacity and requiring a larger power source for nodes to receive and forward data. To make a long-range network, there must be a gateway with a high volume for a high number of nodes, or further gateways added to increase capacity.

The Future is 5G

5G networks, the next generation of wireless communications with the promise of low latency, low power, greater capacity, and a faster data transfer rate than the current 4G network to support the increasing demand for interconnected devices. 5G is predicted to expand the IoT market into new sectors with the ability to gather, manage, and analyze in near to- real time. The first live 5G network in Ireland was launched in late November 2018 by Vodafone, with operators expected to follow.

Choosing which data to send, how to send, and how often you want to send it are all important considerations when choosing a cellular network. IoT as a technology - and as a market- is ever expanding, so expect some disruptive technologies to emerge. Watch this space.

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