Why intelligent things need their Internet
Since the emergence of the IoT (Internet of Things) idea, there has been a communication problem between devices, namely wireless communication. Indeed, the concept of IoT involves a connection between billions of devices and it is simply unthinkable to connect them with cables. To this problem was not given less attention than the development of devices itself. For this, many problems must be solved, both hardware and software. Traditional methods used for the common Internet do not fit because the Internet of Things has its own features. The most important are:
- high energy-saving requirements, as the devices must be able to operate for years on battery basis;
- a large number of devices maintained by a single gateway;
- ensure a maximum coverage area with a single gateway.
These conditions require special needs for all elements of the Internet of Things communication infrastructure. In order to ensure a low power consumption of the device, it is necessary to examine a possibility of a “sleep” mode in which the device consumes a minimal amount of energy. In addition, it is necessary to ensure the transfer of information at minimal expense, the size of the information packet must be minimal, so that the device is in a transfer mode for minimum time and does not consume energy. This also solves the second problem – the number of devices connected to a single gateway. Because communication takes place over a radio channel over a narrow frequency band, this channel is used by thousands of devices. If they transmit simultaneously, their signals will interfere with each other. And the shorter the length of the packet, the shorter the time the device will be in the transmission process, the faster it will be able to release the channel, and consequently more devices can be served by a single gateway.
In order to solve the third problem – ensuring as much coverage as possible, it is necessary to examine the possibility to allocate a useful signal against the noisy background of the channel.
Enthusiasts and business companies have developed many protocols and technologies to solve these problems in one way or another. Some, for example, LoRa, have found a broad application and have been patented. LoRa combined the wireless modulation method and LoRaWAN open protocol. Many private and public networks of different levels of service quality have been implemented at its base. LoRa technology has several main advantages:
- low equipment cost;
- easy to configure and use;
- a good range of reception and transmission, thanks to an algorithm that allows you to select a lower radio signal than the 10db noise level;
- the ability to work on an unlicensed frequency band, to implement a LoRa network does not require a license from the regulators.
Due to these properties, LoRa networks have gained a widespread and a wide variety of equipment supporting this technology has been developed and launched on the market.
Launch of NB-IoT technology
NB-IoT, as well as LoRa, are part of the LPWA (Low Power, Wide Area) technology family that was designed to exchange information across devices at great distances.
Whilst Internet of Things was just an idea, and the commercial benefit of using it was not obvious, large players in the mobile industry were not in a hurry to invest in expanding the range of services offered by communicating with IoT devices. However, they have closely followed up the evolution of technology. As soon as it became clear that the Internet of Things is growing, developing and undoubtedly covering a huge market, large mobile operators have begun to carry out research into the development of this segment. Ultimately, such companies that have been involved in communications technology for decades can develop and deploy communications service between IoT devices as quickly and efficiently as possible. For this, they have all the resources: experience, technology, specialists and, of course, money.
In 2014, British company Neil, who worked on IoT applications, was acquired by Huawei and began working with Ericsson to promote the NB-IoT standard. Standards for NB-IoT technology are developed by the 3GPP consortium.
NB-IoT was standardized in 2016.
Many major companies in the world are developing, implementing and using this technology: Vodafone, Ericsson, Huawei, Orange, Qualcomm, Cisco, Nokia, as well as the largest mobile phone operators in Russia. And this list is constantly growing.
NB-IoT and LoRa: what’s the difference?
LoRa technology uses the following free frequency range:
- 863 – 870MHz, 433MHz – European Union;
- 902 – 928MHz – United States of America;
- 779 – 787MHz – Chinese People’s Republic.
To operate at this frequency, no license is required, and any organization or individual can use it.
Unlike LoRa, NB-IoT operates in a licensed frequency band dedicated to mobile communications. The advantage of this approach is that the transmission of any radio signals other than the signal of a mobile operator is prohibited within this frequency range. This avoids interference and improves reception.
The NB-IoT network provider can choose one of 3 ways to allocate frequencies.
As we see, each mobile operator can deploy the NB-IoT network in its frequency range, simply by updating the software of its equipment.
In addition, it simplifies the NB-IoT network implementation process for a mobile operator because it does not require the purchase of additional equipment, but only to update the software.
Why do mobile operators need NB-IoT?
If 10 years ago the idea that the things which surround us will become “smart”, they will be able to react to events and thus make our lives better, more comfortable and secure, freeing us from routine chores, which was something at the level of fiction, it is now a reality. Just as mankind has gone from coal, to oil, and now is turning to renewable energy sources, we are increasingly surrounded by intelligent devices.
At the end of 2018, the market for IoT was estimated by experts at IDC research firm at $ 646 billion. Experts predict that in 2019 the cost of the IoT industry will increase by 15.4% to $ 745 billion. In the future, they will grow even more and will exceed 1 trillion dollars in 2022. The amount of data generated by IoT devices by 2020 could reach 50 billion gigabits.
Mobile operators understand perfectly all the prospects of the Internet market development. Imagine a modern computer without the possibility of network access. Who needs it? Yes, no one! This is an anachronism. Losing the chance to take advantage of all the benefits of IoT technology for both consumers and companies that provide communications services is eliminating the future strategy and depriving all prospects. Those who remain on the border are most likely already convicted. No one will need them.
Developing this market for them is not just an opportunity to expand the business, but also a way not to simply get out of the competition.
Why do consumers need NB-IoT technology?
Companies that have decided to build a business using IoT technology will face the issue of establishing communication between their devices. The quality of this connection will depend on the quality of the services provided by these companies, namely their business. Therefore, the choice of communication technology needs to be tackled seriously.
Different tasks require different technologies. For serious and professional business solutions, NB-IoT technology is best suited.
1. Easy to connect
The customer gets access to the service (SIM card or account) and after a few minutes he can start using the service. In addition, its device will be available throughout the coverage area, which is provided by the operator.
2. Low cost
Since device traffic is minimal, and the protocol standard allows for the connection of up to 1000 devices to a base station, telecom operators offer low single rates for connecting NB-IoT devices. The average cost of maintaining a controller is 2 Euro per year.
3. Data transfer rate
The NB-IoT network provides communication at speeds of up to 100-140 Kbps, which is more than enough for IoT solutions.
4. Working time of the device in autonomous mode
When developing the NB-IoT technology, special attention has been paid to this problem, and energy-saving modes have been developed and introduced, in which the device exits the sleep mode for a short period of time, sends a short message and then returns in sleep mode. Due to this, it was possible to achieve a record battery life of about 10 years.
5. Response time
For some IoT solutions, minimal delays at each stage of device communication are critical. Especially when using real-time equipment. NB-IoT technology offers the best performance among competitors.
6. Network coverage.
Since the NB-IoT signal level is 10dB higher than, for example, LoRa, the NB-IoT signal has a better penetration power and allows you to receive data or control equipment located in basements, metal cabinets.
NB-IoT has been developed by organizations that have been working in the telecommunication industry and have an extraordinary experience in this field. NB-IoT has applied best practices in network and data transfer. In addition, they have equipment and experience to reliably protect data both due to accidental technical failures and cyber-attacks. The development of such networks is done by organizations for which communication is their long-term business and they can afford significant investments in it. Such organizations can provide quality services that are trustworthy.
The customer receives a wide range of services to connect their devices and does not need to handle the selection, purchase, installation, configuration, repair and replacement of the equipment. You do not have to worry about integrity and data protection on servers. It gets secure access to its devices, significantly reducing the risk of data loss or hacking of devices, entrusting these problems to professionals.
In addition, it is beneficial to use the services of the NB-IoT mobile operator to connect a small number of devices for which the implementation of its own complete infrastructure is not simply profitable.
Considering all these factors, it can be said with confidence that the demand for the NB-IoT services will increase, which will further stimulate the development and cheaper products in the future.
Like many modern technologies, Internet of Things has begun its development as a technology for enthusiasts and start-ups, but now millions of corporations are building a business based on it. IoT is already changing our lives. Undoubtedly, NB-IoT technology will become an integral part of it. There are more and more smart devices around us and as we do not imagine our lives today without electricity, cars, mobile communications and other achievements of progress, so we cannot imagine without smart devices that help solve every day routine problems and to release the most valuable resource for us – the time. This is the progress!