The Connectivity Conundrum in Industrial IoT

  Aug 14, 2019 8:50:25 AM

GSMA Intelligence anticipates that IIoT will grow at a rate of over 30% annually between 2018 and 2023 and IIoT will account for over half of all IoT connections in 2025.

One of the most critical decisions enterprises need to make to lay the foundation for IIoT is selecting the right connectivity technology. Connectivity can impact the success because poor choice can result in inferior performance or higher cost in the short-term and hinder scalability or necessitate an expensive swap in the long-term.

Key Industrial Connectivity Requirements:

  • Seamless integration into the existing (primarily wire-bound) connectivity infrastructure
  • Industrial-grade quality of service with stringent requirements of end-to-end latency
  • Be able to deal with high interference caused by industrial machines
  • Private network with seamless interoperability with public network
  • High data transmission rate for specific use cases
  • Able to handle number of devices per square foot in the factory environment
  • Increased network control as factories prefer easy, self-provisioned connected devices
  • Long-term availability of communication services and components
  • Energy efficiency
  • High adaptability and scalability


Connectivity Options
For Industry 4.0 we have both wired and wireless connectivity options.

●  Wired
The most relevant wired connectivity technologies for IIoT are Ethernet/IP and EtherCAT which are capable of determinism, real-time control and safety functionality coupled with fast transmission speeds ensuring that messages sent from IIoT end-devices are transmitted with 100% reliability. EtherCAT boasts 5x faster real-time response time as compared to other options. EtherCAT is relevant for use cases where there is a need for high-speed and high-precision control like industrial robots and welding.

    Response Time Jitter Data Rate Scalability Cost QOS
  Ethernet/IP 1 ms <1 ms 100 Mbit/s High High High
  EtherCAT 0.1 ms <0.1 ms 100 Mbit/s High Very High Very High

●  Wireless
The Industrial wireless connectivity technologies can be divided into three categories:

    • Proprietary LPWA such as SigFox, LoRa, which operate on unlicensed spectrum. They are typically deployed by non-telecom actors and are relevant for non-critical activities.
    • 3GPP2 standardized LPWA such as NB-IoT, LTE-M, which are operator managed networks and operate on licensed spectrum
    • ISA100: Wireless HART and ISA100.11a are specifically developed for the industrial automation environment. Both are low-rate, low-power mesh networks operating in the 2.4 GHz band
    Energy efficiency Data rate Scalability Cost QOS
  SigFox 10-20 years 100 bps High Very Low Very Low
  LoRa 10-20 years 50 kbps High Low Low
  NB-IoT >10 years 200 kbps High Medium Medium
  LTE-M >10 years 384 kbps High Medium High

Key Challenges in Industrial Connectivity:

  • Interoperability with Existing/New Machines and PLCs:
    A typical industrial network comprises heterogeneous installed base of legacy equipment and PLCs that use multiple specialized network protocols and have varied connectivity requirements. IIoT networks need to ensure that all devices can communicate with each other.
  • Facilitating Communication between OT and IT Worlds
    The integration of complex physical machinery with networked sensors and software is blurring the lines between IT and OT. IT does not include embedded technologies that do not generate data for enterprise use. The protocols that OT and IT use are very different.
  • Network Security
    As multiple devices are now connected on the same network, all entry points present the possibility of unauthorized access.

Choosing the Right Connectivity Technology
The problem of connectivity is complicated by the fact is that no single connectivity technology can meet the requirements of IIoT. Several wireless/wired communication protocols need to work in harmony to support multiple use cases.

 The Best Way Forward
There is no one-size-fits-all connectivity approach in the present environment. For critical operations, Industrial users will prefer wired communication technologies but for non-critical operations wireless connectivity is becoming prevalent. The choice of Connectivity technology will depend on the use case.

IIoT gateways which support different communication technologies and can connect legacy equipment with one unified communication protocol before transporting this data to IT systems will be the best bet for companies to manage the connectivity conundrum. IIoT gateways can be used to create a data transmission bridge between OT and IT worlds. The best IoT Gateway should:

  • Convert and connect legacy equipment with one unified communication protocol
  • Have Edge Analytics so that only the information useful to that application is passed to the cloud where the data will be analyzed
  • Connect multiple wired/wireless connectivity, support for multiple protocols and advanced security

Leveraging its three decades of expertise in Semiconductor and Connectivity technologies, Sasken has developed a platform agnostic modular IIoT Gateway software stack which has all the above features and can be customized quickly to reduce time-to-market and lay the foundation for Industrial IoT.

Posted by:
Neeraj Rattan
Senior Pre-Sales Consultant, Industrials Business, Sasken

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