The IoT presents limitless opportunities for developing businesses, improving various industries from healthcare and logistics, reducing time and money, and enhancing the overall quality of life.

    Modern manufacturing operation uses advanced machines with AI to process real-time data from connected sensors, optimizing operations. Tracking devices, warehouses, cloud platforms, and other IoT solutions need to communicate, process, and integrate information. They use a wide range of communication protocols — cellular networks, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and more.

    Additionally, these solutions interact with various IoT clouds that also have to transfer information to critical systems and different devices.

    Companies need to connect all these components and platforms and implement the information into the larger enterprise ecosystem. Quite a challenge, isn’t it?

    So, the IoT gateway is here to help.

    What is an IoT Gateway?

    It’s time to cover the basics.

    An IoT gateway stands for a solution for facilitating IoT communication, enabling interactions between devices and the cloud. It typically consists of a hardware device with application software that performs vital functions. In essence, the gateway acts as a bridge connecting various data sources and destinations.

    To understand the Internet of Things gateway better, let’s discuss it as the router or gateway in your home or office network. Just as a network gateway enables the communication between your devices, ensures security, and offers an admin interface for basic tasks, an IoT gateway provides these functions and goes beyond them, offering additional capabilities.

    How Does IoT Gateway Work?

    An IoT gateway plays a crucial role in collecting vast amounts of information from connected devices and sensors within an IoT ecosystem.

    Before transmitting the data to cloud platforms for further analysis and transformation into meaningful insights, the gateway performs pre-processing tasks. Additionally, IoT gateways get data from the cloud, enabling autonomous device management in the field.

    Considering that even a small sensor can process hundreds of data pieces per second, pre-processing at the edge becomes highly beneficial. Why?

    By aggregating, summarizing, and synchronizing data from various devices and communication protocols, the amount of information transferred to the cloud is reduced.

    Speaking about communication protocols, let’s consider an example. 

    MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) is a lightweight messaging protocol specifically designed for clients that have limited processing power. It is optimized to function effectively in unreliable, high-latency, and low-bandwidth network conditions. MQTT is particularly well-suited for scenarios where connection issues are common.

    Essentially, MQTT is a binary-based protocol that operates on a command and command-acknowledgment structure. In MQTT, acknowledgments are sent in the form of MQTT packets in response to MQTT commands. These packets serve as the fundamental units of data exchanged between clients and the MQTT broker.

    Simply saying, IoT gateways contribute to power and battery life savings.

    By processing information at the gateway, less information needs to be sent to the cloud, resulting in reduced power usage. The benefit is primarily for IoT devices that are deployed remotely.

    Internet of Things gateways can perform a bunch of tasks, expanding their capabilities from basic data filtering to facilitating visualization and complex analytics. These devices are playing a vital role in driving the ongoing expansion of the IoT.

    Among the IoT gateway features are:

    • Enabling communication with legacy or devices not connected to the Internet
    • Data caching, buffering, and streaming
    • Pre-processing, cleansing, filtering, and optimizing data
    • Partial data aggregation
    • Supporting machine-to-machine communications (M2M)
    • Networking features and hosting real-time data
    • Facilitating data visualization and basic analytics through IoT gateway devices
    • Short-term data storage capabilities for historical data
    • Security management, including user access control and network security features
    • Device configuration management
    • System diagnostics for troubleshooting

    Internet of Things Gateway Benefits

    IoT gateway devices bring a lot of benefits, including network security and energy efficiency. 

    Below you can find the most important ones:

    #1. Enhance Response Times by Pre-processing Information at the Edge

    IoT gateway devices offer more than just routing traffic. Advanced gateways can pre-process data on-premises before transferring it to the cloud, leveraging IoT edge gateway capabilities. 

    As a result, the gateway can handle large volumes of raw data generated by IoT devices. Through edge computing, the gateway aggregates and summarizes information, reducing the overload of raw information. By minimizing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted, response times increase, the requirement for additional bandwidth decreases, and transmission costs are reduced.

    #2. Strengthen IoT-enabled Network Security

    With the rapid growth of the IoT ecosystem, standardization organizations struggle to keep up, leading to a need for manufacturing standards, particularly in security. Many IoT devices suffer from poor security practices — weak passwords, insecure networks, lack of updates, and so on. 

    IoT gateways serve as the initial layer of defense, acting as proxy devices for communication between IoT devices and the internet. 

    All IoT devices must communicate through the IoT gateway, enhancing security. Industrial Internet of Things gateways, for example, play a crucial role in safeguarding ICS/OT security. 

    #3. Improve Energy Efficiency for IoT Devices

    In scenarios where IoT sensors are integrated remotely, such as in smart cities, factories, or farms, energy autonomy becomes crucial. These IoT devices require efficient tools for transmitting information to cellular towers or satellites, which consumes significant power.

    However, it’s possible to use an IoT gateway located nearby and connected to the power grid. As a result, the signal range can be shortened, and all sensor communication can be managed effectively. Some IoT gateway devices also offer Power over Ethernet (PoE) to allow devices to be powered through networking cables. This improves energy efficiency, addressing the limitations of limited battery life and reducing the need for energy-intensive radio technologies like LTE or WiFi.

    #4. Resist Industrial and Severe Environments

    While a commercial Internet of Things gateway offers various benefits, an Industrial IoT (IIoT) gateway goes even further.

    IIoT gateways not only provide the aforementioned advantages but also possess the resilience to withstand severe or industrial conditions. Created with robust materials, these gateways often rely on various standards, e.g. IP67 or MIL-STD-810G. They can endure severe temperatures, humidity, radiation, water, dust, and other harsh conditions.

    The Bottom Line

    Gateways play a vital role in facilitating communication between Internet-enabled devices and the cloud or remote high-end servers. 

    Similar to a traditional router, a gateway enables the exchange of data between different networks. However, an IoT gateway goes further by enabling devices with diverse interfaces and protocols to communicate seamlessly with the cloud.

    Author‘s bio:

    As an accomplished technology enthusiast, Laurenz Dallinger has a strong interest in digital transformation, with a particular focus on IoT. His commitment to advancing the field of device communication is evident in his work as a speaker and exhibitor at events like the Ars Electronica Museum. As a valued member of the Cedalo team, the company behind the top MQTT broker, Laurenz is passionate about sharing his knowledge and ideas with developers seeking new and efficient ways of communicating with devices.

    Richard is an experienced tech journalist and blogger who is passionate about new and emerging technologies. He provides insightful and engaging content for Connection Cafe and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments.