No matter the specifications of the IoT product your company is bringing to market, you’ll need to make strategic trade-offs to successfully solve your SWaP-C equation (size, weight, power, and cost). A large part of this will depend on understanding the differences between wireless technologies and which is right for your product.
For more complex products, choosing the right wireless technology is rarely a simple one-to-one affair. In other words, a combination of variously configured LoRa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular technologies is often needed. This means you’ll need to select a product development partner with expertise in all four.
At Pivot International, we help companies worldwide bring successful IoT products to market. With Design For Manufacturability (DFM) expertise that spans fourteen industries — including medical, industrial, and commercial — we bring broad technical diversity and 320,000 square feet across three continents. Our strength lies in taking an integrated approach to optimizing wireless technology applications for your use case and SWaP-C challenge.
LoRa, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular technologies all enable wireless communication between devices. Let’s take a look at each.
LoRa is a long range, low power, proprietary wireless platform with geolocation capabilities that is an integral part of IoT networks worldwide. LoRa devices and the open LoRaWAN® protocol support smart IoT applications across use-cases that include smart cities, smart buildings, smart agriculture, smart metering, smart supply chains, and more.
Despite the relative newness of this technology, Pivot has extensive experience with LoRa applications and their integration with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular technologies. This allows us to deliver shorter testing protocols and expedite our partners’ time-to-market.
Wi-Fi is a wireless networking technology that enables multiple devices and equipment to connect to the Internet without the use of physical cables or connections. For Wi-Fi to function, it needs an ethernet connection to an internet service provider, a modem, or mobile phone with an Internet data package.
The range of Wi-Fi networks is limited by their frequency, transmission power, antenna type, location, and environment. A typical indoor wireless router in a point-to-multipoint arrangement comes with a range of about 60 feet or less. Using directional antennas, outdoor point-to-point arrangements can be extended for many miles between stations. While Wi-Fi is well established, Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of this technology and holds game-change possibilities for new product development.
Bluetooth is a wireless technology designed to communicate with other devices over short distances. Bluetooth does not require a Wi-Fi or cellular connection to function. Depending on conditions, connectivity extends about 30 feet and delivers a maximum data transfer speed of up to 24 Mbps.
Power usage is an overarching concern in solving the SWaP-C challenge. (The higher the power usage, the faster the battery life of a device is drained.) Bluetooth has a surprisingly small power requirement, meaning that its effect on a device’s battery life is much less than using Wi-Fi or an ethernet connection. Bluetooth and other wireless technologies featured prominently in creating the Zibrio Smart Scale, a CES Innovation Award-winner that our teams at Pivot helped develop.
Cellular networks (often called mobile networks) are wireless technologies that depend on signals sent by clusters of land-based cellular towers. Like Wi-Fi, access to the cellular network requires purchasing an internet data package through a cellular provider.
Cellular services can reliably be accessed in any well-populated area. In more remote areas, signal connection often becomes spotty or non-existent. A typical mobile device has enough power to connect with a cell tower up to 45 miles away. However, as with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the actual range of connectivity can vary widely depending on conditions and the number of towers in a given area. The speed of connectivity depends on the speed of network connection. The better the network connection, the faster data, download, and upload speeds a device is capable of.
One of the cellular products that our teams at Pivot Wideblue are proudest of developing is the Peek Retina. This device is a mobile phone ophthalmoscope and recipient of a European Product Design Award for Best Design for Humanity.
The Intersection of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Cellular
More often than not, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular technologies work together. But how they work best together as configured and optimized for your use case and SWaP-C challenge is the issue. The question of which wireless technologies, and which combinations, are just one piece of a larger puzzle. Cost, size, and weight must also be factored in. Every variable in the SWaP-C equation needs to be looked at in its larger context. This requires an integrated approach to design, engineering, and manufacturing — something a one-source partner is uniquely equipped to deliver.
Are you preparing to bring a wireless product to market and looking for a trusted partner with end-to-end expertise to ensure your success? We are confident we’re the partner you’ve been looking for! With nearly fifty years of experience and a portfolio of internationally award-winning products, we are a proven partner for making your product vision a profitable reality. Contact us today!