IoT gateways are one of the most crucial elements in the IoT ecosystem. They serve as a bridge between data systems/external networks and IoT devices, and in this post, we will tell you all you need to know about IoT gateways.
So, without wasting much time, let’s dive into it:
What is an IoT Gateway-And Do You Need one?
An IoT gateway behaves similarly to a traditional gateway. It serves as an entry and exit point for converting data from one protocol to another to enable communication between different IoT technologies. IoT gateways can either be physical devices or hardware that are established between interconnected IoT devices and an external system such as the cloud.
So, what an IoT gate does is translate the protocols from the various devices into a protocol that the cloud will understand and vice versa. However, unlike a conventional gateway, IoT gateways have a smart feature that makes them different. Because not only do they translate protocols, they can collect and pre-process sensor data all at the edge of the network before delivering them to the cloud.
Another feature that makes IoT gateways smart is the fact that they can handle large amounts of data. As the number of IoT devices grows, they tend to generate more data. Sending all these generated data to and from the cloud can be overwhelming. Therefore, IoT gateways handle this situation by filtering out and sending only critical data or unusual data to the cloud to prevent the system from being overwhelmed.
Let’s take an example, a multi-level office block can have thousands of sensors used to measure temperatures, control light, and control other activities, and all these sensors will be connected to a single gateway. Well, all these sensors will be generating data every second which will be sent to the gateway.
So, what the gateway will do is that it will filter out some of the data it receives and only send anomalous data to the cloud. What this means is that an IoT device will only send out data to the cloud if the air quality is lower or higher than the predetermined air quality index range, and ignore any normal or AQI data.
IoT gateways are smart, and they do offer more benefits than just filtering out and delivering data to the cloud. Some gateways can be programmed to take action if necessary. And some can perform certain security features such as authentication and encryption.
Reason Why IoT Gateways Are Needed:
Why do we need IoT gateways? And can’t the sensor nodes transmit data directly to the cloud? Well, real-world IoT implementations come with certain challenges. One major constraint is that these sensors run on batteries that are expected to last for years. So, if they are to transmit data directly to the cloud, their battery would be drained drastically, and we might be required to charge these devices always. So, what happens is that these sensors transmit their data to gateways via low-powered protocols such as BLE or mesh. The information gets to the gateway and then it gets re-routed to the cloud.
Also, these IoTs can translate several protocols into a protocol understandable by the cloud. So, you definitely need a gateway if you are dealing with multiple IoT devices that need to transmit data to and from the cloud.
Should I Buy Or Build My IoT Gateway?
Now we know what an IoT gateway is and its importance, one major question people have is whether to build their own IoT gateway or buy one off the shelf. Well, if you have yourself in this dilemma, then this section should help you make the right choice.
As awesome as building your gateway may seem, building your own gateway comes with its pros and cons. Building your own gateway can be quite a tiring process because your IT team will be required to manage every production process such as hardware and software development, connectivity, security integrations, and what have you.
Also, you will need to factor in future situations such as software and firmware updates. Summing all these processes and management can make building your own gateway a tiring process which can increase security risk, and can cause you to miss your window of opportunity. However, it becomes hectic when the industry changes and you need to start the whole process all over.
However, if you can accomplish these processes fast, then building your own IoT gateway wouldn’t be a bad idea since you will have a gateway tailored to meet the needs of your company. These gateways are easy to manage however, if your business has specific needs, these gateways might not be ideal for you.
That being said, below are some of the most popular IoT gateways on the market:
How To Choose An IoT Gateway: 8 Things To Consider:
One of the few things you need to keep in mind when choosing the right gateway technology is radio technology. The type of radio technology you choose can affect your data throughput speed, price, and power consumption.
When it comes to radio technologies used in IoT gateways, you have four options.
i. High-Speed Cellular
Some IoT gateways are designed with certain cellular technologies ranging from 3G, 4G, or 5G. These types of gateways are fast; however, they can be quite pricey compared to other radio technologies. So, if you or your business wants a gateway with little to low latency and fast speeds, then you might want to purchase a gateway made of cellular radio technology.
Besides the price, another downside of these IoT gateways is that they consume more power, which means they aren’t ideal for power-conscious deployments. These types of gateways are used for IoT devices that are spread across a geographical area.
IoT-focused radio technology gateways consume less power compared to high-speed cellular options. However, these types of cellular options offer low speeds, nevertheless, the speeds offered by these IoT gateways provide enough bandwidth to download data at an ideal rate for most IoT devices.
Some common technologies under this section include CAT-M1 and NB-IoT. CAT M1 is the fastest of the two options and it offers enough data rate speed which makes 2G and 3G high-speed cellular options, with a bandwidth of 1.4 MHz.
IoT-focused cellular radio technologies are ideal for businesses that need an adequate speed and a reliable connection or power-conscious deployments.
These radio technology IoT gateways are used when your main concern is cost because they are used for low-cost deployments. As their name implies (wide area, and non-cellular), they are used to communicate with remote assets without the use of the internet. However, the downside to this radio technology is that it doesn’t cover many areas. These gateways are used in municipal areas.
These types of gateways are perfect for homes and small offices. They include protocols such as WiFi and Bluetooth and ZigBee. These types of gateways are deployed in areas where the user has an alternative source of internet. ZigBee is an industrial radio gateway technology used to communicate with remote devices on a site.
These protocols are mostly found in gateways used for local communication. The data is then collected and then transferred to a remote server via cellular.
2.Fixed Or Mobile
Depending on the nature of your business, you might want to go in for a fixed or mobile gateway. For example, assuming you have a restaurant that delivers food via food trucks, then you might want to go in for a mobile gateway since they are built to withstand these conditions. However, if you have a stationary business, then you might want to purchase a fixed gateway. That been said, let’s take a look at how these two types vary.
Fixed gateways are most ac-powered gateways that are used in situations where there is no mobility needed such as in a utility environment. These gateways are used for remote monitoring and backing up the main connection, and can act as a stand-alone without you having to purchase a router.
These gateways are ruggedly built to withstand the road. They are DC-powered, which means, they can be used in vehicles and without any fluctuating power supply. These gateways also come equipped with GPS to help you track routes and logistics. We highly recommend mobile gateways to businesses that might not be sure how their business logistics will change in the next 5 years.
Every gateway cannot process every protocol in the world. So, it is important that when you are choosing a gateway, you consider the protocols the gateway use on both the OT and the IT side. You want to ensure that these protocols are compatible with the applications and your purpose.
You need to make sure that you check the processing specifications of your gateway. These include features like processing speed, internal memory, and RAM. These factors are crucial when deciding on the gateway to choose for your business because depending on the type of applications you might be running, you might need a gateway with higher processing capabilities or lower processing capabilities. Choosing the right gateway will also determine how much data is uploaded to the cloud or be downloaded to your applications.
5.Ease Of Use
This factors in the configuration method of the gateway. There are numerous configuration methods used by gateways of different brands. For example, some gateways can be configured using a command prompt, while others offer a simple GUI to help you easily configure your gateway. So, you want to choose a gateway that gives uses a programming language you are familiar with or offers a simple GUI for configurations.
6.Certifications For Industrial Usage
Depending on where you want to use your gateway, you want to make sure that the gateway you purchase has the right certification for either industrial use or other uses. You want to make sure that the gateway you use has some sort of IP certification or other certifications such as UL or CE safety certifications.
7.Input and Output Models
Most gateways come with either analog or digital input and output options. Digital inputs and outputs operate in two states, 1 or 0 (on or off), they communicate via sending a pulse and then go off, which makes them great if you are looking to count events. Digital gateways can support up to 16,000 channels, which is a great option if you are using numerous applications. These gateways provide highly reliable IP communications that are interoperable with many application servers, soft switches, and VOIP elements.
Analog inputs and outputs, on the other hand, come with up to 288 ports. These types of gateways offer you a rich set of subscriber calling features, and you can easily leverage existing fax systems, modems, and analog telephone.
Another thing to consider has to do with how you are going to power your gateway. There are two types of options for powering your IoT gateway; you can either use AC or DC power to keep the device running. Let us take a look at the pros and cons of each.
If you are using your gateway in your home or office or any building, then it will be ideal to go in for an AC power adapter. These types of gateways power plugs are suitable for connecting them to a wall socket. Most homes and offices use AC power, so, all you need to do is to plug your gateway into the wall, and it will work. However, you want to make sure that the prongs of your gateway are compatible with the prongs of the socket you use at home.
Some gateways are designed for DC power sources. DC power sources include cars, generators, or any device that is powered via battery. Compared to AC power, DC power fluctuates and the power supply isn’t steady; however, this is factored into the design of such DC gateways. So, if you are looking for a gateway for your car, ship, or any automobile, or most industrial applications then you might want to go with a DC-powered gateway.
iii.Power Over Ethernet
POE-powered gateways allow you to send both data and power via one cable. These types of gateways help you maximize your coverage by allowing you to move the gateway closer to the outside. These are ideal for remote IoT devices that do not have an AC power option.