IoT and the Impact on Wireless Networks

By Michael Haring ·

Traditionally, wireless networks were considered a luxury, as well as highly unreliable and unsecure. Over the past 10 years, wireless networks have exploded in popularity and have made huge advances in the capabilities that wireless provides. Until recently, wireless networks were primarily used by devices that had an end-user actively operating it and passing network traffic. As technology has improved, the concept of IoT (Internet of Things) has come to the forefront of wireless devices. IoT devices consist of power, lighting, appliances, security, video, monitoring, sensors, and much more. Originally, devices that are now considered IoT, were strictly autonomous and had no network capabilities, but now many of these devices can be integrated with a wireless network to provide automation and data that was previously unavailable. With the growth of IoT, more and more devices will become reliant on wireless networks and traffic will be merged with that of laptops and smart devices that are also currently using it.

When planning a wireless network, the question used to be “how many users do you have?” and the answer would be multiplied by 3 – Laptop, Smart Phone, and Tablet. Now, capacity planning has a whole new challenge, as not only user’s devices must be considered, but corporate IoT, as well as personal IoT devices must be considered. Planning for wireless networks could quickly change from 3 devices per person to double or triple that amount in the coming years. Not all IoT devices operate on the 802.11 standard, some use standards known as ZigBee or Z-Wave, which operate similarly to wireless networks, but are not detectable by 802.11 wireless radios. Beyond the wireless network, the infrastructure must also be prepared for the increase of network traffic being transmitted, as well as the increased DHCP requests that will take place. Security is another conversation surrounding IoT devices, and in recent news, some IoT devices have been compromised. The introduction of these devices into modern wireless networks has already begun, but the general acceptance and expectations of IoT devices may be further away. No matter when IoT becomes an expectation, it’s sure to take the network world by storm.