Modules, Connectivity, Platforms

Lightweight M2M or MQTT: Choosing the Right IoT Protocol for Your Needs

August 3, 2020

How to Align Your IoT Device Management Approach to the Specific Use Case for Better Outcomes

Launch Your Cellular IoT Journey with Telit

Minimizing costs and maximizing efficiency are critical for today’s IoT deployments. Organizations are looking for technologies that make it easy to implement the essential functions that can quickly scale as needs change — regardless of the use case or the application. Robust tools to support configuration, updating and upgrading have become foundational for
device management.

Adopting the right IoT protocol pivots on meeting requirements of a specific use case and protecting your technology investment. The ideal protocol will be supported by a vibrant ecosystem that envelops your use case. Several vendors can bring their solutions and interoperate, reducing risks caused by lock-in and proprietary solutions. Standards organizations back standards-based protocols, and their ecosystems are dedicated to keeping those protocols up to date and offering best practices around how the technology should be used.

Understanding the Difference Between LWM2M and MQTT

Difference Between LWM2M and MQTT

The top two protocols for transporting data from devices to platforms, systems, applications and other devices are Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) and Lightweight Machine-to-Machine (LwM2M).

The LwM2M communication protocol was developed by the Open Mobile Alliance to link LwM2M-enabled devices with LwM2M-enabled servers. The protocol lets users perform tasks, run diagnostics and applications, and engage device management on their remote IoT-embedded devices.

MQTT was created by IBM and first released in 1999. Developed initially to link sensors on oil pipelines with communications satellites, it has continued to evolve over the past two decades.

Although both LwM2M and MQTT protocols perform similar functions, they are very distinct in how they are implemented.

LwM2M is based on a Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) model. Designed with resource-constrained devices in focus, LwM2M adds a nimble yet rich device management structure on top of the transport layer that improves interoperability in IoT use cases. It offers a variety of ready-to-use standard objects, connectivity monitoring, remote device actions and support for firmware over-the-air (FOTA) and software over-the-air (SOTA) updates.

MQTT does not offer this type of device management support and utilizes a more proprietary approach to these features that is vendor- and platform-specific. Essentially, LwM2M provides a full stack for a complete solution, whereas MQTT is more about delivering transport for publishing data and exchanging data between nodes in a network. Unlike LwM2M, MQTT is based on a publish-subscribe model.

The two protocols also interact with the transport layer. MQTT often runs on TCP/IP, a relatively heavy protocol, but LwM2M rides on top of UDP and many other means of transport, with more continually being added as the standard evolves.

LwM2M supports different formats for the payload, with a security framework defined as part of the protocol. LwM2M is not only a communication protocol but also a set of interfaces and an object model that allows interoperability between solutions. It is also highly flexible and scales easily to more sophisticated, high-end platforms.

Finding the Right Protocol for Your Environment

How can you determine which protocol is the best fit for your use case? A good starting point is to consider the context for your use case and determine the protocol that best fits within your processes. Consider the KPIs you will use to determine the success of your service. Ensure that the protocol can be appropriately and easily integrated with your processes and enterprise applications and can scale to guarantee that your service will be stable and reliable. One efficient way to evaluate the fit of the protocol is to review the success — the extent to which KPIs were met — of similar cases to yours in the market.

Moving forward without determining the KPIs that define your service’s costs and efficiencies could create issues as you deploy and scale your solution. Choose a solution that considers your communication needs between your edge devices and your system and enables you to manage and troubleshoot those devices. 

The specific features and capabilities of technology are not the only considerations when choosing an IoT protocol. It’s also important to consider the right technology partner. The backend technology must be secure, scalable, reliable and future-proof. Choose a partner who is running this technology on top of robust, field-proven IoT infrastructure.

Putting LwM2M into Play

It’s one thing to consider the strengths and weaknesses of technology and partner in the abstract, but the real test comes when you apply them to specific use cases. LwM2M is ideal for domains and devices that are battery-powered or powered from off-grid low-power sources like solar and piezo. It is also a reliable option for cellular technology applications that must minimize the amount of data going over the cellular connection. For example, smart metering and smart city applications are becoming much more common.

LwM2M is also gaining popularity for use cases that require conditions-based monitoring. For example, for some security use cases, a device remains dormant until an event triggers an action. LwM2M is highly effective for monitoring a gas tank or a device with environmental alarms. It is ideal for situations in which the device should send a notification only if something has gone wrong, such as when a safety or security threshold has been crossed, to minimize data transmission.

The Latest Step in a Continuous IoT Deployment

Device management is fundamental for every IoT deployment, and your choice of an IoT protocol can determine your ultimate success or failure. Efficient and agile, LwM2M empowers organizations to support use cases they could not have sustained before. It is especially useful for today’s new 5G technologies.

Telit has been closely following LwM2M since its inception. It was one of the first companies to recognize its potential, integrate its development groups and nurture it to address the challenges of new technologies and new IoT use cases.

After carefully evaluating a variety of technologies and their applicability to several use cases, Telit is incorporating LwM2M within more and more of our solutions and services. For example, LwM2M support is deeply integrated into Telit OneEdge™, our suite of software and tools that ensure secure cellular IoT deployment is easy to manage. Supporting LwM2M is simply the latest evolutionary step in Telit’s long-term technology journey.

Learn More

Visit our LwM2M overview page to learn more about LwM2M and its ability to enable low-cost remote management for
your use case.

If you’d like to explore how Telit OneEdge can help support your IoT deployment, request a Bravo Evaluation Kit.