NB-IoT – The futureproof technology for directly connected sensors

 In Industrial Internet, NB-IoT, Sensors

NB-IoT is the futureproof technology for directly connected sensors:

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is the new cellular technology introduced in 3GPP Rel. 13 (Jun/2016) providing wide-area coverage for Internet of Things. NB-IoT is standard technology eventually taking over competing technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox. It will also replace previous power hungry operator M2M subscriptions based on 2-3G technology in many use-cases. The NB-IoT deployments will be fast as operator existing networks can be updated to support NB-IoT with software update. Overall market expectation is that LTE-NB1 technology will emerge into market during 2017 when chips and network enablers will be in place. The technology is developing from chips, modules to developer friendly SoCs and supporting eventually configurable network bands for world-wide deployments.

So what is the news here?

NB-IoT will bring following benefits to the marketplace:

  • Connectivity gateways are no longer required as your sensors can talk directly to the cloud
  • Standard technology to build hardware solutions for years to come
  • Technology will have “global” market penetration starting from 2017-
  • Significant coverage extension over existing cellular technologies: 5-7km
  • Battery lifetime: ~10 years (based on 200bytes/day data transfer). Lifetime will depend on the actual use-case and chip performance.
  • Massive number of devices per cell: 52.5k
  • SIM card is not required: eSIM chips, operators can be remotely switched
  • Low cost: 5$ chips targeted by the specification

Common use-cases:

  • fixed location sensors
  • limited range tracking devices mainly around one base-station or base-station group (e.g. bicycles, kids, elderly people, pets, valuables, health monitors)
  • smart meters (e.g. water, gas, electric, parking)
  • smart city enablers
  • appliances

Some of the technology limitations to be understood:

  • Moving assets are not well supported by LTE-NB1
  • Latency sensitive use-cases such as alerts (signaling delays of < 10 sec)
  • Only for small data transfers, no voice support
  • Each country and operator might support different LTE network bands, which require separate or configurable chips or modules. This leads to regional or country based hardware customization at least in the beginning.
  • Initial chips limited to single network band the service roll-out and use-case

Some more data intensive use-cases should consider using LTE-M1 technology.

Another LTE technology LTE-M1 technology has following benefits over NB1 standard:

  • Larger data transfers
  • Voice transfer
  • Mobility support for moving assets

Some chip manufacturers are bringing LTE-M1 as FW update for same chips bringing additional benefits for their customer base. It remains to be seen in near future how this technology will actually perform in the marketplace in terms of range, battery lifetime and module cost.

So, how can your company benefit and take part of the emerging NB-IoT trend?

WiZense has front-line experience on NB-IoT technology, capabilities, chips, modules, integrators to operator network connectivity. We have ready connections to main stakeholder in this ecosystem. We can bootstrap your company development by defining right set of connectivity enablers for your business specific needs and get your connected to this ecosystem players.

Contact us now to get up-to-speed with emerging NB-IoT!

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