We are now looking at a world where all experiences, interactions and everyday life’s activities are enabled and enhanced by technology. From sensors, drones and personal avatars to driverless cars and haptic clothing, we are seeing a glimpse of living in a Gigabit society where human creativity and collaboration are liberated, and this sends an important message to enterprises. The biggest technology shifts are just around the corner and now is the time to get ready and take the first step.
In January Vodafone Spain was the first country to launch Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) fully integrated into our Managed IoT Connectivity Platform. This is a new IoT product that allows us to connect more “things” than ever before. Today, roughly 6.5 billion things are connected to the internet, and although this sounds like a lot, less than 1% of all the things that could be connected, are connected. So why aren’t they? They’re either too remote, too inaccessible or there are simply too many of them to make it economically viable to do so.
NB-IoT is a new technology standard, designed to broaden the future of IoT connectivity. Unlike other GSM technologies, NB-IoT allows us to connect devices placed deep indoors, underground or in hard-to-access places, such as gas and water meters, smart bins, smoke and fire alarms and parking meters. NB-IoT will allow us to provide IoT connectivity to industries and businesses operating in environments previously out of our reach.
But what next? Product Managers are responsible for setting the direction and strategy for their products, but they have to first ask themselves who will be using the product in 3-5 years’ time. Today Vodafone has customers wanting to connect up water meters, environmental sensors, bins, fields and street lights, and we have a great relationship with the eco system (the chip manufacturers, the module and hardware vendors who are building NB-IoT into their products), but what about those developers out there? Do they hold the key to the long term future? What are they going to come up with next and how are they going to use NB-IoT in the future?
This is an exciting time to provide the right foundations, tools and space for this all to happen.
To get the developer community engaged, Vodafone has done a number of things but this is just the start of the developer proposition:
The company has recently run a Connected X programme, inviting developers to share their ideas. It’s been so successful Vodafone will look to run more this year.
We’ve set up Narrowband IoT Open Labs in the UK and Germany and we’re planning to open more throughout the year. The Open Lab provides a simulated real time environment for application developers and device, module and chip manufacturers to test their products. This accelerates their time to market for NB-IoT devices and services. It also allows device manufacturers to verify that their products meet the exceptional sensitivity and battery life performance requirements for NB-IoT devices.