Difference between Wireless Sensor Networks and IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) is now one of the most interesting technologies. It is influencing both our interactions with technology and our interactions with one another. However, other sensor network-related technologies are also gaining popularity. A wireless sensor network is one of the key technological components of the Internet of Things.

IoT deployment requires the use of wireless sensor networks. The Internet of Things links the physical world to the web, while wireless sensor networks focus on integrating IoT devices locally.  A summary of both systems is provided in the following sections.

What is a Wireless Sensor Network?

A wireless sensor network (WSN) is a collection of autonomous devices that create an ad hoc network to gather information from the physical environment. It consists of a cluster of sensor networks, field area networks (FANs), mesh networks, narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), and body area networks (BANs). These gadgets are low-powered and send data via specific communication protocols. IoT systems are implemented to collect and analyze data from each of these autonomously linked devices. Public cloud providers provide storage and apps, whereas private cloud providers give such services to a limited number of customers.

One example of a WSN is a network of sensors on a ship’s hull to detect water intrusion. Each sensor has a unique ID and functions autonomously from the other sensors in this case. Each sensor is typically battery-powered and uses an ultralow-power protocol to send information to a central gateway. The gateway processes aggregate all the data collected from the sensors before sending it to the IoT platform. Another example of a WSN is a network of nodes used in infrastructure management. They have made people’s lives more convenient and efficient.

Wireless Sensor Network Architecture

A WSN typically consists of several nodes, or sensors, that are connected wirelessly. Each node is responsible for collecting data from its environment and sending it to the central server. The nodes can be combined in a mesh network or connected to a central hub. The nodes can also be connected to the internet, allowing them to send data to the cloud platform. There are some WSN architectures, but the most common ones are −

Star topology − A star topology allows for convenient data collection as all the nodes are connected to one central node, which then relays the data to a central server. However, this architecture becomes inefficient as the number of nodes increases. Additionally, the star network is not scalable. The main advantage of this topology is that it is easy to deploy and synchronise the nodes.

Hub topology − A hub-spoke WSN consists of a central hub connected to nodes via a wired or wireless network. The data is collected from the nodes and is sent to the main server using the wired or wireless network. One can send the data online or stay within the local network. The nodes are placed in specific locations to monitor different environmental factors. The sensors may be placed on moving vehicles or on small robots. The number of nodes that are required depends on the environment.

WSNs can be used in various healthcare, military, agriculture, manufacturing, and retail sectors.

IoT Architecture

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of connected devices that can communicate with each other and the internet. These devices can be anything from smartphones to home appliances. The devices are connected to the internet and can send and receive data. One can then use the data to control the devices or provide user information.

The Internet of Things architecture comprises sensors, actuators, and internet connections to important physical objects. The real-time data generated by IoT devices may be evaluated and used to operate the equipment or for other purposes. Home automation systems, healthcare, agriculture, and manufacturing are some of the uses for IoT devices.

There are two types of IoT hardware: consumer and industrial. Wearables such as smartwatches and smart glasses, as well as remote monitoring and automation devices such as smart thermostats, are included in the consumer section.

Difference between IoT and Wireless Sensor Networks

The main difference between WSNs and IoT is the type of devices used in their systems. WSNs are typically used to collect data from the environment, while IoT devices control devices or provide information to the user. Whereas the term "Internet of Things" (IoT) has been used to describe a new phenomenon wherein every object around us is starting to have its IP address. Everything goes online, whether it's an appliance, a machine, equipment, or even our clothing.

WSNs are typically used in industrial applications, while IoT is used in consumer applications.

The nodes in a WSN are small and very mobile, making it difficult to power them from batteries or the main power grid. Therefore, most nodes in a WSN use Energy harvesting as the primary power source.

IoT vs. Wireless Sensor Network



Wireless Sensor Network


IOT has a gateway that can connect to internetworks (having routers, switches, APs, etc.).

WSN consists of a network of only sensors


IOT runs IPv6 in the sensor network (802.15.4 MAC/PHY) and IPv4 on the internetwork portion.

WSN runs IPv4 and features a sink (not a gateway)


Routing protocols in NetSim IoT include AODV and RPL.

Routing protocols in NetSim WSN include DSR, AODV, OLSR, and ZRP.


Wireless Sensor Networks and the Internet of Things are the most popular technologies today. While they both have their benefits and advantages, they can also be used in tandem to create powerful applications. WSNs are typically used to collect data from the environment, while IoT controls devices or provides information to the user. Understanding the differences between WSNs and IoT enables one to make informed decisions about which technology is best wherever applicable.

Updated on: 14-Feb-2023

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