What are WebSockets, and Why Are They Essential for IoT?

Advances in IoT (The Internet of Things) technology has revolutionised the way devices interact with each other and with us. From smart homes to industrial automation, IoT devices rely on continuous, real-time communication to operate efficiently and effectively. 

WebSockets, is a realtime communication protocol designed for full-duplex communication over a single TCP connection. WebSockets can be crucial in facilitating robust, realtime communications with IoT devices.

Real-Time Communication

One of the primary requirements of IoT applications is the ability to send and receive data in real-time. Traditional HTTP communication is not well-suited for this because it follows a unidirectional request-response pattern and often relies on polling or long-polling techniques, which can introduce significant latency and overhead. WebSockets, on the other hand, provide a persistent connection that allows for instantaneous bidirectional data exchange. This is essential for applications where timing is critical, such as:

  • Logistics: In supply chain management, real-time tracking of shipments allows companies to monitor the location and status of goods. This ensures timely deliveries, optimises routing, and prevents delays, particularly for perishable goods or critical inventory
  • Manufacturing: Real-time communication is vital in smart manufacturing for synchronising robotic arms and assembly line machinery. Any delay can lead to production errors, equipment collisions, or downtime, reducing efficiency and increasing costs
  • Control Systems: In power grid management, real-time communication helps balance load distribution and prevent blackouts. Immediate data exchange between substations and control centres is necessary to maintain stability and quickly respond to faults.
  • Connected Vehicles: Autonomous vehicles rely on real-time data exchange with other vehicles and infrastructure to navigate safely. Delays in communication can lead to accidents, as vehicles must instantly react to changes in traffic, obstacles, and road conditions.
  • Aerospace: During a flight, real-time communication between the aircraft’s systems and ground control is crucial. Any delay in transmitting data about engine performance, weather conditions, or potential malfunctions can compromise passenger safety and the ability to respond to emergencies.

Reduced Overhead

In traditional HTTP communication, each interaction requires a new request and response cycle, adding considerable overhead. For IoT devices that may need to communicate frequently, this can lead to inefficiencies and increased power consumption. WebSockets reduce this overhead by maintaining a continuous connection, which means data can be sent as soon as it is available without the need to establish a new connection each time. 

This efficiency is particularly beneficial for battery-powered and resource-constrained devices. Battery-powered devices will not require as much power to communicate, which extends their operational life. Similarly, resource-constrained devices can minimise the dependency on compute and memory resources during communication, freeing up these limited resources for other operations.


IoT environments often involve a large number of devices communicating simultaneously. WebSockets are designed to handle numerous concurrent connections efficiently, making them ideal for scalable IoT solutions. This scalability is crucial, here are a few industry-specific examples:

  • Logistics: In a large logistics hub or distribution center, thousands of IoT-enabled devices such as RFID tags, GPS trackers, and environmental sensors need to communicate simultaneously to manage the flow of goods. Scalability ensures that the system can handle peak loads during high-demand periods, such as holidays, without data delays or losses, which could disrupt supply chains and delivery schedules.
  • Manufacturing: In a smart factory, hundreds of machines, robots, and sensors must work together seamlessly. Scalability is critical to manage the data generated by each device, coordinate production processes, and ensure real-time monitoring and control. As production scales up, the ability to manage and process data from an increasing number of devices without latency ensures continuous operation and high productivity.
  • Control Systems: In a city-wide smart grid, thousands of IoT devices, including smart meters, sensors, and controllers, need to communicate simultaneously to monitor and manage energy distribution. Scalability is essential to handle the vast amount of data generated, ensuring real-time responses to power demands, fault detection, and energy optimisation across the entire grid, preventing outages and ensuring efficient energy use.

Efficient Data Transmission

WebSockets support the transmission of various data formats, including text and binary data, making them versatile for different types of IoT applications. They enable efficient and lightweight data transmission, which is particularly important for:

  • Real-Time Monitoring: Continuous data streams from health wearables or environmental sensors.
  • Control Systems: Real-time commands to actuators and machinery in industrial settings.


While security is a concern in any communication protocol, WebSockets support secure communication through the WebSocket Secure (WSS) protocol, which is encrypted using TLS. This ensures that data exchanged between IoT devices and servers is protected from eavesdropping and tampering.


WebSockets are an integral part of the IoT ecosystem, providing the real-time, low-latency, and efficient communication required for modern IoT applications. Their ability to reduce overhead, handle numerous concurrent connections, and support secure data transmission makes them indispensable for a wide range of IoT use cases. As the IoT landscape continues to expand, the role of WebSockets in enabling seamless, real-time interactions will only become more critical. Whether it’s in smart homes, industrial automation, connected vehicles, or beyond, WebSockets are key to unlocking the full potential of IoT.