IoT in the Enterprise: Deploying and supporting connectivity in the business environment
By Scott Willis, CEO of Zinwave
Like the transition from cell phone to smart phone, or from paper maps to GPS, wireless connectivity has transformed the way we do things, and we’re not going back to the old way of doing things any time soon. Chances are, if you haven’t already deployed IoT technologies into your workplace, you’re exploring the idea. An IoT-enabled enterprise has access to an array of benefits driven by connected technologies, including:
· Improved decision making
· Reduced overhead costs
· Real-time marketing
· Reduced human intervention
· Higher-quality data
· Better customer experiences
· Process improvement
· Optimized asset utilization
Businesses in several industries are already reaping these benefits with real-world IoT deployments:
Hilton Hotels is equipping more than 700,000 hotel room doors with Bluetooth technology so guests can use their smartphones to access their rooms via the Hilton app. The hotel chain is considering adding a way to connect bar and restaurant point-of-sale systems to the app, so guests can charge food and drinks to their room via their phone.
Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, is engaged in advanced research with a company that’s an incubator in the late stages of IoT product and service development. The technology collaboration collects bio-digital health information through wireless access directly from sensors worn by people at some level of health risk, gathering data like body temperature and heart rate to gauge someone’s health in real time.
An operator of 16 long-term care and retirement communities in Ontario, Canada, Schlegel Villages implemented IoT to provide point-of-care services and automated food services to residents. The network will eventually connect devices like security cameras, nurse call systems and HVAC systems.
NBA athletes now sport biometric-monitoring wearables during games to track and improve their performance and health, making them more competitive and providing insights during training. These devices will become more prevalent in professional sports and the public venues that host sporting events. The same base technology can be applied in healthcare settings for patient monitoring.
Based in Perth, Australia, Curtin University uses facial recognition, “people-counting” technologies, and video and sensor data, plus analytics, to monitor student course attendance and learn how building and parking garages are used.
These are just a few ways real organizations are using IoT right now — the possibilities are virtually endless. The quandary for many businesses, however, isn’t how to apply IoT, it’s how to support it.
IoT Needs Reliable Connectivity
In very general terms, the IoT chain has four components: a device and its data, connectivity, analytics and management. No data can be sent or received without constant, high-bandwidth connectivity that supports real-time data flow from the hundreds — even thousands — of devices and sensors living on the network. Without the layer of wireless connectivity, IoT can’t exist.
Wi-Fi may not be able to keep up with the demands of high-volume and critical IoT applications. Wi-Fi doesn’t provide a guaranteed quality of service, so networks that have requirements of high bandwidth, capacity or reliability aren’t certain to deliver the needed connectivity to make the whole system work.
That’s where enterprise-grade connectivity solutions come in, like a distributed antenna system (DAS) with private LTE capabilities. Private LTE is an alternative to Wi-Fi that takes advantage of technology commonly reserved for cellular communications and puts it to work for individual organizations. A Private LTE solution provides the owner with their own cellular network, which is much more robust than Wi-Fi. Such solutions are designed from the ground up to support business-critical applications, while also being able to scale IoT deployments as the scope of the deployment grows.
This type of connectivity operates in frequencies comparable to Wi-Fi, but DAS equipment is more powerful than traditional Wi-Fi access points. Provided the right equipment, an enterprise-grade solution will be able to cover wider areas, thus reducing the number of access points and wireless noise in the area. These solutions stand to outperform Wi-Fi in every metric.
More importantly, user experience is guaranteed with enterprise-grade DAS, which is an important benefit for businesses running mission-critical applications on their IoT deployment. While there are several available options for an enterprise-grade DAS, it’s important to keep in a mind a few specific requirements when choosing a network.
Finding an Enterprise-Grade IoT-Ready DAS
Enterprise-grade solutions exist because enterprises need more out of their communications network than consumer-grade solutions. To find an enterprise-grade DAS for private LTE, businesses should ask the following questions:
· How do employees prefer to communicate now?
· Does the solution need to provide access to everyone and everything in the office no matter which carrier they use?
· Which spectrum bands does the solution need to cover? Some solutions support cellular, public-safety, and other frequencies between 150 and 2700 MHz covered on a single hardware layer.
· How are upgrades handled to meet future connectivity and communication requirements?
· Will additional hardware be needed for future upgrades or does the solution support a “one-and-done” approach?
· What type of backhaul system is needed? Fiber, coaxial cable or a hybrid approach may be considered for an optimal deployment.
· Does the system support emerging technologies like IoT as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and 5G cellular — all of which need stable and reliable cellular connectivity?
These critical questions will guide an enterprise toward a network that is IoT- and future-ready — and, importantly, will provide a reasonable, simple way to scale for future IoT capabilities that might still be but a twinkle in an engineer’s eye.
Embrace the Future of IoT
Business and industry applications now demand more bandwidth, lower latency, true mobility and superior security. A DAS with the capability to operate a private LTE network with interoperability with common cellular carriers and public safety frequencies will allow businesses to extract maximum value from IoT and business-critical applications.
In a world where business is increasingly technology-driven, enterprises that embrace new technology and techniques flourish. IoT will play an undeniable role in modernization across all industries and businesses, and because wireless connectivity is the foundation of IoT technology, businesses need to guarantee connectivity to take advantage of IoT.
Scott Willis is CEO of Zinwave. Willis has spent more than 30 years in the telecommunications industry. Before joining Zinwave he was Executive Vice President, Chief Sales and Marketing Executive at Goodman Networks. Scott has also held Senior Executive roles at Ericsson, Nokia, BellSouth, Sprint, and several smaller global corporations in the communications field.
Scott has extensive general management experience, setting strategic direction, confecting corporate alliances, and overseeing complex operations for both large and small organizations. He also has built and grown new businesses to significant scale.
Scott graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in finance and received his MBA from Wake Forest University. Willis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.