Gateways join two networks together so that devices on either network can communicate with one another. Without them, users would be unable to send and receive data or access the Internet.
These network stopping points can be implemented with software, hardware or with a hybrid of both.
There are a variety of different gateways that can be used. However, they all share the same function: connecting a local area network and its devices to the Internet and to other external networks.
A common example of a network gateway is the cable or broadband modems found in most homes today. This modem is usually provided by the Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast) and serves as a local connection point for devices in the home like laptops, smartphones, and other connected devices like Amazon Alexa or Apple HomePod speakers.
Firewalls are advanced gateways that filter data as it travels to and from the network, protecting the network from external threats like viruses and malware.
Another gateway is a proxy server, which utilizes a combination of hardware and software to filter the data traffic between two networks. An example of this can be allowing computers connected to a local area network from accessing certain websites that could be considered untrustworthy.
Gateways play an important role in IoT systems as well, providing a secure connection point between the network and its devices and sensors, and the cloud.
In addition, gateways can ensure that the data collected from IoT sensors will reach the cloud together, rather than sporadically bit by bit. This drastically improves the data and power efficiency of IoT projects.
Gateways are especially useful for IoT projects that cover a large geographic area, such as those seen in manufacturing or agriculture. That’s because many of the IoT-connected sensors associated with these industries need low power usage, as they are meant to send small, infrequent data loads.
Covering a large geographic area typically requires lots of power, as data must be sent from the IoT-connected devices to the cloud for storage and analytics.
By employing a gateway, IoT sensors only need to send collected data to the gateway, which can then backhaul the data to the cloud. Since the gateway is far closer than the cloud, each device only needs to communicate locally over a short range, reducing the power load.
Plus, because IoT gateways aren’t deployed, they can be built to handle greater power and data loads. In addition, they can have more security features than IoT sensors, which are often streamlined for maximum efficiency.
This means the data that passes from IoT-connected sensors through gateways will be secured at the network’s stopping point before continuing to the cloud.
Gateways can also help IoT projects find consistency in how devices communicate with one another.
IoT systems that handle hundreds of different IoT-connected sensors and devices often rely on multiple transmission and communication protocols. These could range from cellular and wifi, to Bluetooth and Zigbee.
Gateways solve this issue by communicating with each device in its respective protocol, and translating the gathered information to the cloud in a singular protocol like MQTT.
Plus, gateways can reduce the strain put on the cloud by filtering some of the data that is being collected by the IoT-connected sensors.
For instance, transmitting sensor data that hasn’t changed in multiple years is a waste of time and money. Gateways can pre-process this information before it is transferred to the cloud, drastically reducing the storage load.