The Internet of Things (IoT) is comprised of multiple layers, one of which is IoT gateways. These gateways play an essential role in maintaining device connectivity, translating protocols, and managing data transmissions. Here we dive into IoT gateways: What they mean, why they are important, and the various types of gateways commonly used by businesses and organizations around the world.
What Are IoT Gateways?
IoT Gateways are devices that are designed to provide a bridge between different communication technologies. They are used to connect the likes of IoT sensors, equipment, devices, systems, and the internet or the cloud. For example, if we take a smart meter sensor, a gateway used in such a system would aggregate all of the data generated and collected by the sensor, translate the sensor’s protocols, and pre-process the data before delivering it to the next stop or node on the network.
By connecting the internet or the cloud with devices deployed in the field, IoT gateways provide networks with local processing and storage solutions. They also make it possible to autonomously control field devices using data generated by the sensors, thanks to the processing power of the attached gateways.
IoT devices typically connect to their gateways via short-range wireless transmission protocols such as Zigbee, Z-wave, Bluetooth, or via long-range technologies such as LTE-M, LTE, and Wi-Fi. Gateways can then connect to the internet via fiber optic WAN or ethernet LAN.
Why Your IoT Deployment Needs a Gateway
Gateways close the communication gaps between devices, systems, sensors, the internet, or the cloud. By connecting IoT devices in this way, gateways provide useful processing and storage resources on a local level. They help your network secure, process, and filter information for analysis. Without gateways, it would be difficult to connect countless sensors and devices in the field – sometimes in the thousands – with a terminal processing node. Issues with connectivity, maintenance, and communications would make the system unnecessarily complex. With a gateway in place, sensor data can be securely collected, processed, and then forwarded in batches, and maintenance and uptime issues are also kept to a manageable level.
Key Features of an IoT Gateway
The key features of an IoT gateway are as follows:
- Bridge communications and establish machine-to-machine connections.
- Used as a data cache and as a streaming and buffer device.
- Offer offline services and allow for real-time control of connected devices.
- Aggregate data collected from the field for processing.
- Clean, pre-process and filter information before forwarding it to a terminal endpoint.
- Provide additional intelligence and analysis services in some IoT systems.
- Provide your deployment with added security redundancies.
- Used for device configuration and change management.
IoT Gateway Devices
There are many IoT gateway devices that individuals and organizations use within their IoT networks. The devices described below can serve as a gateway to an IoT system.
Mobile Phones and Tablets
Mobile phones and tablets can act as gateways that allow IoT devices to connect to the cloud. Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices in a phone-as-a-gateway (PaaG) setup enable users to connect to the cloud. Used as a gateway, these phones and tablets can reduce the cost of acquiring external IoT gateways. In many cases, Bluetooth devices use IP protocols to connect to the internet, making it possible to connect virtually any device in your home or office to an IoT network.
Routers are perhaps the most widely used of all IoT gateways. They transmit IP packets in and out of a local network and to and from IoT devices, making it possible for your smart sensors or other devices to connect to the internet and share the data they generate.
Using a router as an IoT gateway provides numerous benefits to enterprises and individuals. For instance, they can seamlessly connect and integrate with your system at little upfront cost. Also, they offer supervisory control and aggregation of data if needed. Finally, some routers come with edge computing resources for low-bandwidth analysis and faster insights.
Hotspots have become widely popular in the IoT world. They use a wireless standard that allows people to directly create a connection between two or more devices, eliminating the need for a wireless router. For example, using a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can connect your computer or smartphone to your TV to stream movies. The connection between the two devices is created using a protocol called Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). Hotspots such as Wi-Fi Direct come with several additional protocols such as Zero Configuration Networking, Universal Plug-and-Play, and Device Profiles to make them easier to use and more useful in different settings.
Benefits of Using IoT Gateways
Here are some of the key benefits of using IoT gateways.
Improve Response Times by Pre-Processing Data at the Edge
Edge computing involves enabling computation and analysis closer to where data is collected, or analysis is needed. IoT gateways can come pre-fitted with unique software features that allow this kind of edge computing and can process much of the data generated by IoT sensors or devices wherever they are deployed. Your IoT gateway will use its edge computing resources to collect, analyze, and trim the large volumes of data that it receives into a more manageable size. In this way, IoT gateways can filter out data that is not required at the endpoint, thereby ensuring that less data is forwarded to the next point. This process can save a considerable amount of bandwidth, lower transmission costs, and extend device longevity.
Secure IoT Data by Providing an Extra Line of Defense
An IoT gateway serves as the first line of defense in your network. It decreases your devices’ direct exposure to the internet and other outside parties. All IoT devices must be connected to the gateway before they can communicate with any other devices or networks. Without a gateway serving as a communication bridge, the entire IoT network would be at risk.
Boost the Energy Efficiency of Your IoT Devices
IoT sensors are designed to minimize their use of energy and to send data to cellular towers, satellites, or other devices as efficiently as possible. Still, application failures as a result of inadequate battery power are not uncommon. IoT gateways can help reduce the energy consumption of your IoT devices. This will allow them to function better and for longer since they would only need short-range transmission capabilities.
If you are interested in learning more about gateways, IoT devices, and how you can improve your business connectivity, Kajeet’s Solutions Engineers can help. We will help you plan, set up, and run an IoT program that optimizes data usage, secures your network, and ensures efficiency across your business operations. Whatever field or industry you operate in, we can help. Contact us today for a consultation with one of our IoT Solution Engineers.