RF Fundamentals for Internet of Things

Brent McAdams, November 2017


Demystifying RF for IoT Deployments

With the Internet of Things (IoT) and the emergence of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), a surge of innovation is occurring across the industry that connects an ecosystem of sensors, devices and equipment to a network that promises to improve asset utilization, enhance process efficiency and boost productivity.

With the estimated number of connected “things” expected to reach over 25 billion by 2020 [1], this provides an opportunity to change the way business is done.

The IoT Ecosystem, as depicted below in Figure 1, consists of Sensors, Gateways, Infrastructure, and of course, the flashy part of the IoT Ecosystem, Big Data and Analytics. A speaker at a recent IoT conference summed it up best with the statement “Big Data will be Big!”. The modeling of data supporting predictive analytics, whether it resides in the cloud or at the edge, gives organizations the ability to quickly diagnose and troubleshoot not only their sensor networks from a predictive maintenance perspective but also their operations, reducing excess use of energy and/or raw materials.

IoT Ecosystem

Figure 1. IoT Ecosystem

While the Ecosystem can be hardwired, typically, a hybrid approach is utilized. This includes wireless sensor networks (WSN) and much of the network infrastructure through highspeed, broadband links. Even though Radio Frequency (RF) technology is a part of our everyday lives and in terms of IIoT, has been adopted for decades in some of the harshest conditions, wireless technology is still viewed by many as magic. Arthur C. Clarke was a brilliant futurist and writer, but he is best known for one of his laws being “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” [ii]. Certainly, wireless (or RF) communications falls within that law. The purpose of this paper is to help demystify the subject as regardless of the RF Technology used in IoT deployments, the same core principles apply.

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