PoE versus other IoT protocols

PoE Lighting Up Close: A Comparison of IoT Protocols

March 14, 2018

WiFi and Bluetooth may be the most widely recognized protocols in the world of IoT, but Power over Ethernet is one of the best. If you’re looking for answers about which IoT platform to use for your next building project, start by diving into the differences between ZigBee, Bluetooth, WiFi and Power over Ethernet.

What Can I Expect From Each IoT Protocol? 

Choosing an IoT platform should be driven by its intended use. When thinking about an architectural or construction project,  it is important to choose a protocol that is flexible enough to handle as many of the various potential uses as possible.

Bluetooth, for example, can carry small amounts of data very quickly across a short range, so it’s best for close range technology. While some Bluetooth devices have a longer range, it is not unusual to find devices that may start having issues when further apart than 10 or 20 meters. For this reason, Bluetooth commonly powers access control system, speakers or other close-range devices.

WiFi is commonly used for IoT because it connects directly to a router and there are numerous WiFi-compatible devices available. WiFi is fairly low cost and has a range of about 150 feet, but it can experience interference which may raise security concerns. WiFi also drains power out of connected devices. In fact, most WiFi devices aren’t actually wireless because they have to be plugged into a power supply.

ZigBee is a “low power, low data rate supporting wireless networking standard” that is used to send data between devices and sensors. It is a straightforward IoT protocol, but requires the use of a hub and cannot be directly controlled through mobile devices. While ZigBee is fairly easy to use, it supports proprietary applications that can make it harder to troubleshoot or make updates to apps.

Power over Ethernet uses existing Ethernet connections throughout a space to power IoT devices. Power over Ethernet transfers data and powers devices directly through the connection. Because these devices are hard-wired, PoE nearly eliminates interference and allows commands to travel quicker.  While it is hardwired, configurations can be changed in an instant using an open API PoE software system such as Igor’s. This makes PoE ideal for networking a variety of systems together - PoE has the capabilities to control lighting, temperature, HVAC, computers, access control, security and much more.

Do Any IoT Protocols Have Compatibility Issues?

This is an excellent question that should be asked when considering which IoT platform to use in a building. Most protocols face some limitations when it comes to compatibility of devices.

Often, Bluetooth devices have difficulty pairing with other devices. As new versions of Bluetooth are released, it is important to keep in mind which version your older devices are using. Bluetooth 5.0 is backward compatible, meaning it can be paired with older Bluetooth versions. However, Bluetooth Smart is not backwardcompatible with some Bluetooth versions such as Classic Bluetooth devices.

WiFi and Power over Ethernet tend to offer a wider range of compatibility. Because both protocols are open, most individuals have previous experience using them and there are a variety devices that work with both.

With Power over Ethernet, each connected device is easily discoverable - there’s no hassle trying to make sure your devices are recognized. You can simply plug them in and begin using your IoT system. WiFi devices often need to go through difficult authentication processes before you can use them, since you are adding them to your wireless network instead of plugging in directly.

Which IoT Protocols are Easily Customizable?

The answer varies depending on the level of customization required. For pre-programmed customizations that guide a customer through a few simple choices, ZigBee and WiFi devices often come with those built-in. Highly advanced and technical users may be able to squeeze a more customized options out of those platforms.

Power over Ethernet offers a full array of  personalization options. PoE provides ease of use, software that makes it easy to maximize customization and, like WiFi, it is not proprietary so it is compatible with any device using that protocol. Igor’s PoE software solution offers an open API to develop customizations that make businesses more efficient and innovative. With other protocols, we have experienced some limitations with how fast commands can be executed.

Power over Ethernet is our Favorite IoT Protocol

For a robust IoT network that can handle growth, Power over Ethernet offers the most flexibility. Connectivity, ease of use and the opportunity to innovate is what makes IoT so valuable. If you’re having a hard time choosing just one IoT platform, you don’t have to with Igor. Igor’s platform is based on simplicity and compatibility. You can continue to grow your IoT network for years to come without ever worrying about technology becoming obsolete.

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