What are the typical smart sensor technologies?

Smart sensors are used in various applications to integrate data capture in your environments. Internet of Things, commonly known as IoT is a very general term that includes all sorts of different devices that are being connected to each other and are able to exchange information.

The typical technologies used for connectivity to these devices are WiFi (2.4 and 5 GHz), Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) (2.4 GHz but a different channel than WiFi) and Sigfox (915 MHz). Each radio technology has its own use case and application.

How does IoT work?

IoT systems are very general, but typically require the following:

- Sensors to detects inputs from the world around them.
- Software to look at sensor data then follow rules to make decisions about how to respond to data.
- Software to manage the operation of a device which includes one or more sensor.
- An internet connection to transmit and receive data and instructions from other devices and an overall cloud package to monitor the sensors.

WiFi - Cloud Chain

WiFi sensors are used when the system designer wants to utilize existing WiFi infrastructure to obtain data from sensors. The sensors are typically allowed on a separate WiFi network utilizing access points that are already installed.

For example, Cloud Chain™ is a real-time temperature monitoring solution that harnesses WiFi temperature sensors to monitor assets current temperature conditions against a preset standard. If the built-in alert system notices an asset's temperature is outside the desire temperature range (set by the administrator), an alert message is sent to who is actually moving the assets and the person who oversees the in transit shipment.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)

Bluetooth is what your phone uses to make a two-way connection with your speaker or your car. The two way connection uses a lot of energy to ensure that it stays connected. This is great for transferring music and media but bad for battery. This is what inspired the creation of Bluetooth Low Energy, (BLE), to use less energy yet still transmit and receive meaningful information. BLE allows for way one transmitters (Beacons) and one way receivers (phones, Edge relays, etc.).

Beacons are devices that use the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) protocol to repeatedly send short transmissions, called advertisements, to mobile phones and other devices. Advertisements can contain identifier and/or sensor data and the brevity of these advertisements allows for battery operated use lasting several years.

Generally, you can use Beacons for two main things:
- Asset and People tracking
- Marketing or Retail

Beacons are fairly simple devices that repeatedly broadcast their IDs. It is up to a phone, Edge Relay, or some other type of receiving device to add meaning to that broadcast. All mobile phones need an application in order to work with the beacon data.

In their simplest form, beacons can be used to pinpoint your location. At their most complex, beacons can transmit and receive data from sensors and other beacons. Beacons enable (but are not limited to) the following use cases:

Sigfox

Sigfox is a global low power, wide area (LPWA) connectivity provider. It is a carrier-class public IoT network that today is available in over 60 countries across 5 million square km covered. Self-install connectivity kits are available for users without coverage. Sigfox connectivity operates in the unlicensed spectrum within the publicly available ISM radio band to transmit messages. It is worth noting unlicensed doesn’t mean unregulated; however, it is free to use, which is a key factor in how we are able to keep connectivity cost significantly lower than traditional IoT connectivity.

Sigfox devices are built to use low amounts of data and utilizing the low end of the spectrum all amounts to a very low battery use device. Depending on the number of messages sent per day, a battery can last ten or more years.

Another benefit of utilizing Sigfox is security. Sigfox has applied security by design in all steps of its protocol and in the development of its infrastructure. Although devices integrating the Sigfox technology are IoT objects, they are not directly connected to the Internet and do not communicate using the Internet protocol. Actually, those devices are not connected to any network or to any base station.

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