Simple solutions create complex connectivity choices for IoT service providers

Too much choice can be a dangerous thing but, the vast diversity of IoT applications and business models depend on appropriate functionality being available at varying price points. George Malim examines the options.

LTE, 5G, Cat M1, Cat 1, satellite, low power wide area networks (LPWANs), narrowband IoT (NBIoT), Sigfox, Bluetooth, ethernet and more, the list of connectivity options for serving Internet of Things (IoT) applications and services appears to be almost endless. However, the decision about which to select is simplified by the nature of the market. Some technologies are simply too costly, too slow, too unreliable, too power hungry or just unavailable to support the needs of applications and their business models.

At the high end of the market place, satellite communications can be used to assure universal coverage but this is not suitable for a massmarket with continuous communications needs. LTE, and much later 5G, don’t have complete coverage and, while the security and bandwidth attributes are attractive, the cost isn’t.

This leaves providers of mass market, high volume, low value IoT services looking outside satellite and high-end cellular communications to find the right connectivity to support their offerings. A relatively new wave of options in low power radio and the lower reaches of the cellular range is emerging. Principal among these are three groups of technologies: LPWAN, NB-IoT and Wi-SUN. Each has its advantages, although NB-IoT and Wi-SUN are in their infancy.

The challenge therefore for users is to identify which technology most closely serves their customers’ needs and the goals of their businesses. “You cannot compare a set of usage of one company to the set of usage at another company in another industry,” says Christophe Fourtet, the founder and scientific director of Sigfox, an LPWAN technology with operations globally. “It’s a very long process to compare these technologies but we’ve been trying to accelerate it. Since the beginning of Sigfox we’ve had the same target of shooting for the massive low-cost IoT market. Instead of being focused on technology and performance, we have aimed more for an extremely simple device that costs very, very little so you can deploy massively.”

The decision also hangs on your role in the market place. Are you a user or a deployer? “There are two perspectives to consider, one relating to organisations deploying radio technologies and the other those adopting or using them,” says Ken Figueredo, an IoT strategy industry advisor to InterDigital. “The first category applies to network operators or connectivity service providers. Their legacy investments and technology roadmaps govern their decision process. In practice, connectivity service providers will see demand for hybrid solutions that combine different approaches due to the heterogeneity of end-user needs.”

The number of issues to be considering is significant. “Which technology to select depends on many questions,” acknowledges Phil Beecher, the chairman of the Wi-SUN Alliance. “What is the reliability you need? What security? What latency and do you need local control? should all be considered. Another consideration is the business model. Do you want to spend capital on […]

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Smart manufacturing and the IoT is driving the next industrial revolution

Smart manufacturing and the IoT is driving the next industrial revolution. Manufacturing is on the cusp of a revolution – the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution! In 2016, IDC estimates the manufacturing segment invested $ 178 billion(€152.89 billion) in IoT spending, twice as much as the transportation segment, the second largest IoT vertical market.According to Markets and Markets Research, the smart factory market is projected to reach 205.42 Billion USD by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 9.3% between 2017 and 2022.

In this fiercely competitive market, IoT-enabled smart manufacturing provides full visibility of assets, processes, resources, and products. This, in turn, supports streamlined business operations, optimised productivity and improved ROI. The key to success is connecting equipment, integrating diverse industrial data, and securing industrial systems for the entire lifespan of equipment.

For two decades, Gemalto has been a trusted partner, helping customers Connect, Secure and Monetise their enterprise operations with IoT technology. In this web dossier, we’d like to share some of the best practices we’ve gathered to help companies interested in making the leap to “Industry 4.0.”

What is smart manufacturing and how is it related to the IoT?

Smart manufacturing allows factory managers to automatically collect and analyse data to make better-informed decisions and optimise production. The data from sensors and machines is communicated to the Cloud by IoT connectivity solutions deployed in the factory. That data is analysed and combined with contextual information and then shared with authorised stakeholders.

IoT technology, leveraging both wired and wireless connectivity, enables this flow of data, providing the ability to remotely monitor and manage processes and change production plans quickly, in real time when needed. It greatly improves outcomes of manufacturing reducing waste, speeding production and improving yield and the quality of goods produced.

Replacing the hierarchical structure that has historically defined the “shop floor” with an open, flatter, fully-interconnected model that links R&D processes with supply chain management has many benefits, including the optimisation of global manufacturing processes related to performance, quality, cost, and resource management. It also enables the manufactured products themselves to play a key role in development and design of the manufacturing process.

This is because connected smart products are able to feed information back to the factory so that quality issues can be detected and fixed during the manufacturing stage by adjusting product design and/or the manufacturing processes. Smart products can also provide insights on how they are actually used by consumers, providing the opportunity to adapt features to better meet the real needs of the marketplace.

How is the manufacturing marketplace evolving?

The manufacturing sector is being fundamentally reshaped by the unstoppable progress of the 4th Industrial Revolution, powered by the IoT. The changes to this segment are made possible by technological breakthroughs that are occurring at an unprecedented pace.

Just as the steam engine ushered in massive changes in the early 17th Century and the advent of the digital age rocked the world in the second half of the 20th century, today’s technological innovations are forcing decision makers to reimagine how products are designed and produced. In addition to the IoT, consider how Artificial Intelligence […]

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Real-world networks for real-world solutions

As part of an ongoing commitment to accelerate the growth and adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, Stream Technologies has deployed an array of incubator LoRa networks throughout the UK. With incubator networks deployed in Glasgow, Liverpool and London, Stream is providing an entryway into LoRa technology and encouraging collaboration between industry experts, academics and enterprises.

In line with the company’s objective to nurture the development of LoRa technology and foster growth throughout the industry, Stream’s incubator networks are entirely open to organisations who want to develop LoRa applications and test them in a real-world environment.

For many organisations and individuals, developing IoT projects in real-life conditions can prove challenging. For example, developing and testing smart city applications can be prohibitively expensive because of the lack of openaccess testing environments available. Developers in this field require consent from multiple parties, dedicated hardware, specialised software and network technology, as well as estates in which to create an effective test environment. This results in a heavy strain on finance and time. Stream’s incubator networks are designed to stimulate the development of IoT sensors and applications and to address the challenges of developing smart city solutions in real-life conditions.

Why LoRa?

Stream is supporting the development of LoRa technology because it’s the ideal fit for a wide-range of IoT use cases, ranging from smart cities and smart campuses to agriculture and industry. LoRa, developed by Semtech, is a wireless technology that supports long-range, low-power IoT communications.

LoRa use cases

Stream’s incubator networks are being harnessed by enterprises, start-ups and academic organisations as they develop and test LoRa-based applications. Stream’s testbeds are open to public and private sector organisations and enable the development of a wide-range of applications to support smart cities, smart campuses and smart airports. Some of the use cases that Stream’s networks are being used to develop solutions for include:

• Smart metering

The smart metering industry stands to benefit enormously from LoRaWAN technology. Since smart metering applications transmit low amounts of data, they are an ideal candidate for low-bit rate, low-power LoRa devices. While cellular connectivity usually incurs a monthly charge for line rental and data, LoRaWAN devices are much more cost-effective to use.

Thousands of smart meters can communicate with a single LoRa gateway up to 15 kilometres away, depending on urban density, with the geographical distribution of smart meters being supported by LoRa’s long-range functionality. Stream expects LoRaWAN to be used to deliver robust applications that add great value to smart meter operators, bringing reliability, accuracy and efficiency to smart metering solutions.

• Smart parking

The operational costs associated with parking infrastructure can be significantly reduced with a simple LoRaWAN smart parking deployment. LoRa sensors can be used to report on parking space occupancy, with the data being delivered in real time to the operator via Stream’s LoRaWAN network server. With real-time parking occupancy data, operators can direct drivers to empty parking spaces. LoRaWAN smart parking applications can also be used to increase staff productivity. For example, rather than ticket officers patrolling specific routes, their routes can be optimised to […]

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LoRa technology is driving IoT adoption, changing lives

As decades-old technologies, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular are well established, but they were not designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate among things such as sensors powered by a battery. These conditions require Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) which aims to connect billions of battery-powered sensors to the Cloud, and this is where LoRa® devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology) and the open LoRaWAN™ protocol both are driving and enabling new applications and business models, says Mike Wong, vice president of Semtech.

The most pressing challenges for Internet of Things (IoT) are interoperability of various networks, security for billions of sensors and the data they produce, providing carrier-grade quality, and reliability at consumer price points. These challenges are tied together because adoption will slow down if IoT options are not available at accessible prices, and the devices will not be economically feasible if there is little adoption.

LoRa technology, originally developed by Semtech, is one of the founders of the LoRa Alliance™ which launched in 2015 and now boasts more than 500 companies. The organisation is dedicated to developing devices, technologies and applications under the same set of guidelines, with the same purpose of making IoT possible and driving the adoption of the LoRaWAN open protocol.

It is fast emerging as the best option for many markets and verticals including M2M applications, supply chain and logistics applications, smart cities, smart metering applications, and agriculture. The platform is seeing success with these applications because it is able to improve quality of life and helps solve real-world problems such as water conservation, environmental monitoring for pollutants, flood-level monitors in cities, and improving food safety and quality. We are all affected by these issues although it may not be obvious to most people that LoRa technology enables these improvements.

Smart metering, for example, uses LoRa-enabled devices to accurately measure the flow of gas or water, and takes away a lot of guesswork by delivering precise intelligence on critical points like when to provide maintenance. Three key features – low-power, low-cost and an open interoperable standard – make LoRa desirable for myriad industrial, commercial and domestic applications where IoT solutions are the future.

LoRaWAN deployments typically come in the form of a star network topology where the concentrators serve as a central coordinator for network traffic. Due to limitations of radio technology, one of the limitations of alternatives such as mesh networks is their inability to extend the range. With star networks and LoRa technology, range is a problem that has been solved.

If you look at the architecture of a LoRaWAN network, a lot of focus has been on keeping end node and concentrators simple, low-power and low-cost because this is what is needed to scale up to billions of nodes. Most of the processing happens in the cloud in a LoRaWAN network, eliminating the need for complex software that, for example, makes it necessary for individual nodes to maintain redundant information to switch roles which drives up the deployment and hardware costs. It’s a […]

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Don’t let software chew a dangerous hole in next generation networks and the IoT

Once deployed, the business of managing mobile networks used to be relatively straightforward. Voice and text had a certain predictability. Special events aside, usage of these two services would take place within a set of parameters that the forward-looking network ops team could estimate with sufficient accuracy to stop problems occurring.

Enter the brave new world of mobile internet, and with it a whole new set of variables. Operators found (sometimes to their cost) that users would find a way of surprising them, be it with data heavy applications, tethering or any number of unexpected internet connected uses. The knee jerk reaction was throttling of certain services, additional costs to use the mobile web in certain ways or sometimes outright blocking, says Dmitry Kurbatov, Telecommunications Security lead at Positive Technologies.

The emergence of the data thirsty world of the IoT moves this issue into a whole new world. Not only will there be the same unexpected surprises, but the promise of 5G has been heavily sold as a universal connector. Once inanimate objects now consume bandwidth, often inefficiently.

Thankfully, digital Darwinism works both ways. Into the space has evolved the shiny new world of NFV and SDN. Need capacity quickly, or want to provision a new service? Simple, click this, drag it there and it’s problem solved, right?

Not exactly. Whilst the development of such software undoubtedly makes things easier for operators, it also does what those in the cyber security industry fear the most, centralising control of something very important and connecting it to the internet. This is a practice that creates a bulls-eye for a hacker, an asset which, given enough time and resource by a creative and well-resourced team, could be exploited. This is something that companies with large customer or financial databases have been learning to their peril over the last few years. Putting the king’s jewels in a single chest makes it a target.

Understanding this mindset is the first crucial step in securing any network. Second, and just as important, is actually doing something about it. This sounds obvious, but network security and operations teams are bombarded with a million and one tasks as they prepare to transition to their newly virtualised network, each one a priority and sucking up limited resource as deadlines rush past at terrifying speed.

Getting an external view on security is vital here. Those who have been involved in their planning and deployment are innately biased. This is not a criticism, any team in the middle of a complex technological deployment is not going to be able to see the wood for the trees. Giving someone outside this the remit to break things can be a valuable learning. As previously mentioned, knowledge of the hacker mindset is a valuable defensive tool – so employing a team with the specific remit to find problems can be an eye-opener.

This team should be given the freedom to audit everything from the code being used in critical areas of your deployment to assessing what visibility your network has from ‘the […]

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