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Internet of Things part 2: WLAN, Bluetooth Low Energy and cellular M2M

15 May 2018

It is the latest trend: connecting objects. Countless organisations are already investing into making their products smart. They use the resulting information to e.g. optimise the efficiency of their processes, save energy or improve usability. But what is the best way to go about this? Which technology should you choose? And how can you use this technology so it gives you the exact information you need? In this series of blog articles, we will offer you valuable information and guidelines related to the Internet of Things. This is part 2: about the technologies WLAN, Bluetooth Low Energy and cellular M2M.

We live in a new age. A time when everything and everyone is connected and smart devices can communicate with us and each other. This is the age of the Internet of Things. Think of a refrigerator that knows when your milk has expired and automatically orders a new bottle, or a water faucet that automatically detects leaks, shuts off the water supply and then contacts the water company. The developments are moving fast. In 2016, 6.4 billion devices all over the world were connected to the internet. That was 30% more than in 2015. According to the research agency Gartner, this number will grow to more than 20 billion by the year 2020.

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Three technologies to connect your product to the internet 

There are several technologies that you can use to connect your product to the internet, so it can communicate with other connected devices. Below, you can read everything about connecting devices via WLAN, Bluetooth Low Energy and cellular M2M. 

1.    Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
WLAN, commonly called WiFi, is a wireless network that is mainly used for internet connections at home or in the workplace. The network runs on the globally licence-free 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands. The relatively high bandwidth allows users to send large quantities of data in a short time. Its range is circa 32 metres, which means WLAN is not suitable for long-range connectivity.
 

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2.    Bluetooth Low Energy
Like WLAN, Bluetooth is a short-range solution. Bluetooth operates on licence-free frequencies between 2.4 and 2.485 GHz and it can switch between different frequencies to limit interference from other devices. This technology is energy efficient, which also limits the available bandwidth. This means users can only transport small quantities of data. Bluetooth is perfectly suited to link small electronic devices, e.g. connecting a smartphone to a wireless speaker to play music.

Furthermore, Bluetooth can be used in combination with a mobile phone that serves as a gateway. If the right app is installed on the phone, devices can exchange data with the internet via the phone. This method – known as Bluetooth Low Energy – is characterised by its extremely low energy requirements and its relatively low implementation costs. Many common devices use this technology, from toothbrushes and washing machines to kitchen appliances and even toys. 


3.    Cellular M2M
Cellular M2M (machine-to-machine) uses radio waves in the same way that a phone uses a SIM card. The range depends on the presence of transmitter masts; from a mast, the range is 16 kilometres. Because of the large density of transmitter masts, this technology offers global coverage. You need a SIM card to connect an object to cellular M2M. Once connected, the object will retain its connection through roaming. Audio, text messages and data can be transmitted continuously, which means the energy requirements are relatively high. This makes cellular M2M mainly suitable for wearable and easily chargeable devices. The costs per minute or MB can be high, because you use a different network.

The specifications of WLAN, Bluetooth Low Energy and cellular M2M

  WLAN Bluetooth Low Energy Cellular M2M
Frequency Licence-free 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz ISM Licence-free 2.4 GHz to 2.48 GHz ISM Licensed radio frequencies. Dependent on location. The Netherlands: 800 MHz – 2.6 GHz. United States: 700 – 1900 MHz. Africa: 1.800 – 2.300 MHz. Asia 800 – 2600 MHz.
Range Max. 32 m Max. 100 m 16 km from the transmitter mast
Pros Large quantities of data in a short time Switching bandwidths to prevent interference  Global coverage with transmitter masts
Cons Very limited range Limited range, small quantities of data High energy consumption
Examples Parking metres, street lights, energy meters Audio and mobile applications, wearable devices Order button on a razor blade stand: order new blades with a single press of a button.

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