Director of Research & Development, Vodafone Group
When the internet of things is spoken about it is often in reference to exciting innovations such as self-ordering fridges and cars that book themselves into the garage. Yet it will soon be easier to also connect billions of objects, many of which are hidden, both metaphorically and sometimes actually, but still have an important role to play making life better.
The benefits of LPWA connections
There are many objects that will benefit from a dedicated Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology which provides a long range mobile connection and low power consumption (many devices are not connected to mains power or are in areas where one would not want to swap out batteries regularly).
Monitoring devices like water and gas meters often lie in basements, deeply shadowed areas and even underground pipes. By installing connected flow meters around a water distribution network, for instance, a utility company could automatically detect leaks, meaning less time, cost and disruption digging up roads. Battery life and low install cost are also critical for local authorities across the world wanting to install more connected parking sensors. Achieving this will reduce congestion and carbon emissions by informing drivers about the location of parking spaces.
It is not just hidden things that NB-IoT will connect. Smart bins, which efficiently report when they are full, have the same need for long battery life communications hardware.
Vodafone, the world leader in M2M technology, is also leading the development of Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT), a radio interface which will be dedicated to connecting LPWA services.
NB-IoT will reuse an existing Radio Access Network and transmission while at the same time will deploy a separate dedicated and optimised core network (using the latest virtual network technology).
Operating in licensed spectrum, NB-IoT will also ensure performance and reliability over the lifetime of these devices.
An attractive aspect for industries using NB-IoT is that they can leave the connectivity provision to operators such as Vodafone rather than putting in their own, proprietary solutions. Vodafone already has a global M2M network that will connect with our NB-IoT access layer. The NB-IoT forum
NB-IoT (originally called the Cellular Internet of Things) has entered standards work in 3GPP. It is also one of the systems in the GSMA’s Mobile IoT Programme, which is promoting industry-wide alignment and engaging with early adopter customers.
Most recently, major industry players Vodafone, China Mobile, China Unicom, Ericsson, Etisalat, the GSMA, GTI, Intel, Huawei, LG Uplus, Nokia, Qualcomm Incorporated, Telecom Italia and Telefonica have laid the foundations for the creation of the NB-IoT forum which will bring together all of the industry and ecosystem partners in a way that will help bring NB-IoT to the market as quickly as possible.
Vodafone, China Mobile, Etisalat, LG Uplus, Shanghai Unicom and Telecom Italia will also support the creation of five NB-IoT open labs worldwide, which will focus on new service innovation, industry development, interoperability tests and product compliance certification.
Vodafone has already started customer trials of pre-NB-IoT technology. Pre-commercial deployment is expected during the second half of 2016, with commercial roll-out in early 2017.
NB-IoT has real momentum as a new technology which will improve connectivity for billions more devices. As the global leader in M2M technology, Vodafone will stay at the forefront of delivering NB-IoT and the benefits it will bring to both our enterprise customers and, ultimately, consumers.