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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Capillary networks – a smart way to get things connected

A capillary network is a local network that uses short-range radio-access technologies to provide local connectivity to things and devices. By leveraging the key capabilities of cellular networks – ubiquity, integrated security, network management and advanced backhaul connectivity – capillary networks will become a key enabler of the Networked Society.

Signs of the Networked Society are everywhere: remote monitoring of forests, connected cargo and isolated schools connected via broadband. People and businesses are relying more and more on connectivity to carry out their tasks.

Capillary networks use short-range radio to provide local connectivity connecting to the global communication infrastructure through a capillary gateway. Capillary networks are a smart way to connect the billions of things and devices that need connectivity, but some new functionality will be needed.

So what sort of applications can a capillary network support? A capillary network might, for example, connect a group of building sensors that provide relevant information to real-estate management. Or, a capillary network might connect goods in transit to a monitoring application.

Whatever the application, capillary networks work off entirely different sets of requirements compared with existing communication systems – which have primarily been built to allow people and systems to communicate. The use cases for machine-type communication (MTC) vary greatly from one application to the next and so rather than building systems with a one-size-fits-all approach, capillary networks will be designed to fit the application.

For example, keeping communication to a minimum is a key design parameter that allows battery-operated devices to sleep for as long as possible. The data rate requirements for MTC are often quite low – devices tend to report small amounts of information on say a daily or an hourly basis. And due to the billions of devices that require connectivity the cost of connectivity needs to be very low.

This article gives an overview of the functionality that is needed to deploy and connect capillary networks, why automatic configuration in a world where billions of devices need to be provisioned is a significant factor, and how to provide connectivity end-to-end securely.

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