Industrial Wireless Communication: Comparing Protocols for Automation

Reut Akuny

Reut Akuny, Head of R&D

| 12 June, 2024
Industrial Wireless Communication: Comparing Protocols for Automation
Reut Akuny
Industrial wireless communication protocols offer a range of benefits tailored to specific use cases. From the robust and deterministic communication of IO-Link Wireless to the extensive coverage of LoRa, each protocol offers advantages for enhancing productivity within industrial environments.

Reut Akuny

Head of R&D

The foundation of factory automation and IIoT is industrial wireless communication. Wireless communication protocols ensure the reliable operations of large systems and complex equipment.

As manufacturers seek to enhance productivity and streamline operations, choosing the right communication protocol is key. The goal of this comparison is to provide information for a data-backed protocol implementation. 

IO-Link Wireless

IO-Link Wireless is an extension of the IO-Link protocol, designed to bring the advantages of wireless communication to industrial automation. This protocol offers robust and deterministic communication, ensuring high data integrity and low latency, which drives real-time control applications.


  • High Reliability: IO-Link Wireless employs frequency hopping and redundant communication paths, significantly reducing the risk of interference and packet loss.
  • Low Latency: With a latency of less than 5ms, IO-Link Wireless is well-suited for time-critical applications.
  • Scalability: The protocol supports up to 40 devices per IO-Link Wireless Master, making it ideal for complex automation systems.
  • Ease of Integration: IO-Link Wireless can seamlessly integrate with existing wired IO-Link systems, as well as Digital and Analog devices, providing a flexible and scalable solution for industrial automation.


  • Limited Range: IO-Link Wireless has a relatively short range compared to several other wireless protocols, which can be a limitation in larger industrial environments.


  • Suitable for applications in harsh environments where cables might be prone to damage.
  • Ideal for mobile equipment and rotating parts (rotary cables and carousels) within industrial settings.
  • Enhances the flexibility and scalability of sensor networks in automated production lines.

Wi-Fi-Based Standards for Automation

Wi-Fi-based standards, such as IEEE 802.11, have been widely adopted in industrial automation due to their high data transfer rates and widespread availability. These standards provide a framework for connecting various devices and systems within a factory environment.


  • High Data Throughput: Industrial Wi-Fi protocols, particularly those based on IEEE 802.11ac and IEEE 802.11ax, offer high data transfer rates, enabling the transmission of large amounts of data with minimal delay.
  • Extensive Range: Wi-Fi networks can cover large areas, making them suitable for extensive industrial facilities.
  • Interoperability: Wi-Fi is a universally accepted standard, ensuring compatibility with a wide range of devices and systems.


  • Power Consumption: Wi-Fi generally requires more power compared to other industrial wireless protocols, making it less suitable for battery-operated devices.
  • Interference and Congestion: Wi-Fi networks can suffer from interference and congestion, especially when many devices or networks operate simultaneously.
  • Security Vulnerabilities: Wi-Fi networks can be targets for cyber-attacks, so they require robust security measures to protect sensitive industrial data.


  • Ideal for applications requiring high data throughput, such as video surveillance and remote monitoring.
  • Suitable for large-scale industrial facilities, including warehouses and manufacturing plants.
  • Facilitates connectivity between various industrial systems and devices.

IEEE 802.15.4-Based Wireless Standards

IEEE 802.15.4-based wireless standards, including ZigBee, are designed for low-power, low-data-rate communication. These protocols are optimized for industrial applications that demand energy efficiency and reliable communication.


  • Energy Efficiency: IEEE 802.15.4-based protocols are highly energy-efficient, making them suitable for battery-powered devices and sensors.
  • Mesh Networking: These protocols support mesh networking, enhancing the reliability and robustness of communication within industrial environments.
  • Low Latency: With low latency communication, IEEE 802.15.4-based standards are suitable for time-sensitive applications.


  • Low Data Rates: These standards support low data rates, which may not be suitable for applications requiring high bandwidth.
  • Range Limitations: The communication range is generally shorter compared to other protocols like LoRa, limiting their use in large-scale deployments.
  • Scalability Issues: Mesh networking can introduce complexity and may not scale well for very large networks.


  • Ideal for wireless sensor networks and monitoring systems where energy efficiency plays a big role.
  • Suitable for applications requiring robust and reliable communication, such as industrial control systems.
  • Widely used in process automation and monitoring applications.

Bluetooth LE and Cellular IoT 

Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) and Cellular IoT are powerful tools for industrial automation mostly because they offer unique benefits for specific use cases.

Bluetooth LE:


  • Low Power Consumption: Bluetooth LE is designed for low power consumption, making it suitable for battery-operated devices.
  • High Precision: With advancements like Bluetooth 5, the protocol offers improved range and higher data rates.
  • Proximity Sensing: Bluetooth LE is excellent for applications involving proximity sensing and location tracking.


  • Short Range: Bluetooth LE is designed for short-range communication, which can be a limitation in large industrial facilities.
  • Interference: Prone to interference from other devices such as Wi-Fi and microwaves.
  • Limited Device Connectivity: While it supports multiple connections, the number of devices that can be efficiently managed is lower compared to protocols designed for massive IoT deployments.


  • Ideal for short-range communication in industrial settings, such as connecting sensors and actuators.
  • Suitable for asset tracking and proximity sensing applications within factories.

Cellular IoT:


  • Wide Area Coverage: Cellular IoT, including NB-IoT and LTE-M, provides extensive coverage for large industrial sites.
  • High Reliability: Cellular networks are highly reliable, offering robust communication even in challenging environments.
  • Scalability: Cellular IoT supports massive device connectivity, essential for large-scale industrial applications.


  • Cost: Cellular IoT can incur higher costs due to data plans and network subscriptions, making it less economical for some applications.
  • Power Consumption: Cellular modules usually consume more power, which is a drawback for battery-operated devices.
  • Latency: Cellular networks can have higher latency compared to other protocols like IO-Link Wireless. 


  • Works for remote monitoring and control applications in industrial settings.
  • Suitable for large-scale asset tracking and fleet management.


LoRa (Long Range) is a wireless communication protocol designed for long-range, low-power applications. LoRa is particularly well-suited for industrial environments where long-range communication is required.


  • Long Range: LoRa offers extensive coverage, capable of transmitting data over several kilometers.
  • Low Power Consumption: The protocol is highly energy-efficient, making it suitable for battery-powered devices.
  • Scalability: LoRa supports massive device connectivity, essential for large-scale industrial applications.


  • Low Data Rates: LoRa supports low data rates, making it unsuitable for applications that require high bandwidth.
  • Interference: Although it operates in sub-GHz bands, it can still face interference from other devices using the same spectrum.
  • Limited Interoperability: LoRa devices are often part of proprietary networks, which can limit interoperability with other systems and technologies.


  • Suitable for large-scale asset tracking and environmental monitoring.
  • Widely used in agricultural applications and smart city projects.

Moving Forward with Industrial Wireless Communication 

Industrial wireless communication protocols offer a range of benefits tailored to specific use cases. From the robust and deterministic communication of IO-Link Wireless to the extensive coverage of LoRa, each protocol offers advantages for enhancing productivity within industrial environments.

Understanding these protocols’ strengths and applications is key to selecting the right solution for your needs. Embracing the appropriate wireless communication protocol can significantly improve operational efficiency and cut costs. 

FAQ about Industrial Wireless Communication

What is industrial wireless communication?

Industrial wireless communication refers to the use of wireless technologies to transmit data within industrial environments. It enables the monitoring and control of machinery, sensors, and other devices without the need for physical cabling.

What are the three types of wireless communication?

The three main types of wireless communication are radio frequency (RF) communication, infrared (IR) communication, and satellite communication. Each type uses different methods to transmit data wirelessly over varying distances and through different mediums.

What is the difference between Wi-Fi and industrial wireless?

In most cases, Wi-Fi caters to consumer and office environments. It provides general-purpose wireless networking for devices like computers and smartphones. However, industrial wireless communication is designed for harsh industrial environments. It offers more robust, reliable, and secure connectivity.

Reut possesses extensive expertise as an engineering leader, with more than 12 years of experience across diverse domains, including industrial applications, wireless technologies, and electrical engineering. Before joining CoreTigo, she held a position at Mellanox Technologies, a company later acquired by Nvidia. Reut currently spearheads multifaceted R&D teams, overseeing activities spanning firmware and hardware development, verification, and system engineering.

In 2022, Reut’s accomplishments were acknowledged by Women in Industry 4.0, which recognized her as one of Israel’s top female leaders in the industrial sector. She holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Tel-Aviv University.