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Ethernet in IoT still serves a purpose in the wireless age

When it comes to the internet and the cloud, Ethernet is the dominant wired network technology with expanding capabilities for IoT deployments.

IoT products may connect through either wired or wireless technologies, but many wireless products, including IoT, still depend on wired infrastructure.

The IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard, and other standards within the 802 family, provide a low-cost option that organizations can purchase from multiple vendors and count on to work when they plug it in. The standard's popularity over the past four decades can be attributed to the adaptation of Ethernet to the needs of targeted application spaces. With the plethora of wired ethernet standards, many IT experts know the networking architecture by the application spaces that they target, such as automotive Ethernet, industrial Ethernet, data center Ethernet or Power over Ethernet (PoE).

How is Ethernet in IoT used?

Although there are definite IoT applications that require a wireless network, such as wearables, Ethernet has a host of options that could provide IT pros with the perfect wired connection. The combination of data and power provides potential interconnect options that are not available with wireless networks. Many IoT applications need lower data rate connections. As the application becomes more bandwidth-intensive, wired Ethernet can provide the necessary throughput. Some examples of how organizations use Ethernet in IoT deployments include:

The combination of data and power provides potential interconnect options that are not available with wireless networks.
  • IoT applications that use Wi-Fi connect wireless access points via a wired infrastructure, based on physical layers supporting Ethernet operation over UTP cabling.
  • Over the last decade, the IEEE 802.3 Working Group has developed a series of Ethernet standards that will provide data connectivity ranging from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps for use inside vehicles on a single twisted pair of conductors.
  • The new IEEE 802.3cg standard runs over a single twisted pair, but not just for the car. In process control networks, the new standard enables a higher speed connection, without the use of gateways, for field switches, sensors and actuators. Organizations can use this new Ethernet standard in equipment to meet the intrinsic safety requirements necessary for hazardous areas.
  • PoE currently powers IP telephones and wireless access points. However, it is expanding into IoT devices, such as security cameras or kiosks that need power as well as data. The new IEEE 802.3bt PoE standard can provide up to 90 W over the UTP cabling discussed previously. PoE is also critical to wireless access points and supporting Wi-Fi. PoE will be quite popular with smart LED lighting and could help power light communications technology being developed by the IEEE 802.11.

How has Ethernet developed?

May 22, 1973, is credited as the birthday of Ethernet. On this day, the father of Ethernet, Bob Metcalfe, wrote a famous memo describing the Ethernet network he had invented for interconnecting personal computers, with the first Ethernet rate being 2.94 Mbps. The first Ethernet standard was published in 1983. Since that time, thousands of individuals have developed the Ethernet standards to address various physical mediums -- such as copper traces connecting integrated circuits and optical modules, single- and four-pair UTP, twin-axial cabling, multi-mode fiber, and single-mode fiber-- at speeds of up to 400 Gbps.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing an IT pro will be keeping up with the ongoing evolution of Ethernet. New Ethernet capabilities are constantly under development.

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