What is an IoT Solution Provider?

Definition

An IoT solution provider is a company or organization that facilitates the deployment of the Internet of Things.

Why it's important

IoT solution providers come in all shapes and sizes. In terms of real estate IoT, there are generally three components for which a provider may support a deployment: hardware and installation, networking, and software and analytics.

IoT Solution Provider chart

The hardware and installation aspect involves the physical deployment of sensors throughout a building. IoT solution providers may be focused on one sensor type, such as leak detection, or may offer a suite of proprietary and openly-accessible sensor types.

The networking component can become very complicated when deployments are made at a large scale. Here is a quick guide to understanding the decision making process for networking:

Components

1) The Nodes

This is the actual device collecting data (eg. electrical meter, moisture/water sensor, air quality sensor, etc.) The capabilities of the device determine the next step: the type of wireless network interface.

In some cases, IoT devices support a wireless communication interface themselves; however, more often the device communicates in one or more protocols (Modbus TCP/RTU, Bacnet, Pulse), which are traditionally wire-based. To make devices communicate wirelessly, additional hardware is required.

2) Wireless Communications

Devices that enable wireless communications either attach to a node or act as an access point, station, or repeater. The optimal configuration will depend on the length of the transmission and the layout of the building. There are several options available today. The most popular are WiFi (2.4Ghz/ 5Ghz), Cellular (3G/4G), and one of the many protocols on the sub-GHz (433 MHz/ 868 MHz/ 900 MHz).

The desired frequency is determined by the length of the transmission and bandwidth required. The lower the frequency, the better the penetration between walls, floors, etc. The higher the frequency, the more bandwidth you have within your network.

3) Gateway(s)

Ideally, there is one gateway, but because there are so many IoT devices, there is often a mix of nodes with different communication protocols, leading to multiple wireless interfaces, and operating on multiple frequencies.

The gateway often has two jobs: to act as the medium to communicate with the cloud and as a totalizer to aggregate all data from many nodes.

Finally, there is the data and analytics component. As data flows into the cloud, some IoT solution providers will leave it up to the client to apply their own analytics and algorithms. This is often a mistake, especially in commercial real estate, where there is almost no expertise in this kind of development.

It takes a long time to build the data set and library of insights necessary to provide a valuable analytics solution, but it is often necessary to get the full value of the IoT.

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