The Move to Wireless Networking: Is IoT Snake Oil?

This is the first of three posts on IoT and Private LTE. You can read the second post, IoT to LTE: You Complete Me! here, and the third post, Why and When Should We Embrace IoT Through LTE? here.

With regards to IoT, the recent past is filled with promises unfulfilled and boundless disappointment. Much like the jetpacks every child assumed they'd possess by adulthood, IoT seemed like a done deal: it was inevitable, and the market would rush in to provide perfect products without any hiccups or false-starts. As can now be seen, this just wasn't the case. The landscape, particularly within manufacturing, was littered with proprietary device networks, justifiably cautious users, frustrated purchasing directors, and a million hopes dashed against the rocks of linear progress. Even more infuriating, the boundary where manufacturing and supply chains met remained a no-man's land where none would pass. Progress takes time and, frankly, we might've jumped too soon.

Amid all this noise, a new hope emerged. Driven by the failures of its predecessors and empowered by sudden and jarring advancements in technology, private wireless communications and networking revolved around the notion that innovation and advancement meant nothing without focus and the ability to direct existing tech into its final form. That is task and purpose-driven application of useful processes, optimized for specific applications and, therefore, useful practically everywhere and for everything. It is a revelation worth exploring.

So, with private LTE, it seems an actual IoT is finally here to save us. It pays to be cautious, however. Let's look at what is really happening, how it is different from what we've known before, and how we can leverage this emerging technology to fulfill promises and enjoy a true renaissance in wireless networking.

Manufacturing provides an excellent case-study. While many of us assume that wireless interconnectivity is pervasive and a person cannot turn a corner without seeing some ceiling-mounted access point relentlessly flashing its little blue light, this just isn't the case. Manufacturing is the bastion of conservative investment. Direct process innovation and advancements in specific-use automation produce identifiable and clear boosts to profit and, therefore, are quickly identified as targets for funding. Networking, on the other hand, is seen as fairly arcane. While its benefits are lauded by the folks down in the IT department, any increases in profit due to network capability are difficult to quantify. After all, the network is just an expense. At first glance, it produces nothing. It is an associated cost tied inextricably to returns on investment.

But, what if a network performed in a way which truly made everything work better and more efficiently? What if seamless operations are not only a possibility, but an inevitability? What if business critical services and applications were able to intermingle with back-office processes while remaining secure and fast? What if everything we thought Industry 4.0 might be came to fruition? It's exciting — and it's possible. In the next installment, we'll discuss the benefits of private LTE and how it can be adopted without interrupting existing workflows within manufacturing. 

In the next blog, IoT to LTE: You Complete Me! See how Private LTE can be used to complete IoT wireless networks.

For more information on Private LTE, see our 5G/OnGo webpage.

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