Communication technology

This article is a translation of the German IOTA Beginner’s Guide by Schmucklos.

Communication technology

Besides the well-known static Internet, there are other ways to transfer the IOTA protocol. The future IoE will use different technologies for data exchange. I would like to present the different possibilities in this section.

Communication technology

5G

The 5G network is for IoE what broadband Internet was for the world wide web.

Even though billions of devices are already connected today, we are still in the early stages of IoE. This is not least due to the fact that the coming 5G network will be able to supply Internet to a large number of devices simultaneously in one radio cell. While 3G and 4G were primarily designed for smartphones, 5G will see the emergence of huge amounts of new types of connected devices, such as connected and autonomous vehicles, applications for virtual and augmented reality, telemedicine/surgery or IoT and its many possibilities.

The new 5G network not only promises 100 times faster downloads or high-resolution video streams, it will also revolutionize our mobility. Autonomous driving with connected vehicles will be possible on a large scale for the first time. This is particularly due to the fact that latency times (response times) will be much shorter with the upcoming generation of mobile phones. Vehicles will be able to exchange data with each other, receive commands via smartphone app and inform each other about their intentions or dangerous situations early on. Huge amounts of data will be generated and the 5G network will make this possible.

The German industry already relies on many future technologies, such as the control and interconnection of robots, machines and other devices. Only with the new mobile phone standard it would be possible to really take off, since some innovative solutions in many fields of application depend on a fast and always available data exchange. For all these new applications, billions of sensors in machines, cars and devices must be able to communicate with each other – mobile and in real time. Currently, several German industrial heavyweights such as VW, Audi and BMW are trying to get local 5G licenses for their factories in order to be able to record and log production processes in real time, because 5G could become a key technology in digital transmission and the backbone of our future industry.

What are the biggest advantages?

  • Up to 90% less power consumption of mobile devices (depending on the provider)
  • 1/1000 Energy consumption per transmitted bit
  • Extremely low latency enables real-time responses
  • Pings of less than 1 millisecond
  • 100 billion mobile devices simultaneously addressable worldwide
  • Around 1000 times higher capacity
  • Up to 100 times higher data rates than today’s LTE network (i.e. up to 10,000 MBit/s)

What are the biggest disadvantages?

  • Due to the smaller range, a transmitter unit would have to be placed every 200-300 meters.
  • The effects of radio radiation on humans and animals are not conclusively clarified. There are several studies with different results. I do not want to anticipate here, please do your own research.

LiFi

LiFi stands for “Light Fidelity” and was developed for usage in LED lights. This works roughly as follows: In these LED lights a microchip is integrated which modulates the light for data transmission. This allows a very fast switching on and off of the light source. The human being notices no changes in his environment, he sees only a normal light, because the human eye cannot perceive this very fast change. In the binary system, the switch-on signal is 1 and the switch-off signal is 0. A series of switch-on and switch-off signals can then be processed into usable data records via a photosensor on an end device. The speeds of current WLAN signals are surpassed several times over; under experimental conditions speeds of several gigabits per second have already been achieved. A complete HD film (2-5 gigabytes) can be downloaded from the Internet in one second via LiFi. If all light sources in and around a building were to be equipped with LiFi technology, a greater range and more stable data transmission could be achieved than with a single WiFi router.

LiFi technology offers several advantages for many areas:

  • Higher speeds than Wi-Fi, HD streaming would no longer be a problem.
  • Greater bandwidth, allowing a higher number of data channels in the same space.
  • More secure, an attacker would have to have physical access to the light source to intercept or manipulate data packets.
  • Prevents piggyback transmissions (unauthorized access to the network).
  • Easy to implement for existing LED lights
  • Eliminates neighboring network interference (e.g. WiFi channel overlap with the neighbor).
  • No radio interferences (radio, radios, microwave etc.).
  • Causes no interference in sensitive electronics and is therefore well suited for use in sensitive environments such as hospitals and airplanes.

Disadvantages are also obvious:

  • Optical data transmission only works when the devices are in direct visual contact, transmission through walls is not possible.
  • Lacking mobility, due to the required visual contact, stationary transmitting stations are still required at present.
  • The light sources must always remain switched on for operation.

Future outlook

LiFi offers a completely new way to connect end devices for data transfer. In the future it is conceivable that every streetlight could be an access point to fast internet. In sensitive areas, such as in a hospital or an airplane, where radio transmissions disturb the functions of other electronic devices, LiFi could be a safe alternative. Even communication between road signs and cars or between cars themselves would be conceivable. For example, in the event of a heavy braking maneuver, the following car could be warned in real time by the taillights of the car in front. The private environment could also benefit: LiFi enables much faster transmission of streaming content in HD quality or playing data-intensive virtual reality games live.

Data transmission via light can be used wherever a light source is available, which opens up a large number of possible application areas in the future. Whether the LiFi technology has a chance to establish itself further in the future depends on the technical progress in the next years.

Whoever wants to can already use this technology. There are already LiFi lights and LiFi USB dongles available for purchase. Furthermore there is also the possibility to make commercially available LED lights usable for Li-Fi. For this a small controller with a special microchip is needed, which controls the data transfer. The device is connected to the internet via a conventional network cable and from this converter the light is supplied with power and data.

IOTA and LiFi

IOTA / JINN Labs in person of Sergey Ivancheglo (cfb) could provide a technical advance. On May 9, 2018, cfb reported on his experiments with LiFi technology. According to his own statements, JINN Labs has already developed a ternary-based LiFi technology and also has ready to use hardware. Cfb has merged the LiFi technology with the ternary JINN / IOTA technology. To what extent the third additional state (-1) brings an advantage remains to be seen until the technology is presented to the public. This will probably coincide with the release of the ternary microcontroller JINN (see Hardware).

With this technology, the IF has a wider range of transmission possibilities of the IOTA protocol and is no longer limited to radio transmissions. Now a light flux is sufficient to transmit the protocol at a very high speed. With this technology, the industry would no longer need expensive WiFi networks in their large halls. Instead LED light sources will be able to be used as new network access points. All machines can be connected to each other and to the Internet via light. As described above, street lamps could also be used in Smart Cities, providing fast Internet access but also collecting data from passing cars and sending it to the tangle.

LiFi video by the leading expert Dr. Harald Haas

LiFi video from an alleged employee of cfb (I cannot confirm since I do not know the sources).

LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN is a communication architecture optimized for IoT that transmits data over license-free radio frequencies. It is a so-called low-power wide-area network and is used to connect low-energy devices such as battery-powered sensors to a server. The LoRaWAN specification is defined by the LoRa Alliance Foundation. It is freely available and uses a patented transmission method.

LoRaWAN is a radio technology (similar to Wi-Fi, WLAN, Bluetooth or LTE) that aims to generate as little logging effort as possible while achieving a long range with low energy consumption and low operating costs. The protocol is designed for mobile and secure bi-directional communication, ensuring reliable message transmission (confirmation), thus not only allowing data collection but also active control of devices. The standard also ensures compatibility with other LoRaWAN networks around the world.

Advantages of LoRaWAN

  • Use of license-free frequency bands from the ISM bands. In Europe these are the bands in the 868 and 433 MHz range. By using frequency spreading, the technology is almost immune to interference radiation.
  • High ranges between transmitter and receiver, from 2 km in urban areas up to 15 km in rural areas. Depending on the environment and buildings, whole cities could be covered.
  • Battery-powered sensors can be operated for more than five years with one battery charge. With this technology, large sensor networks can be maintained with low maintenance costs.
  • Considerable cost savings of the required infrastructure compared to existing systems.
  • The system has a high sensitivity of -137 dBm. This allows higher penetration deep into buildings and basements, which increases the availability of the network.
  • Adaptive data rates (ADR): the server manages the data rates (0.3 to 50 kbit/s) individually for each terminal device. The signal strength is also controlled depending on the distance to the base station. This ensures optimal conditions regarding the fastest possible data rate, best possible network capacity and low energy consumption.
  • Many operators already use LoRaWAN and offer the technology as part of their service offerings in numerous countries worldwide. This makes the technology even more interesting as it is compatible with the networks of different operators.
  • Large networks with millions of devices can be supported
  • Support for redundant operation
  • Plug and Play, the standardized interfaces (API) allow sensors and applications to be connected quickly and flexibly.
  • High security through end-to-end encryption
  • LoRa-enabled sensors are already available on the market or the existing sensor technology can be easily converted for LoRa by the sensor manufacturers by exchanging the radio module.

For further information please visit: https://lora-alliance.org/

What does this mean for IOTA?

With this highly efficient and resource-saving technology, a cost-effective use of large-area sensor networks is possible for the first time. This is yet another important piece of the puzzle for future IoT. The areas of application in connection with IOTA are obvious, for example all sensor queries of a smart city could be handled via LoRaWAN, supply chains could be monitored, etc.

For more information check the section Use Cases.

LoRaWAN and IOTA: Proof of Concept for real-time data storage

Harm van den Brink (works for Enexis and ElaadNL) has already produced a proof of concept with IOTA using LoRaWAN. This PoC demonstrates the real-time storage of data in the tangle, which gives the user an unchangeable way to store data. The PoC is very simple. A message is sent via LoRaWAN and the IoT network is listened to using a specific application and using the *MQTT. The message is received and sent to the Tangle at high speed using the “Proof of work” service of powsrv.io.

 *MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) is an open source message protocol for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication that enables the transmission of messages between devices.

If you want, you can download and use the code from Harm van den Brink’s blog, but please note that this PoC does not cover the complete integrity of the data. To do so, an additional digital signature must be added to the message using IOTA streams. This improves the original PoC and makes it more secure.

Andreas Baumgartner from TU Chemnitz has now successfully implemented IOTA streams in his code. You can read about it in his blog (with video).

Conclusion

In the linked article by Andreas Baumgartner there is a very important sentence: “Since an Iota package is much larger than the maximum package size of LoRaWAN (and unfortunately of all protocols of the LPWAN family), we have to fragment the Iota package into several LoRaWAN packages to make it fit”.

This procedure is not allowed in most LoRaWAN low power networks, such as thethingsnetwork, otherwise it takes too long. Each bit of a transmission costs energy and an IOTA transaction consumes more energy than if only raw data was sent. Therefore, further research on IOTA transaction size (as of Oct. ’19) is needed to meet the data packet size specifications of LoRaWAN networks.

Original sources

https://iota-einsteiger-guide.de/uebertragungsmoeglichkeiten.html

https://iota-einsteiger-guide.de/5g-mobilfunk.html

https://iota-einsteiger-guide.de/lifi.html

https://iota-einsteiger-guide.de/lorawan.html

Last Updated on 18. February 2021