In the near future, human and robot collaboration will be the norm for digital enterprises of all sizes. According to the ten technology megatrends predicted in Huawei's Global Industry Vision (GIV) 2025 report, there will be an average of 103 robots for every 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry by 2025.
The overall digitization trend sweeping industry extends far beyond manufacturing, too, as other industry verticals deploy wireless technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) to become more competitive. For example, in the automobile industry, in-vehicle software is updated over Wi-Fi while the energy and construction industries use IoT to realize predictive Operations and Maintenance (O&M). Elsewhere, remote medical care is increasingly common in the healthcare industry, and cities and public sectors are incorporating more technology into asset management systems.
Indeed, investment in IoT and wireless technologies is creating opportunities for enterprises to create groundbreaking business models, improving the user experience and increasing operational efficiency. As detailed in Forrester’s Internet-Of-Things Heat Maps For Operational Excellence, 2019 report, more than 70% of enterprises have already implemented or plan to implement IoT solutions and applications. And it’s worth noting that such a notably high — and growing — adoption rate is mainly driven by rising requirements from service departments, rather than coming from IT departments.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for IoT networks, however. Solutions must be tailored to individual enterprises, since requirements for bandwidth, reliability, transmission distance, and power consumption of IoT terminals vary depending on production needs. But the abundance of aspect-specific IoT protocols make finding the optimal solution a challenging task for any enterprise.
IoT protocols are largely divided into two kinds, based on transmission distance: Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) and Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networking (LoWPAN). LPWA is applicable to long-distance Wide Area Network (WAN) coverage, while LoWPAN performs better in medium- and short-distance indoor coverage scenarios. Furthermore, typical LoWPAN protocols include Bluetooth for precise locations (with meter-level accuracy), ZigBee for mesh networking at low-power consumption, power-hungry Wi-Fi technologies for providing large transmission bandwidth, and low-power Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The transmission distances of these protocols are at different tiers, ranging from 10 centimeters to 200 meters. Most LoWPAN protocols comply with IEEE 802.15.4, which means they can be applied on IoT networks connected to the same gateway. The wide range of deployment modes for these IoT networks, however, can lead to unnecessary IoT network reconstruction, complicating network construction and management. Enterprises would therefore certainly benefit from an open network architecture that is compatible with multiple, mutually independent IoT networks.
Wi-Fi and IoT converged deployment and management is a vital component for creating an open and well-performing network architecture. The deployment of multiple LoWPAN protocols on a single unified enterprise Wi-Fi network offers:
Reduced network construction costs: Built-in or external IoT modules on Access Points (APs) enable Wi-Fi and IoT networks to share network infrastructure, including sites and backhaul lines. This effectively reduces hardware investment, cuts down on hardware installation time, and reduces Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by 50%.
Reduced network management costs: A Wi-Fi and IoT converged management platform offers intelligent analysis that optimizes network planning. For example, wireless technologies with similar frequency bands are selected to minimize interference; when interference does occur, it can be automatically detected. This new approach is vastly superior to traditional networks, where multiple siloed management platforms can only detect and rectify interference after services have been affected, and administrators have to go through the arduous process of collecting information on each platform, manually analyzing and troubleshooting faults.
Broadens business opportunities: With the agreement and approval of customers, terminal data such as location and status is integrated and sent to the service platform. This approach improves the accuracy of customer profiles and customer behavior analysis, enabling enterprises to provide personalized services.
In recent years, traditional brick-and-mortar shopping malls and supermarkets have increased their efforts to transition into the new retail arena, as pressure from e-commerce mounts. For example, a large European supermarket chain has taken the initiative to modernize by optimizing the shopping experience at their facilities while also improving operational efficiency. The initiatives, targeting both customers and employees, range from new shopping guides and marketing campaigns, to delivering office services via Wi-Fi and adopting RFID-based Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs). Using ESLs, the supermarket chain’s operation capabilities have been expanded, enabling remote price updates in batches and electronic shelf management. To achieve this, Huawei AirEngine APs with built-in RFID modules and a unified network management platform were deployed, achieving converged access and simplified management of multiple terminals. As a result, it is estimated that each of the chain’s stores in Germany deploying the technology saves up to US$37,000 per year in costs related to price updates, including labor costs. Given this success, the supermarket plans to adopt the technology across more than 10,000 stores worldwide.
Such benefits are not limited to new retail, either. Huawei also offers leading Wi-Fi & IoT convergence networks for a wide range of industries, including smart building, logistics, and education, driving innovations in specialized digital services.
The question then is: how can an enterprise select a Wi-Fi & IoT convergence solution best adapted to its requirements? You can find the answer in the latest edition of “The Forrester New WaveTM: Wireless Solutions, Q3 2019” report, which covers the LoWPAN market. In the report, Forrester analyst, Andre Kindness suggests that Huawei's Wi-Fi & IoT convergence solution "is the best fit for companies needing to use multiple wireless technologies."