The power of the IoT is evident in our daily lives, but the IoT solutions that can have the greatest impact on society sits across Low-Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networks. LPWA networks are becoming an increasingly prevalent technology for the IoT as we are finding the need to connect everything. LPWA networks operate at a lower cost with greater power efficiency than the traditional mobile networks that most of today’s consumer devices rely on. They are also able to support a greater number of connected devices over a larger area.
LPWA is not a single technology, but a group of various low power, wide area network technologies that take many forms. Generally, LPWANs can be grouped into two categories: cellular, meaning they employ licensed cellular frequencies; and non-cellular, which require the use of unlicensed radio bands. They also differ from one another by frequency, bandwidth, radio frequency modulation approach and spectrum utilization. This means that IoT engineers face many choices for their IoT applications.
Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT), originally called the cellular IoT, is a successful industry solution designed to enhance the global deployment of LPWA networks. Based on my experience, I think this is one of the major technologies that will drive connectivity and the growth on IoT.
It has several key differentiators that make it stand out against the competing LPWA solutions:
- Licensed Spectrum - while unlicensed technologies deploy faster, they will not achieve the same scale, quality assurance, security and synergy benefits as licensed technologies.
- Extended Coverage – based on our testing at Vodafone, NB-IoT will be able to penetrate two to three double-brick walls, enabling connectivity of hard-to-reach objects in underground car parks and basements.
- Long Battery Life – batteries last over 10 years with optimization – which means less maintenance to replace batteries.
- Robust Security - the security stands out against the competitive solutions and increasingly becomes more secure, end to end.
NB-IoT is providing connectivity to newer classes of products like gas and water monitoring, environmental monitoring, smoke and fire alarms, park monitoring, and so on - areas that have an impact on society. It creates an opportunity to connect the devices that, while often hidden from the average person, form the basis of today's new connected infrastructure, and have a profound impact on our lives.
It is important to understand the implications of LPWA networks, such as NB-IoT. I urge you to educate yourself on the topic to understand how it is helping to create a more connected and sustainable global society.
We will be debating NB-IoT and other LPWA technologies this week at the Embedded Technologies Expo & Conference. Join us for a lively discussion.