Can Today’s Networks Support the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) goes far beyond controlling your home thermostat remotely. For instance, think about how smart concrete would revolutionize our infrastructure or how IoT sensors can enable earthquake early-warning systems.

Much technological development has and will continue to be necessary to overcome challenges associated with implementing a robust, scalable, and secure IoT. Today’s IT students need to be prepared to address these challenges.

When it comes to anticipating how our networks may change in the short term on the road to bringing about the IoT, it’s useful to understand the IEEE 1905.1 standard. This standard is about supporting newer connectivity models, easier configuration, and making our networks flexible enough to incorporate dozens or scores of smart objects and appliances.

IEEE 1905.1 creates a hybrid networking standard with the goal of flexibly integrating a few types of wired and wireless networking technologies, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, MoCA, and the powerline standard defined by IEEE 1901, allowing a network to span all four technologies.

Multimedia over Coax (MoCA) provides Ethernet access through existing coaxial cabling (even when it’s being used for video) and is the technology used by Verizon’s FiOS product to provide video, phone, and Internet service. If a home or office has coaxial cable and outlets in the right places, MoCA can make it easy to build a small wired network without any new cable.

The IEEE 1901 standard is known commercially as HomePlug. If you’re faced with the daunting challenge of networking billions or trillions of new, real-world objects, it turns out things that are already plugged into electrical outlets are low-hanging fruit. They already have a steady power supply and can afford the extra juice for networking. In fact, they don’t even need Wi-Fi radios. HomePlug HD-PLC provides high-speed home networking through a building’s existing power infrastructure. We call this Ethernet over power (EoP), but powerline technology can also provide Internet access itself, or broadband over power lines (BPL).

Why can’t we just use Wi-Fi for everything? Wi-Fi is great, but it has its share of problems—like low- or no-signal areas, disconnects, and exploits that trick naive devices into connecting by imitating their home network. And when the Wi-Fi network starts suffering from congestion, stationary devices are the most obvious candidates for wired connections. EoP is an even bigger boon when a wired connection is necessary but a building’s layout or construction makes running Ethernet cable impractical.

Much as the Wi-Fi trademark is branding that covers a variety of IEEE 802.11 standards, the branding for IEEE 1905.1 uses the name nVoy. nVoy-certified networking equipment will create a single network for devices spread across Ethernet, Wi-Fi, MoCA, and HomePlug connections. This by itself might not be earthshaking, but nVoy equipment can make intelligent decisions when it comes to communicating with devices that use more than one connection type.

For example, an nVoy router could make use of multiple connections to stream video to your TV, or seamlessly switch the data flowing to your wireless speakers from Wi-Fi to power line if the Wi-Fi connection stops working. These intelligent decisions can also include load balancing and rebalancing in response to network performance, or preferring lower-power interfaces when possible.

For details on a highly effective method for teaching essential networking skills, download this case study on Mike Meyers’ CompTIA Network+ Guide to Managing and Troubleshooting Networks with Connect®. This blog post is an excerpt from the book.

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