The universe is expanding —the Internet of Things universe, that is. IoT is bringing a seismic shift toward connecting an unlimited array of low-cost “things,” on a massive scale. We’re talking about the evolution of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies.
LPWAN technologies make it possible to connect very simple, inexpensive things to make them smart – think smart trash cans, and street lights. These things consume very little data, but often have to run on batteries that get replaced every 5 or even 10 years, and may need to connect from signal-challenged locations such as rural areas and basements. And while there are a few technology options to connect these types of devices to the IoT cloud, none stand to be as ubiquitous as Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M. That’s because they both use existing cellular networks that are deployed in nearly every country around the world.
But much of the discussion around LPWAN is focused on technology – the chipsets, radio interface, access network, etc., and those topics will sort themselves out. To gain a competitive advantage, shift your focus to leveraging this technology for viable, wide-scale business solutions.
3 things to expect with LPWAN solutions
As IoT technologies evolve, we’re seeing new paradigms for what’s possible. That means business expectations and needs are changing, which affects everyone in the IoT ecosystem. Let’s take a look at three key considerations that will come into play with LTE-M and NB-IoT:
- Giga scale – With LPWAN, we’re rocketing closer to a world of connected everything, opening a floodgate of new connected devices and services across many industries. In addition to the current growing crop of connected vehicles, industrial machines and buildings that use 2G, 3G or 4G connectivity, LTE-M and NB-IoT enable simple things like smart meters, soil monitors, and pet-trackers to get connected. The net effect is that, LPWAN technologies are predicted to fuel “massive IoT” applications like smart cities, smart homes and smart agriculture – just to name a few. It also means we go from managing 10’s of millions to 100’s of millions and indeed billions of connected devices.
- The need to simplify IoT operations – Service providers and even end-user organizations will have to face the reality of managing both a diverse range of connections – 2G, 3G, 4G LTE-M, NB-IoT – and an exponentially greater scale. For example, think of a smart city operations manager who oversees buses connected on an LTE network, digital signs using 3G, and smart street lights and trash bins using NB-IoT. She needs to manage all those various connections, some of which are few but use the networks extensively such as the connected buses, while others like the smart street lights that number in the tens of thousands but connect very sporadically. Clearly, there will be a need for solutions that help to automate, monitor and manage all the connectivity needs, with customized controls that fit the operational profiles of the various devices.
- Shift in monetization models – In the world of cellular IoT services today, the underlying business model between mobile network service providers and the customers they serve is primarily based on usage – i.e., how much data and/or SMS messages are used. But tracking and charging for the negligible usage of each individual LPWA device – say a trash bin that uses only 100 bytes of data per month – is not practical. Nor does it capture the real value in that trash collection becomes more efficient and cost-effective when attendants know exactly which bins to service. The monetization model between network service providers and their customers needs to reflect the business value of connecting simple, yet practical things rather than how much network bandwidth they consume. Those models will make the business case and establish a critical foundation for network and service infrastructures to drive the inevitable ubiquity of massive IoT.
Ready to learn more about LPWAN technologies and how your business can make the most of it? Join us Wednesday, March 22 for our webinar, Giga IoT: What you need to know.