Critical decisions needed now, to future-proof the IoT network
The impending explosion in new machine-to-machine (M2M) services in every area of life will drive rapid adoption of technologies which are optimized for these activities. But there is a real risk that commercial urgency will outrun the development of the platforms. If organizations adopt Internet of Things (IoT) strategies before some fundamental decisions are made – about network architecture, security and how to harness the flood of data – they risk technology dead ends and disappointing business results.
Organizations in every area of the value chain need to make important decisions now, but in this confusing space, they need objective sources of information and guidance. This urgent need has led to the creation of Monetizing IoT, a full program of conferences, workshops and publications which will provide invaluable practical resources for turning the Internet of Things into commercial success.
The first conference will be held on October 12-13 in Copenhagen, and will focus on the issues of IoT security and data mining, two of the most essential areas in which decisions made now will dictate the commercial results a year or two down the line. (www.m-iot.io/agenda).
Another of these areas is the network itself, particularly for long distance connectivity and large areas in applications like smart cities. Here, there is an array of LPWANs (low power wide area networks) available for service providers and enterprises, but the surfeit of options is causing uncertainty in the market, always a major barrier to adoption.
Hence the topic of the first M-IoT white paper, ‘An LPWAN solution for the long term’, which can be downloaded free at http://m-iot.io/agenda/white-papers/.
This provides a business-focused analysis of the decisions which face any organization planning to deploy an LPWAN or run services over one. It highlights the way that, if certain actions are taken now, the market can support a range of solutions, optimized for different business cases, without fragmentation and dead ends. In particular, it focuses on the choices which will affect the critical issue of interference between networks, especially in a diverse sector where several different platforms may be deployed in the same physical area, such as a city center.
In the IoT world, the solution may not be for everyone to consolidate around a single platform. That would almost certainly create fatal compromises in a world where the needs of different applications will vary so dramatically. For instance, wireless broadband history teaches us that there will be a need for solutions in both licensed and unlicensed bands. And different technical approaches and business models may lend themselves to different types of services.
So how can the industry support choice and optimization, while avoiding the perils of fragmentation? It is essential that certain key decisions are made now, to establish universal foundations for the LPWANs, on which different suppliers can then innovate and differentiate at network and software layers.
The licensed spectrum solutions – enhanced GSM and LTE-based NB-IoT – will be standardized by the 3GPP, but many players in the complex M2M value chain will not own spectrum and will want solutions in licence-exempt bands. Here, there are many choices. There are some proven platforms, which have often established themselves in private network or smart city applications like smart lighting, and some new entrants, most operating in the sub-1 GHz ISM bands (868 MHz/915 MHz).
The next step will be for their deployments to scale from millions of end points to hundreds of millions, with the capability to support a widening variety of use cases. For that to happen, it is time to take a hard look at which underlying technologies are best equipped – now and for the massive-scale future – to avoid interference and make optimal use of licence-exempt spectrum resources.
This is where those critical technology decisions need to be made, and the white paper provides valuable information to help in that process.
The modulation scheme is an example. Spread spectrum techniques are widely used in broadband wireless, and have recently been applied to some new LPWAN technologies. But they have disadvantages when it comes to the LPWAN’s requirements for extreme efficiency and ease of operation, as highlighted in a recent study by consultants at RealWireless. They involve greater bandwidth overhead and complexity, and can make poor neighbours, while the main alternative approach, UltraNarrowBand (UNB) can support extremely low costs and spectrum stability, which will be essential for rising density, as well as the resilience to operate efficiently alongside other networks.
This is just one example of an area where the wireless M2M sector needs to act quickly to achieve consensus on a core technology – the decisions will be difficult, but they will open the floodgates to a new scale of deployment in the unlicensed bands.
To help you make those critical choices, Monetizing IoT will provide a steady stream of information and resources throughout the year, so do sign up for updates and give us input on any issues and challenges you would like to see addressed in the program.