NB-IoT — new challenges and opportunities for the Internet of Things and the new WARP NB-IoT program
Imagine a city where people feel safe and comfortable. A city that is managed in a modern, ecological and efficient way. Imagine waste containers which monitor the level of rubbish or parking places sending the message “Hello! I’m available!” to the cars nearby. This may sound like science fiction, but soon it will become a reality!
The shift is possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), a technology to keep your eye on in the coming years. Putting it simply, IoT is an intelligent network of devices that communicate with each other and with us — human beings.
Within the fast growing IoT world there is definitely one slogan you should be aware of — NarrowBand Internet of Things (NB-IoT). It is a communication technology that may change the face of the world and improve the quality of lives.
One basic condition which enables communication between „things” in the IoT network is the presence of a properly selected wireless connection. For instance, Wi-Fi connection is sufficient for a small-range home network that connects two computers and a tablet. But what if we want to communicate with devices located in hard-to-reach places such as building basements? What if we want to send only small portions of data, but for long distances?
Imagine being able to provide a long battery life for water or gas meters, or installing tens of thousands of devices without worrying about interferences between them and the bandwidth available to everyone. NB-IoT is the answer to these needs and challenges and it’s not just another trendy slogan, but a real revolution and completely new possibilities.
More about NB-IoT technology
The NB-IoT, more specifically the LTE Cat NB1 (NB-IoT) Release 13, is a technology approved by 3GPP organization in June 2016. NB-IoT re-uses most of the LTE protocol stack and architecture, but only a small portion of LTE radio resources to communicate with the Internet of Things devices (hence the name “narrowband”). The maximum data rate is obviously lower, but the network capacity is significantly improved.
As shown in the figure above (source: “NARROWBAND IOT: Groundbreaking in the Internet of Things” by Deutsche Telekom AG), the maximum possible communication speed is 170 kbps downlink (DL) and 250 kbps uplink (UL). NB-IoT uses 200 kHz channels, rather than the usual 1,4–20 MHz channels for LTE.
The illustration above shows the basic assumptions of the NB-IoT technology. In brief:
- The lifetime of devices powered by 2 AA batteries is up to 10 years. The devices are designed to work for many years without technical supervision.
- Massive connections — at least 50.000 connected devices per cel.
- Bidirectional, infrequent transmission of 600 bit/s up to 250 kbit/s.
- Very good accessibility in the areas previously inaccessible. It achieves a coverage enhancement of up to 20 dB when compared with GPRS signal.
- The NB IoT communication module costs significantly less than its LTE, 3G or LoRa equivalent. It means that it is cost-effective to build mass-production solutions which were considered unprofitable so far. The cost of both modem and connectivity is very low.
- Worldwide standard — 3GPP standardized.
- High security — SIM-based, authentication, integrity, ciphering. The NB IoT technology works on licensed bands only. Therefore, there is no risk of interference or blocking the communication by competing networks.
- Plug-and-play — No installation and maintenance of local networks necessary.
The leader on the NB-IoT market is Deutsche Telekom. They want to develop new products for this network and quickly bring them to the European market. That’s why, in the middle of 2016, DT launched a special program — NB-IoT Prototyping Hub with laboratories in Bonn and at hub:raum Berlin and Krakow.
The Partners participating in the Program had access to NB-IoT trial network, communications modules which are still unavailable to the market, the Cloud of Things platform for collecting and storing data from the IoT devices, Deutsche Telekom technical support, and its extensive experience in developing new business models. In March this year, the 16 Partners presented their fully operational solutions using NB-IoT at a summit in Bonn.
In February 2017 DT also announced that the new communication standard will soon be available in commercial networks in Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Greece, Croatia and Hungary. The first pilotages in Poland are currently in the implementation phase.
hub:raum wants to move communication with “things” to a new level. Therefore, it has recently launched the WARP NB-IoT program dedicated to startups and growing companies having products or working prototypes across various areas, for example smart cities, smart tracking, smart industries, smart health, smart agriculture or smart property. The application form is available on http://bit.ly/Apply-WARP-NB-IOT. The deadline for the application is until July 17th, 2017.
Definitely, all the changes will be about creating a quantifiable and measurable world where all devices are connected into an intelligent network which serves people to better manage their time, to make better decision based on the data collected in the past. This connected and well-informed new world will, undeniably, bring about many practical conveniences to our lives. It will improve our health, increase safety and comfort, save time and energy. The full potential of smart solutions is still undiscovered. The future is going to unlock the next possibilities.
author: Natalia Sokal, IoT creators