Selecting the right wireless protocol for smart cities

Selecting the right wireless protocol for smart cities
Governments across the globe are increasingly becoming interested in the concept of smart cities. According to data from MarketsandMarkets, the smart city market will grow to US$1.2 trillion by 2022 from $424.7 billion in 2017 at a CAGR of 23.1 percent as connectivity technologies and telecommunication systems grow rapidly to support hyper-urbanization.

Understandably, wireless connectivity is an integral part of smart city development and for best results, it is important that solutions are based on the best available wireless protocols. To this end, wireless solution providers are experimenting with various systems to offer customers the best product.

At present, there are several major wireless protocols that are gathering interest and customers are still not sure which among them would eventually become a dominant protocol. Perhaps it would be safe to say that we are still in the preliminary stages of smart city development and it would take considerable time before the market is able to point out a single major protocol. However, a closer look may tell you that things are not quite simple as it looks. 

The protocols in the market 

Although there are several promising technologies in the market, some experts have made a list of protocols that could be considered better than the rest. According to a recent research paper published by Gaurav Sarin of the Delhi School of Business, the five key protocols are 6LoWPAN, Zigbee, BLE, CoAP and MQTT. Others add protocols like Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, cellular, LoRaWan, SigFox, NB IoT, etc. 

The major factors that could decide which among them will gain popularity over the years would range from security and power demands, battery life and data requirements. According to Sarin, among the protocols that he pointed out, 6LoWPAN is the most prominent for city-level usage. Being able to support vast numbers of devices across large areas like cities, this protocol is considered ideal for low-power devices that transmit tiny amounts of data.

But while such suggestions are valid when it comes to the larger picture, from a systems integrator’s perspective the question would be what unique roles each of these protocols must play in different applications. The fact that many of these protocols are suited for different applications throws up the question of whether one can actually be more popular than the other.
Pankaj Vyas, R&D MD, Telit

What to remember when selecting protocol?

Finalizing on a wireless protocol can be tricky for a systems integrator (SI). Special care must be given to various aspects to ensure that the solution deployed is adequate for the needs.

According to Pankaj Vyas, R&D MD at Telit, there are six main points that SIs should keep in mind. They are:

Cost:

This refers to the expenses of setting up the network. While smart city projects are often government-funded and big-budget, SIs have to ensure that the costs do not get out of hand.

Ease of Deployment:

In this regard, the questions SI has to ask are whether the set up would require highly skilled personnel to operate, would it be easily programmable, how difficult it would be to access the system over the cloud, etc. “If you are a system administrator, you wouldn’t want to be burdened with finding manpower to just deploy this network,” he said.

Maintenance:

Close to this factor is the third point, which is how easy it is to maintain the network. Will the administrators need to check through each and every device to know how the status of the network or will it be possible to have a central monitoring and controlling system? This question becomes extremely crucial in the case of smart cities where multiple technologies and devices need to be integrated to work together.

Scalability:

A network may work well within a limited area, but if it has to be expanded further, would the technologies that are in use support it?

Future-readiness:

SIs also have to consider how “future ready” the protocol is. “You have to make sure you take care of what would come up in the future,” Vyas said. “Today you may not have many electrical vehicles on the streets and things like drones are yet to become that common. But we know that things are evolving faster than before.”

Security:

Above all, the single most crucial point that Sis should consider according to Vyas is security. Before going for a particular protocol, careful thought should be given to how secure it is for any application.

“As a system administrator, you would not want to get calls in the middle of the night saying someone has accessed the city lighting system or the water distribution system,” Vyas said.


Product Adopted:
Wireless Transmission


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