A slow website is bad news, right? Not only can it be incredibly irritating, it actually has a huge impact on the user experience. The same thing is applied in many Internet of Things (IoT) devices – a market that is rapidly growing week by week. This means that is now more important than ever for both SMEs and large companies to consider the implications of their device connections which can have a huge impact on latency.
In this blog post we will delve into the importance of latency in the world of IoT to ensure better user experience, higher-performing products and, in some use cases, to enable the full potential of an IoT device.
Fast connections is the key to better user experience
So, how fast is fast enough? Actually just a fraction of a second – for example research has shown that the response time limit is only 0.1 second for users to feel as though their actions are directly causing something to happen when they click on something in a user interface. If, for example, you click on a button to expand a menu on a website, the menu needs to expand in less than 0.1 seconds to make you feel it was your action that made this happen. If it appears slower than 0.1 second, it can feel like the computer is deciding when to expand the menu, and not you.
Latency in direct IoT connectivity
Low latency might not always be of great importance, but in several IoT use cases, latency is very important for the user experience and the ultimate potential of the IoT device. An example of this could be if you want to unlock a door via your smartphone; imagine you
want to let a person in remotely (could be a technician or your child who forgot their key) and you want the lock to open as soon as you tap the screen and not several seconds or minutes after, so that you can tell the person when to enter. Or, instead of a phone, this could be a combination including a doorbell with two-way audio. Conversations involving too high latency are very hard to manage for most people.
Another example of where low latency is important for the potential of an IoT device is a surveillance camera with PTZ control (PTZ is Pan-Tilt-Zoom, the ability to move and zoom the camera). Low latency makes the PTZ controlling much smoother and easier to control the position of the camera. If the latency is above 100ms, the camera movements start to be out of sync with the user’s control and the user will start to “overshoot” the target being late with stopping movement commands.
A way of ensuring low latency in IoT devices is by creating direct connectivity between an end-user client (such as an app on a mobile device or a computer) and an IoT device. This is also known as a peer-to-peer (P2P) connection. The user’s commands to the IoT device, streaming of video, or transfer of large amounts of data, is shared in a direct communication infrastructure with no influence of a third-party server.
Another way of connecting to an IoT device is to send commands, data, etc. through the cloud where, in some cases, it also gets stored before being transmitted to the user. This does, unfortunately, have an effect on the latency, which, in these database-driven IoT solutions is often more than five seconds.
Low latency can ensure the best user experience in many IoT scenarios – and this is just one of the many benefits of direct connectivity. If you want to know more, you can read our P2P explainer or set up a free consultation so we can help you find the best (and fastest) solution for your IoT product(s).