Introduction

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and Industry 4.0 technologies has ushered in an era of interconnected systems in which devices and machines communicate to optimise operations and increase production. Wired and wireless communication technologies are essential for enabling this connectivity. Wired communication systems, such as Ethernet and fibre-optic connections, provide stability and fast data transfer speeds. Wireless communication systems like Wi-Fi, cellular networks, and LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) enable mobility and flexibility. Each has its own set of strengths and limitations. In this context, hybrid systems bridge the gap by combining the best of both worlds to develop resilient and versatile communication infrastructures. This article discusses the significance of hybrid systems and offers insights into their design, benefits, types, and best practices.

What is hybrid network topology

It is a combination of two or more network topologies. The topologies available are star, ring, bus, and mesh. Usually, hybrid networks are built using solely star and ring topologies.

Hybrid topology operates on Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g) and Ethernet (802.3) protocols. This network primarily depends on hybrid routers such as hubs and switches to connect easily with wireless and wired computers. The diagram of the hybrid topology is presented below.

Hybrid Topology in Computer Network
Figure 1: Hybrid topology in computer network

Two or more network topologies are interconnected in the network below, and each topology has its own set of nodes. The resulting interconnection enables nodes in a specific basic topology to communicate with nodes in a similar basic topology as well as nodes in another basic topology in the hybrid network.

Basic topology

In this type of topology, we can choose the network backbone, such as a switch/hub, and network divisions that differ primarily due to their topological layout. The network topologies are one of the network divisions. The entire computer networking system predominantly depends on the network's backbone, which is connected by network segments.

Benefits of hybrid systems

  1. Enhanced reliability and redundancy: Hybrid systems are built with redundancy in mind, ensuring that communication stays uninterrupted during a malfunction or disruption. A hybrid system can automatically switch to the most dependable media in real-time by combining wired and wireless components. This redundancy reduces downtime, vital for mission-critical applications such as industrial control systems and emergency services.
  2. Higher adaptability and scalability:Hybrid systems are more adaptable to changing needs. Wireless components can be quickly added without extensive rewiring when more devices or users need to be incorporated. Furthermore, its flexibility expands networks to span more significant regions, enabling smart cities and enormous industrial operations to emerge.
  3. Improved cost-effectiveness:A crucial factor in system design is balancing the cost of installation and maintenance against the performance benefits. Hybrid systems might be more cost-effective than cable alternatives when extending coverage over broad regions or dealing with remote and difficult-to-reach sites. They lower the overall cost of deployment by minimising the quantity of expensive cabling and infrastructure.

Types of hybrid topology

The two most used types of hybrid topologies are the following.

  1. Star-ring hybrid topology:The star-ring hybrid topology is generated by connecting the star and ring topologies. The cable connection connects two or more-star topologies to the ring topology. Because this topology is both unidirectional and bidirectional, data travels in both directions. This design provides more dependability since if any node in the network fails to send data, the remaining nodes are unaffected.

    star-ring hybrid topology
    Figure 2: Star-ring hybrid topology
  2. Star-bus hybrid topology:By connecting the star and bus topologies via a connected connection, the Star-Bus topology can be built. This hybrid topology improves dependability and throughput. This topology is bidirectional, which means that data can be sent in both directions. The main bus topology acts as a backbone connection to connect the star topologies in this configuration. The backbone link in this situation is a wired connection.

    Star-Bus Hybrid Topology
    Figure 3: Star-bus hybrid topology

Challenges in designing hybrid systems

However, integrating wired and wireless technology presents its own set of challenges

  1. Wired and wireless technology integration:It is a difficult undertaking to ensure that wired and wireless components perform in tandem. Compatibility concerns between distinct technologies might develop, and a complete understanding of each is essential to address these challenges properly.
  2. Managing interference and signal deterioration:Wireless communication is prone to interference, signal deterioration, and range limits, which can impact hybrid system reliability. Implementing ways to reduce these challenges is critical, such as the optimal location of wireless access points and interference-resistant communication protocols.
  3. Ensuring flawless communication handover:The handover process for mobile devices and apps that must shift between wired and wireless connections must be flawless. Ensure that devices may switch between communication modes without interfering with the user experience. is a critical aspect of system design.

Design considerations for hybrid systems

  1. Identifying the best wired and wireless component mix:A thorough needs assessment is essential in identifying the best mix of wired and wireless components. This entails examining the application's and its environment's specific requirements.
  2. Appropriate communication protocol selection:Selecting communication protocols well-suited to the hybrid system's requirements is critical. This includes selecting the appropriate wireless standards (such as Wi-Fi, cellular, and LPWAN) and wired protocols (such, as Ethernet and fiber-optic).
  3. Ensuring compatibility and interoperability:To enable seamless integration, all components inside the hybrid system must be compatible and interoperable. To maintain a high level of performance, testing and validation should be performed regularly.

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