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Network redundancy and more: The benefits of building backups in IoT

Building a resilient IoT product starts with building backups like network redundancy into your deployment. Learn how Hologram can help.
Connectivity
Paige Bates
November 7, 2022
Team members look at a tablet in a factory

Having a backup plan is always a good idea. In IoT, network redundancy is a very important piece of that backup plan.

Redundancy is defined as having an extra part or system available in case the first fails. When it comes to building, managing, and scaling an IoT deployment, building a resilient product from end-to-end can be incredibly critical for protecting your return on investment. 

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Network redundancy: an essential component of cloud-based operations

There are multiple things teams should consider when evaluating what type of connectivity to select for their IoT solution. One size doesn’t fit all for different use cases. Factors to consider for cellular connectivity may include performance metrics like latency (the speed in which a packet of data travels) or throughput (the amount of bandwidth available on the network). It’s also critical to think about things like the coverage and redundancy offered.

Redundancy isn’t the same thing as coverage. Coverage means having access to the right network, so devices can connect in the place they’re being deployed. Network redundancy, on the other hand, is all about having a backup connection. This can be critical in case the device travels outside of the original coverage area or the original network experiences a disruption.

For example, think of a logistics company. The company installs sensors on their fleet of semi-trucks to create better visibility into the vehicle’s location, idling time, speed, gas mileage, and more. However, the vehicle is traveling across the country. If the sensor connects using a single carrier, the company could lose visibility along the route. If the devices had an connectivity option that offered redundant coverage, they wouldn’t lose signal when traveling in and out of coverage areas.

Another example might be a type of remote patient monitoring device. It sends continuous data about the patient’s health back to their care team. This may be critical information — like the signal of a cardiac event — that can not afford a disruption. In the case that a network has an outage, having a fallback network is crucial.

Recommended reading: How IoT improves and enhances fleet management

How does network redundancy work?

Network selection (https://www.hologram.io/blog/network-selection/) plays a key role in switching to a backup. Most modern devices are set up for automatic network selection. A SIM’s list of available networks is linked to its International Mobile Subscriber Identifier (IMSI).

Multi-IMSI SIM cards provide access to a few different profiles that are pre-loaded. However, the automatic shuffling between multiple profiles based on available networks can cause delays and varied experiences. eUICC SIM card solutions are typically a more seamless way to achieve redundant coverage. Updates to the SIM profile can be issued over-the-air, like software. That means that teams can rest assured their devices will be prepared for any global, external factors that could affect their deployment.

Recommended reading: Why you should treat connectivity like software

What are the different type of network redundancy?

There are a few different ways that network redundancy might come into play for IoT deployments.

Carrier redundancy

When the term network redundancy comes to mind, people typically think of having multiple carriers available. This means having the ability to easily switch SIMs to another network like in the cases of the examples above, where either the original network has experienced an outage or the device itself moves out of the original coverage area.

Route redundancy

How devices access a specific carrier is referred to as the route. In certain cases, it may be beneficial to have multiple ways to access a specific carrier. For example, a device may access a network via roaming connection. If there is an issue with that roaming connection, but the network itself is still operational, is there another way to access that specific carrier? If access to a certain carrier is important, having multiple routes to access that carrier can prove valuable.

Cellular as a backup

Certain use cases may be well served by another form of connectivity, such as Wi-Fi. However, if the primary form of connectivity were to experience a disruption, the information gathered by devices may be too important to delay. In that case, some use cases build in a fallback to cellular connectivity. This might be the case for settings where Wi-Fi may be available but not always reliable, like an industrial manufacturing facility.

What are the benefits of building redundancy into a network?

There are a few reasons why IoT teams may seek a cellular connectivity solution with network redundancy.

Increasing network uptime

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of network redundancy is the ability to avoid disruptions in the flow of information. For the sensors on the fleet of trucks to provide the most accurate information, they must have a constant connection. Similarly, the information provided by some devices — like those made for remote patient monitoring — is too critical to experience delays.

Cost and time savings

Network outages and device downtime can have a real impact on businesses’ bottom lines — and that extends to both IoT device manufacturers and their customers. According to a 2014 study by Gartner, network downtime can cost companies $5,600 per minute on average. That adds up to over $300,000 per hour. When considering the loss of valuable data provided by devices, as well the potential loss of revenue generated in use cases like micromobility and payment terminals, it’s no surprise that there’s a big impact on the bottom line.

Other types of redundancy in IoT: power, data, and geographic

While network redundancy is a key consideration for innovators as they build their IoT solutions, there are other backups that teams should consider building in, too.

Power redundancy

Connected devices always need to have a power source. If there’s a power outage, or a device’s battery fails, it will no longer operate as expected, and teams will not have visibility into the device. Consider a cold chain example, in which the temperature of a refrigerated truck carrying dairy products must be consistently tracked and managed. While the truck is in motion, the refrigeration system is primarily powered from the vehicle’s battery. However, when the truck is turned off, the sensor must have a secondary power source that enables it to keep a read on the temperature inside of the cargo area. Teams should consider if their IoT device’s use case may warrant a secondary power source, too.

Message redundancy

Almost all IoT devices serve to collect data, and these packets of data are sent in small, encrypted messages to the Cloud. In some cases, it’s important that every one of these messages is received, and that no data point is lost. Think of a message signaling a security breach at a private residence or commercial building — your team couldn’t afford to miss that. Consider building in local caching of data, in which messages are stored at the device level. In the case that connection is lost, all messages are sent with timestamps when the signal is restored, so you can get a full picture of the data history after connectivity is restored. Other options include building in retries, guaranteed delivery, and more.

Geographic redundancy

Building for geographic redundancy means avoiding a single point of failure. One way to accomplish this is by considering what points of presence (PoPs) you can route data through. On the one hand, you can get better performance by using the closest PoP to your deployment. On the other hand, if that one goes down, having the ability to divert your traffic to another location can be the difference between keeping your devices online

Achieve network redundancy with Hologram

As you build your IoT solution, consider how your use case may benefit from cellular connectivity with network redundancy. Hologram’s eUICC-enabled Hyper SIMs will give you the confidence and flexibility to scale with ease — so your devices never get left in the dark.

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