How to send sensor data to the cloud

In this article, we will be looking into 5 smart ways that answer the question we are all here for – how to send sensor data to the cloud?

How to send sensor data to cloud

Choosing is hard

With so much choice in IoT infrastructure on the market, nailing down the right options can be overwhelming. Once you finally do, however, the inevitable question arises “How am I going to get the data to the cloud?”

In this article, we will be showcasing five smart options of how to send sensor data to the cloud, and we will be breaking each option down based on their:

  • Bandwidth
  • Cost
  • Coverage/range – Please note range heavily varies on several factors such as humidity, obstacles, antenna design/positioning etc. the ranges we give are general in nature.
  • If they offer real-time insights

The 6 Methods

  1. Starlink
  2. Wi-Fi
  3. 4/5G
  4. CAT M1
  5. NB-IoT
  6. LoRA

1. Starlink

Starlink provides high-speed, broadband internet across almost the entire globe. This game-changer is enabling the mass deployment of high bandwidth IoT devices in the most rural and remote areas of Australia.

Bandwidth: High – Starlink service agreement guarantees speeds of 50 – 150 Mb/s, and in our own tests, we recorded speeds of up to 300 Mb/s. This makes it a great option for transmitting large and/or frequent amounts of data in image, video or text format.

Cost: Upfront cost of $700 for the hardware and ongoing costs of $140 per month.

Coverage & range: Covers significant portions of the globe, with coverage increasing every month. See the current coverage map here

Real-time data insights: Yes

When to use: When you have the requirement for high bandwidth in a rural or remote location.

Example: Rural and remote worksites leveraging multiple IoT devices to capture real-time data insights on asset performance and weather conditions.

2. Wi-Fi

When it comes to wireless IoT protocols, Wi-Fi is the most popular due to its widespread presence. Generally speaking, if Wi-Fi is available in the area devices are deployed, Wi-Fi will be used.

Bandwidth: High depending on plans – Wi-Fi varies from 10s of megabits per second to 1000s – enabling you to send bulky messages such as images and video with ease.

Cost: If you already have Wi-Fi in the area, it requires no additional cost (provided you have an unlimited plan).

Coverage & range: Low up to 50m. However, you can increase this range with Wi-Fi repeaters. The amount you can increase the range, however, is dependent upon the level of interference in the location. Coverage is not applicable.

Real-time data insights: Yes

When to use: Whenever your devices are within range of a Wi-Fi router.

Example: Just about anything involving capturing and transmitting data. It could be used for things such as live security camera monitoring systems, image processing, weather monitoring, machine performance monitoring etc.

3. 4/5G

The mobile 4G and 5G networks are regularly used in the IoT space and are generally the choice for many people looking to transmit bulky messages to the cloud but have no Wi-Fi access.

Bandwidth: High depending on plans –  Suitable for sending bulky messages such as images and video.

Cost: High – you need to purchase sim cards and subscription plans for your devices to have your messages sent. The bill you receive at the end of the month will depend on the size and frequency of messages being sent.

Coverage & range: High, up to 70km. With added infrastructure, this can reach 150km in some locations. Whilst the mobile coverage is good in and around most towns and cities, you can see it drops off heavily in rural and remote parts of Australia.

Real-time data insights: Yes

When to use: When you need a lot of bandwidth but have no access to Wi-Fi.

Example: Our team developed a live stream security monitoring system for several clients who wanted to monitor and receive alerts when would-be thieves and vandals approached their sheds where they stored their equipment and machinery.

Getting data to the cloud

4. CAT M1

CAT M1 is a low-power wide-area cellular technology, similar to 4G and 5G, but has been built specifically for IoT projects requiring the transfer of low to medium amounts of data infrequently over a wide area for long periods.

Bandwidth: Low 1 Mb/s.

Cost: Lower than 4G and Wi-Fi but more than LoRa and NB-IoT.

Coverage & range: Very high, up to 100km, and it has the second broadest coverage of the mobile networks (see below).

Real-time data insights: Yes.

When to use: When you need higher bandwidth when monitoring in remote locations.

Example: Our team developed a series of wind turbine and weather monitoring systems in remote locations around Australia that capture real-time insights on 50 different parameters, 25 times per second.

CAT M1 Network

5. NB-IoT

Like Cat M1, narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a low-power-wide-area cellular technology and is a popular wireless communication standard in the IoT space. NB-IoT allows users to connect devices collecting small amounts of data at low bandwidth, using very little power.

Bandwidth: Low – 200Kbps.

Cost: Lower than 4G but higher than LoRA.

Coverage & range: Very high, up to 120km and has the broadest coverage of the mobile networks (see below).

Real-time data insights: Yes.

When to use: Monitoring in remote areas with low power requirements.

Example: A real-time data system to track temperature-sensitive goods. We have seen this excellently applied to monitoring the temperature of kegs in transit to ensure they remain refreshingly crisp. Another recent example is its use in tracking the temperatures of vaccines in transit!

How to send sensor data to cloud

6. LoRA

A popular network among councils is the LoRA network – a low-power, wireless
network communication protocol. LoRA requires line of sight to what are known
as “LoRA gateways” to send messages to the cloud.

Bandwidth: Very low – max 11Kbps.

Cost: Around $600 for your own gateway. However, if
you are within range of other established gateways, you can tap into those.

Coverage & range: Each sensor network can provide
10-40km of range on range.

Real-time data insights: No.

When to use: When you have many sensors in a relatively small area – Agriculture sensors, smart city projects (bin sensors, pedestrian counting etc.).

Example: A great use of LoRA is exemplified by several smart cities we have supported; One example is the implementation of sensors to monitor bin levels that notify maintenance workers when levels are full or nearing capacity. 

Another is the use of LoRA to monitor the amount of vehicle and foot traffic in areas around the city to better inform cities where they need to invest in infrastructure. And finally, its use to track the number of free and occupied parking spots in the CBD.

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading our article on How to send sensor data to the cloud! We hope it gave you a better idea of which method of communication will work best for you!

Have more questions?

To find out more about what would work best for your individual circumstance, I encourage you to reach out to our team here for a quick chat. 

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