Demystifying IoT Gateways: The Engine Behind Seamless Communication in IoT

The IoT gateway is an indispensable part of the Internet of Things system. It links various devices, sensors, machines, etc., to enable device interconnection and data exchange. This offers strong technical support for a wide range of IoT applications, especially in smart city, industrial 4.0 automation, and smart home. IoT gateways are continually being updated and enhanced along with the ongoing advancement of technology. This article will outline the crucial function of IoT gateways in the IoT ecosystem and provide guidance on how to pick the best IoT gateway.
Demystifying IoT Gateways
Table of Contents

The IoT gateway serves as a crucial hub that links devices to other devices and to the cloud. Its working process involves multiple links such as data collection, transmission, and processing. During this process, the IoT gateway must interface with multiple gadgets in order to upload the data gathered to the cloud. Additionally, all of this calls on reliable hardware and software.

For example, it can realize remote management and control of equipment to ensure the normal operation of equipment. At the same time, it can also filter and store data, improve the quality of data, and provide support for subsequent data analysis. It is precisely because of the existence of these functions that the IoT gateway has become a core component in the fields of smart cities, smart industries, and smart homes.

Numerous criteria, including application scenarios, the number of devices, communication protocols, and more, must be taken into account when selecting the best IoT gateway. This article should assist you in comprehending the fundamental ideas and operating principles underlying the IoT gateways, while also offering some advice on how to pick the best IoT gateway.

What is the Internet of Things? What is the Role of IoT Gateways?

The “Internet of things” idea initially surfaced in 1985: IoT, or the Internet of Things, is the integration of people, processes, and technology with connectable objects and sensors to allow for remote status monitoring, object manipulation, and trend analysis.


The IoT builds on the computer Internet by utilizing innovations like wireless network technologies to create a “Internet of Things” that spans the entire planet. In this network, objects can communicate with each other without human intervention. Its essence is to connect any object to the Internet using wired and wireless protocols for communication and information exchange. Examples of information sensing devices include radio frequency identification (RFID) gadgets, infrared sensors, laser scanners, etc.

In the age of the Internet of Things, the IoT gateway is crucial. It serves as the conduit between the conventional communication network and the sensory network. As a M2M gateway, IoT gateway can implement protocol conversion between various types of perception networks as well as between the perception network and the communication network. Meanwhile, it is capable of achieving both wide- and local-area connectivity. In addition, the IoT gateway also requires to have the device management function, so that operators can manage the underlying sensing nodes, comprehend the pertinent information of each node, and realize real-time display, abnormal alarm and remote control.

How Does an IoT Gateway Work?

An IoT gateway is a device used to connect non-IP devices to the Internet. The workflow of the IoT gateway can be broken down into three steps: connecting devices, processing data, and sending data to the server.

End Device Connection

End devices and IoT gateways are connected through various interfaces. Most of the time the sensor delivers data continuously and unilaterally to the server. In some cases, there is also a situation where the server sends data to the end device when the device applies to obtain data.  At this situation, the IoT gateway is required to request data.

Data Processing

After receiving the data from the end device, the IoT gateway needs to convert it into a format that can be transferred to the server. For instance, data delivered from the device to the gateway may be expressed by replacing 4-digit binary numbers (such as binary data and BCD code) with one decimal number data. Such data will be transformed into string and numeric representations at the gateway rather than being delivered directly to the server.

There is also the following situation, in which a substantial amount of data is integrated before being delivered to the server rather than the server receiving the data straight from each device. This is done for two reasons:

Firstly, by integrating the data, the total amount of data and affixed information can both be decreased.

Secondly, by sending data together, it is possible to lessen the server burden when accessing IoT services.

At such situation, the time interval for sending data and the protocol for sending data need to be determined according to the server

Sending Data to the Server

The data receiving server is responsible for receiving the data sent from the IoT gateway device. It acts as a bridge between devices and systems. There are many ways to send data from the IoT gateway to the server, which typically include the following two methods: 1. Use the Web API of the HTTP protocol to access the device; 2. Perform voice and real-time communication of video (such as WebSocket and WebRTC); 3. A new communication protocol called MQTT has has emerged specifically for the Internet of Things.

IoT Gateway Function

An IoT gateway is a device that can connect multiple devices and has the function of connecting directly to the Internet. This allows for IoT services to save data received from devices to a database and analyze the collected data. At the same time, the IoT gateway also supports sending instructions and information to devices. main functions of an IoT gateway are as follows:

Sensors to Cloud Access

Smart sensors are one of the most crucial elements of the IoT architecture. They gather a variety of data from the physical world and offer the Internet of Things with enormous data sources. Different sensor devices can be connected to the IoT sensor ateway, which can then gather data, examine protocols, and transmit it to other devices or the cloud.

At the same time, the IoT sensor gateway can also cache and analyze the data gathered by sensors through load balancing and other technologies, so as to improve the speed and dependability of the entire IoT system.

IoT devices primarily communicate with IoT gateways using short-range wireless technologies such as Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Bluetooth LE. Some IoT devices also use long-range wireless technologies like LoRa to connect to IoT gateways. The IoT gateway then connects a series of sensors to a wide area network (WAN) or cloud via a fiber optic WAN or Ethernet LAN.

Various communication technologies are primarily developed for certain applications, therefore, they lack compatibility and systematic planning among each other. To achieve the interconnection and interoperability of diverse communication technology standards, some organizations, like 3GPP, are already working on the standardization of IoT protocols.

Device Management

For any large network, strong device management capabilities are essential. Instances like registration management, authorization management, and status supervision can all be implemented through the the IoT gateway management. The IoT gateway can also manage the nodes in the sub network, including remotely realizing wake-up, control, diagnostic, upgrade, and maintenance as well as getting the identification, status, attributes, energy, etc.

The administration capacities of each IoT gateways vary because to the various sub network standards and the complexity of protocols. Users can utilize a unified administration interface to control peripheral network nodes uniformly and can take a modular approach to managing the IoT gateway’s different perception networks and applications.

Multi-protocol Conversion

The IoT gateway can implement protocol conversion from various perception networks to the Internet access network, uniformly encapsulate data into the standard format, guarantee that the various perception networks’ protocols can become unified data and signaling, and ensure that data packets are parsed into signaling and control instructions that the perception layer protocol can understand.

Edge Computing

IoT gateway with edge computing capabilities can optimize terminal data processing, create conditions for data security, and effectively relieve the load on the platform server. It performs the following duties specifically:

  • Support message conversion and abnormal alarm;
  • Support online link detection and automatic reconnection when disconnected;
  • Support device to run self-test software to achieve self-repair of operating faults;
  • Support system status, network connection status, and routing status query;
  • Support telnet, web, ssh configuration;
  • Support web upgrade, local log, remote log, serial port output log

How to Choose IoT Gateways?

An IoT gateway device consists of hardware and software. IoT gateways come in a wide variety of styles today. So, what are the criteria for choosing an IoT gateway? Let’s take a look here.

  • Interfaces: The first important thing to consider is the interface used to connect the gateway and the device. The interfaces of the gateway determines the devices that can be connected, so the key is to choose an interface that matches the device. Serial communication and USB connections are examples of wired connection techniques. Wireless connections frequently employ Bluetooth, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, etc.;
  • Network interfaces: typically, to connect to the external network, we use Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, or 5G;
  • Hardware: When compared to regular computers, gateways’ CPU and memory performance is constrained. Prior to considering the physical capabilities of the gateway, we must decide what we want it to be able to do.
  • Software: Operating systems, application environments, programming languages, development environments, etc. are all examples of software. In most cases, the gateway runs on the Linux operating system.
  • Power supply: Most gateways rely on AC adapters for power, while some may come with lithium batteries within.

FAQs of IoT Gateways

What is an IoT Gateway?

IoT gateways are pieces of hardware or software that link actuators, sensors, and other smart devices to the cloud.. All data that travels between IoT devices and the cloud is routed through an IoT gateway. An alternative name for an IoT gateway is a smart gateway or controller.

What is IoT cloud gateway?

An IoT cloud gateway, which also serves as a network router, is used to send data between IoT devices and the cloud. In the early days, the majority of gateway devices merely sent data from IoT devices to the cloud. Nowadays, gateway devices is capable of managing inbound and outbound traffic. Outbound traffic streams are used to send IoT data to the cloud, and inbound traffic is used for device administration tasks like firmware updates.

IoT gateways can do more than just route traffic. Before being transferred to the cloud, data can occasionally be preprocessed locally at the edge via an edge gateway device. The device may deduplicate, summarize, or aggregate the data as a part of the process to lessen the quantity of data that needs to be transferred to the cloud. Response times and network transfer expenses may be considerably impacted by this.

How to enhance the security of IoT gateway?

Adopting IoT gateways with features such as tamper detection, encryption, hardware random number generators, and encryption engines is one method businesses can use to secure their IoT networks. This can help protect individual devices from attacks and secure IoT gateways.

IoT gateways can add an additional layer of security to IoT networks and the data they transmit. One option for enterprises to secure their IoT networks is by implementing IoT gateways with tamper detection, encryption, hardware random number generators, and encryption engines. This can help secure IoT gateways and defend against assaults on specific devices.

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