IoT Protocols Overview And How To Choose The Best IoT Protocol

As the number of IoT devices continues to increase. According to data from:, the total amount of IoT devices in the world has surpassed non-IoT devices by 2020. And by 2030, 75% of all devices are forecast to be IoT. Communication or connectivity between IoT devices has become an important topic at present. To make your IoT device connected to the Internet easily , there are several IoT protocols available with different performance, data rate, coverage, power and memory, and each protocol has its own advantages and or more or less disadvantages.
The key aspect of choosing a perfect IoT wireless protocol for your IoT project is to pen down your requirements clearly so that you can focus only on viable options. These requirements can be the data transmission rate, operational range, power consumption, and the cost of the whole project.
Choosing the Best Wireless Protocol for Your IoT Project
Table of Contents

Wireless communication devices realize data communication between devices or with serial servers under various IoT protocols. And many different types of IoT wireless protocol has already been widely used in Internet of Things hardware devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

IEEE has more than ten 802.15 technical task groups right now( These 802.15 task groups include: WPAN/Bluetooth, Coexistence, high-rate WPAN, low-rate WPAN, mesh network, body area network and visible light communication, and so on. Each of these wireless transmission protocols has different performance, communication rate, coverage, power and memory. Next, Dusun IoT will share with you the commonly seen IoT wireless protocols.

What Is IoT Technology (Internet of Things)

Before talking with IoT protocols, we suggested you can make a basic understanding of IoT firstly. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broader term for the ever-increasing number of smart devices that can send or receive data over the internet.

Let us ask a question. Did you ever think you would be able to talk to your refrigerator? It certainly didn’t a decade ago. But the Internet of Things, or IoT, makes otherwise “dumb” refrigerator “smarter” by giving it the ability to “listen” to you while communicating over the internet through wired or wireless technologies.

Smart Home IoT

The IoT revolutionizes the universe of physical objects by imparting data processing, advanced analytics, and internet connectivity. The concept of a “smart home” is the epitome of the IoT and its application at a personal level. Using a mobile app or a website, you can adjust the thermostat temperature, turn on/off the lights, check the state of smoke detectors, unlock the doors, and even ring the doorbell because all of them are connected to a central IoT hub where data is communicated over the internet.

Learn about Smart Homes Here:

Industrial Internet of Things

In terms of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), IIoT works wonders by embedding billions of internet-enabled sensors and devices, emanating streams of data analyzed using AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms to improve operational efficiencies in manufacturing and distribution systems. This data enables analysts to predict potential machine breakdowns, optimize performance parameters, and prevent resource underutilization.

Learn more about the IIoT Here:

What is IoT Protocol and Why is It Necessary?

Wireless protocol allows the devices to communicate without wires and cables over long distances. Since the dawn of the twenty-first century, IoT wireless communication has made possible the establishment of a vast, intricately interconnected network with over 20 billion devices throughout the world. These devices can sense, process, transmit, and receive data over a network spanning millions of miles. These devices encompass various industrial sectors ranging from oil & gas, manufacturing, production, and service-based organizations such as banks, telecommunications, and hospitality, etc.

Notwithstanding, a secure connection is a must-have for these devices to communicate. And this constitutes the basis for IoT protocol development.

IoT Wireless Protocol Pros and Cons


  • No need for hefty physical infrastructures like wires, cables, and antennas.
  • Wireless networks are relatively easy to install and cost-effective to maintain and supervise.
  • Data is transmitted or received instantaneously.
  • Relatively easy to detect faults and perform diagnostics as compared to wired networks.
  • Wireless networks allow users more mobility as the network can be easily mobilized and reinstalled.


  • As communication happens in open spaces, wireless technologies are deemed less secure.
  • They are relatively more susceptible to signal interference and hence, are more unreliable.
  • Data throughput can be affected in extreme weather conditions like storms etc.
  • Data speeds vary depending on the distance to the network.
  • Wireless technologies have a limited range.

Most Commonly Used IoT Protocols

Let’s dive deeper into the realm of wireless IoT protocols and try to fathom their functions and applications.


Owned by the ZigBee Alliance, an alliance of multiple companies which have developed and published this standard, ZigBee was conceptualized in 1998, standardized in 2003, and then revised in 2006.

As stated on their website, the ZigBee protocol is incorporated and deployed in millions of devices across the world. Operating at a frequency of 2.4 GHz (Giga Hertz), the ZigBee protocol caters more to the industrial and manufacturing sectors, transferring data at lower rates and with ranges varying from 10 to 100 meters. ZigBee ensures a low-powered, low data rate, close-proximity, end-to-end IoT solution that is secure and easily scalable. The specification deployed is IEEE 802.15 WPAN and the normal data rate is 20, 40, and 250 kbps.

ZigBee prolongs the power supply battery life of the IoT product to the greatest extent. Therefore, it is an ideal technical solution for many industrial communications. In addition, the ZigBee module protocol provides 128-bit AES encryption, which supports Mesh ad hoc networks, and allows network nodes to be connected together through wireless transmission through multiple paths.

The smart home is the most commonly seen use example of the ZigBee. This technology can connect multiple devices together at the same time. As an ideal choice for the home network environment, users can realize the connection between devices such as smart door locks, lighting control, robots and thermostats, and add a Zigbee gateway to connect to the Internet and to perform real-time command control.

On its 15th anniversary, the ZigBee alliance launched “Dotdot”, which is an IoT basic language. Dotdot enables multiple smart devices to work coherently on the ZigBee network, Internet Protocol, and various others. Dotdot over thread technology has also been introduced, which is an IPV6 protocol allowing home device connectivity.


Just like ZigBee, LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is a proprietary technology developed by the LoRa Alliance, which is a non-profit organization. The LoRaWAN protocol is a set of transmission protocol standards based on the physical layer transmission of LoRa and mainly based on the data link layer. LoRaWAN corresponds to the MAC layer in the OSI seven-layer model. It is an open network protocol that eliminates the incompatibility of hardware, and also has features such as multi-channel access, frequency switching, adaptive rate, channel management, timing sending and receiving, node access authentication, data encryption, and roaming.

As the name suggests, LoRaWAN falls into the category of wide area networks. Hence, LoRaWAN is the preferred option for enterprises aiming to develop a wide area network for battery-powered IoT gadgets. LoRaWAN is widely used for monitoring control devices and sensors deployed in large areas such as cities or localities. Using unlicensed radio bands, it can perform city-wide streetlamp control, management of agricultural farm control systems, and other environmental sensors.

Fine-tuned for long-range communication, LoRaWAN deploys multiple sub-gigahertz frequency bands depending on the operational region. In North America, the 915 MHz band is used. 868 MHz for Europe, while the 169 and 433 MHz bands are also in use. The normal data rates vary from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps.

Learn more about the LoRaWAN frequency details HERE:


This technology was named after a 10th-century Danish king, “Herald Blatand” where “Blatand” means “Bluetooth”.

Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy, are also wireless communication protocol relying on short-range radio frequency waves in the 2.45 GHz spectrum and allows two devices to communicate with each other, allowing quick data transfers within short distances and at much lower energy consumption as compared to other protocols. The typical communication range for Bluetooth varies from 25 to 35 feet, and the data rate ranges from 1 Mbps to 5 Mbps.

Today, a myriad of PEDs (Personal Electronic Devices) employs Bluetooth technology. For example, wearable devices like headphones, air pods, or devices like wireless keyboards, mice, printers, webcams, etc. With the popularity of Bluetooth IoT, Bluetooth technology also been widely used in fitness bracelets, smart watches or other wearable small hardware devices to make Remote Patient Monitoring solutions. Also, By integrating Bluetooth Beacon and Bluetooth gateway/AoA locator together, Bluetooth is also widely used for personnel and asset location tracking.

Bluetooth-enabled devices use the “Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum” technique, which makes them much more secure and prevents hackers from eavesdropping.


Z-Wave was introduced by Zensys, a Denmark-based company, in 1999. By creating a mesh network using low-power RF waves operating in the sub-1 GHz band, Z-Wave has revolutionized the world of residential and commercial building automation.

Z-wave is somewhat similar to Wi-Fi, which has been fine-tuned for smart home automation. The Z-Wave Alliance is an international conglomerate of more than 300 companies that are currently managing this technology. These companies have manufactured and introduced an astonishing number of more than 100 million smart devices working on Z-Wave.

These devices include but are not limited to various smart home devices like door locks, thermostats, lights, sensors, fan controllers, and security systems. You can use your smartphone, laptop, or tablet to control and monitor a Z-Wave system remotely or even locally, through a dedicated smart panel with a Z-Wave gateway serving as the central hub and controller.

The typical range for Z-Wave varies from 100-800 meters, while for Z-Wave LR, the range extends up to 1,600 meters.


The Wi-Fi Alliance website states that Wi-Fi:

  • Stands out as the most commonly used wireless technology.
  • Serves as the primary medium for worldwide internet traffic.
  • Has driven a staggering $3.3 trillion dollars in the global economic ecosystem.
  • Has seen unprecedented growth, with more than 4 billion devices shipping every year and 16 billion devices in use.

Developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi, an acronym for Wireless Fidelity, is a wireless networking protocol based on the 802.11 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) network standard. It has revolutionized the way people have communicated for over two decades. Using radio waves, Wi-Fi allows multiple devices to connect to the internet in a home setting or business environment through a wireless router, which in turn links directly to your internet modem and functions as a hub to broadcast the internet connectivity to all the WIFI-linked devices such as cell phones, tablets, and TVs, etc.

Wi-Fi allows relatively greater mobility within the network coverage, and the typical range varies from 125 feet to 250 feet.

As Wi-Fi is the most sought-after wireless technology today, it is imperative that the network and data security be of top-notch quality.

Through Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the WI-FI Alliance has been at the forefront of ensuring secure digital communications for individuals and enterprises by using Authenticated encryption, HMAC (Hashed Message Authentication Mode) with Secure Hash Algorithm (HMAC-SHA256), and Robust management frame protection. 


LTE-M stands for Long-Term Evolution for Machines, which is a low-power wide area network using radio frequency waves for M2M (Machine to Machine) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Backed and developed by 3GPP, LTE-M provides a perfect narrow-bandwidth mobile communication solution to enable devices such as sensors, actuators, regulators, and other industrial devices to transmit data while ensuring relatively less power consumption and high signal penetration.

LTE-M eclipses other IoT protocols in terms of providing reliable worldwide connectivity, which makes it the perfect choice for a live status update for fleet tracking, remote location coverage, asset tracking, alarm panels, and POS (point-of-sale) devices. In low-coverage remote locations where the LTE signal strength is low, the system can easily downgrade to 3G (WCDMA-Wideband code division multiple access) or 2G (GPS-General Packet Radio Service) to ensure connectivity.

Using a cell-tower positioning system, LTE-M also provides cost-effective basic location tracking facilities to OEMs for their devices.

A SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module chip, is embedded in the circuit board of every LTE-M device and the carrier keys are incorporated, which makes it one of the most secure IoT protocols out there as the keys cannot be altered without having physical access.

However, as a subscription to any of the cellular carriers is mandatory for SIMs to operate, the associated costs tend to be ongoing.

The latest release, 14, offers a data rate extended up to 4Mbps, providing enhanced mobility and reliability for the network.

OwnerFrequency (MHz)RangePower RequirementSecurityCompatibility
ZigBeeZigBee Alliance868-868.6 (EU)
902-928 (US)
10-100 meters line-of-sightLow power, Battery lessLow, Basic encryptionCompatible across ZigBee devices Dotdot OS
LoRa Alliance169,433,868 (EU)
915 (US)
Up to 6 miles or 10 kmsLow-powerBasic 64-128 bit encryptionDepends on OEM
LTE-MGSMA-_Cellular carriersLTE bands:
450-2350 (uplink)
GlobalBand DependentNSA AES-256Application dependent
BluetoothBSIG (Bluetooth Special Interest Group)240010-30 metersLow Power typically 100mW128 bit encryptionBluetooth devices
Z-WaveSilicon Labs908 (US)
868 (EU)
30-100 meters¬2.5mAAES 128Z Wave devices
Wi-FiWi-Fi Alliance2.4-6 GHz20-150 meters5-20 WattsWPA-3Wi-Fi devices

IoT Protocols Can Be Used In These IoT Hardware

IoT protocols need to be used on IoT hardware devices. Different IoT projects may require different IoT hardware with different functions, but the underlying developmental structure remains the same. We will discuss some of the key hardware an IoT project must have.

IoT Sensors

As the name suggests, an IoT sensor is a device that detects a change in the physical state of any system and converts it into an electrical signal which is then transmitted to the central processing hub.

Sensors have various types i.e. optical, pressure, contact, acoustic, humidity, magnetic, chemical, and many more depending upon the physical change required to be detected.

IoT Gateway

What is an IoT Gateway and Why is it Indispensable?

Working as a bridge, an IoT gateway essentially serves as a central connecting hub for the IoT devices and links them to the cloud and to one another facilitating communication, and manipulating raw data into useful information using any of the IoT protocols discussed earlier. An IoT gateway also functions like a computing platform having built-in customized applications to manage devices, and data, ensure security, and various other gateway functions. 

For a more in-depth view of IoT Gateways, Check out this article for more info:

How to Choose Proper IoT Protocols for Your IoT Projects

It is difficult to determine which of the IoT protocols discussed above is the best for your IoT projects, but the winner is definitely the one that is easily available and at a suitable speed on most newly manufactured IoT devices and mobile phones. However, based on the current variety of use cases, the crux of the matter is not to find the “best” option, but to find the “best fit” option based on the needs.

In real-time, there will always be some sort of give-and-take scenarios where you might have to compromise on some factors. For example, a long operational range requires increased power consumption levels and hence an increased associated cost. Therefore, you need to chalk out your design criteria and then begin narrowing down your options till you find the most suitable one.

Wi-Fi would be ideal if you need to transfer large amounts of data and files over the network, while Bluetooth would be the first choice if you want to make retail proximity marketing.

In conclusion, a successful IoT protocol choice depends entirely on what you wish to achieve, and the key aspect of choosing perfect wireless IoT protocols for your IoT project is to pen down your requirements clearly so that you can focus only on viable options. These requirements can be the data transmission rate, operational range, power consumption, and the cost of the whole project.

Here are some key factors which you must consider while choosing the right wireless IoT protocol for your IoT project. 

Data Volume to be Transmitted

If your project requires huge chunks of data to be transmitted, like high-resolution pictures or videos, or large sensor data files, you must choose an IoT protocol that can transmit this huge data in a short interval. WLAN and Bluetooth protocols can be a great choice in such a situation, but they will consume a large amount of energy in the process.

However, the majority of IoT projects with smart sensor modules need the wireless transmission of small amounts of data in short bursts. In such scenarios, you can easily switch to low-powered solutions like ZigBee or EnOcean, which are designed specifically for ultra-low-power devices.

The Number of Devices Transmitting Data at the Same Time

For a wireless IoT protocol, the available frequency band is shared between the network devices. If you have many devices using the same frequency band at a given location, the radio signals can get distorted due to interference, resulting in data transmission delays and data losses.

Certain frequency bands are more widely used than others, which makes systems using certain protocols more prone to interference. The 2.4 GHz band is a good example — it’s used for the wireless networking of computers, printers, and other IT equipment and is license-free all over the world, making it a popular choice. Bluetooth and WLAN both use this band, as do the majority of ZigBee devices.

There are some other protocols that fall into the sub-1GHz band category, which means that the radio waves used in these protocols for data transmission have frequencies less than 1 GHz. You are much more likely to have interference-free transmission using these bands as they are much less populated.

Power Consumption of IoT Projects

If the IoT sensors deployed in your IoT project are battery-powered, you need to know the replacement period for the batteries. Furthermore, you will also need to dispose of them properly and ensure that you always have replacements ready to roll. Those seeking a low-energy, the low-maintenance IoT solution should consider less-power-comsuming batteries that is photovoltaic-powered, or in simple terms, uses solar energy as a power source. What’s more, choosing a low-energy wireless IoT protocol can unencumber you from all these hassles. Zigbee and BLE(Bluetooth Low Energy) are good examples.

Compatibility with Other Wireless Protocols and Platforms

Since there is a plethora of different IoT device manufacturers and automation systems, they usually use different IoT protocols. For example, in some complex industrial IoT solutions or projects, a company requires a large number of IoT equipment, sensors, smart terminals and other hardware to finish production. However, the IoT protocols supported by different types of hardware are varied. What’s more, Different industrial production scenarios and processes result in large differences in the degree of automation, informatization, and intelligence. Therefore, it is so difficult to fully interconnect all devices of a single enterprise. The entire Internet of Things is so fragmented and standardization is still on the way. So it is necessary to decide whichever IoT protocol you choose for your IoT project be compatible with other platforms and wireless protocols, and use IoT gateways to make IoT protocol conversion.

At Dusun IoT, we design IoT gateway hardware and IoT turnkey solutions that are compatible with LTE-M, Wi-Fi, BLE, Z-WAVE, Sub-G, LoRa, and many other IoT protocols. Our IoT gateways also support programming, secondary development, and other SDKs, allowing users to customize their IoT gateway applications easily.

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