What is an IoT Gateway

A IoT Gateway (sometimes called a cellular gateway or cellular router) is a device used to provide a reliable and flexible Internet access to one or many devices. Gateways can act as primary or a backup connection for a vital landline connection. The most common applications of gateways include fixed or stationary and mobile and mounted on vehicles. 

There are the 10 things you need to know before buying an IoT Gateway in 2019.

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Top 10 things you need to know before buying an IoT gateway


Which Radio Technology to use

There are more choices than ever before, giving you both more options and making things more complicated.  There are ones that offer higher speeds (3G, 4G, and soon, 5G), ones that are optimized for secure lower bandwidth applications (like CAT-1, CAT-M and soon, NB-1) and there is even lower speed dedicated non-cellular options (like SigFox and LoRa).  Each may be a good fit, depending on things like how much bandwidth you need, how much of a consideration power usage is and where you are deploying it.


Temperature specification

Most electronic equipment is designed to “Consumer” standards, meaning that is designed to work in controlled environments.  If your IoT deployment has little or no chance of working outside of an environment like this, Consumer-grade may be good enough.  Many need more durability, and the next option is “Commercial” grade, which can handle tougher weather and some bumps here and there.  When you have to work in the most extreme environments, this calls for “Industrial” grade, which is designed to work in the toughest conditions on the planet.


Ports and Local connectivity

Unless you are using the built-in Input/Outputs on the device (see below), you are likely connecting a device to your gateway to enable it to connect to the Internet.  This can be done using a variety of wired connections (like Ethernet, Serial and USB ports) or using different wireless options (like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Zigbee).  Most devices offer more than one option and many offer expansion capabilities to add more ports as needed.


How to supply power to the gateway/router.

The vast majority of devices use AC power, or better known as “plugging it in the wall.”  If you are using the device in an office or at home, this is likely the ideal choice.  If your deployment takes you to an Industrial location (or inside of a vehicle), you likely want to move to DC power, which is optimized to handle those conditions.  If getting power to your device may be an issue, many will look for gateways using PoE, or Power over Ethernet.  This maximizes your flexibility and may be ideal for lower coverage areas.


Choice of Cellular Carrier

In the past, there was often cellular gateways that would only work on one chosen carrier, so you had to decide at the time of purchase.  With the introduction of 4G, this has largely been eliminated, but you may want to still verify before you buy.  This is especially true if your deployment takes you to different parts of the world, which often use different frequency ranges.


Input / Outputs

The most under utilized part of a gateway, these are ideal for gathering information from sensors and devices.  Inputs take in information, either using Digital (on/off status, like a light switch) or Analog (reading ranges, such as level of a tank).  Outputs are used to initiate an action on a device through the Gateway, such as enabling you to remotely lift a parking gate.


Fixed or Mobile Environment

While many gateways are designed to be able to handle either scenario, there are some features on Mobile Gateways that make them unique.  They tend to be a little more rugged (although, there are some rugged Fixed gateways), be powered by DC power and have on-board GPS to locate key assets.  If you are in doubt, you may wish to opt for a Mobile gateway.


Managing your devices

There are two options ... one-to-one management and one-to-many management.  One-to-one management involves making changes to each gateway separately, which is fine for a few devices.  One-to-many allows you to make changes to all of your devices easily, such as updating firmware and key settings.  Although one-to-many management tools are generally not free, their cost is easy to justify when you have a number of devices.


Network Redundancy / Dual SIM deployments

These two things are different but have a common goal ... to make your deployments more reliable.  Network redundancy is when you have two separate networks (usually not using the same infrastructure) that work in a Primary/Secondary model to allow you to maintain a high level of network availability.  A common setup is using a landline connection (like DSL/Cable) as the primary and a cellular gateway as the secondary.  A router (either a standalone one or using capability inside of the cellular gateway itself) handle all of the switching back and forth.  Dual SIM is similar, except that it uses two cellular connections in the same gateway.  This is commonly used at vital sites like railroad crossings.


Bridge or Router Mode

Think of your home network for a second ... do you use the gateway that your landline provider gave you as both a way to get to the Internet AND to provide Wi-Fi for your home, or do you have your own router?  If you use the one provided by the landline provider for both, you are using it in “Router” mode, as it divides up your connection for all of your device to share.  If you are using a 2nd router, you are putting your landline gateway into “Bridge” mode, where it just provides connectivity.  Cellular gateways do the exact same thing as your landline router, except they use the cellular network.  Most gateways easily work in either mode.