The next generation of cellular IoT networks – where to begin?

In the ongoing push to establish the next generation of cellular IoT networks, the remaining key question is: Which technology should be rolled out first – CAT-M1, offering a quicker time-to-market, or CAT-NB1, providing a simpler and more cost-efficient service?

In the U.S. – the first market to see these new technologies deployed – Verizon and AT&T appear to have opted for the time-to-market angle and are now both offering services on their individual CAT-M1 networks. There is considerable logic to this in that M1 can be implemented through a relatively straightforward software update to the existing radio infrastructure, while NB1 will require new hardware.

With existing CAT-1 base stations upgraded to support M1, providers can now offer more competitive solutions in terms of service cost, compared to the previous M2M technologies. Given that M1 networks are already up and running, network providers and device manufacturers are free to take their time retrofitting base stations with the necessary hardware for an eventual NB1 rollout.

In Europe, the major carriers have experienced something of a change of heart. Having initially stated they would begin with the simpler and ultimately lower cost NB1 networks – ideal for applications, such as smart metering, that do not require mobility or voice – they have since changed tack, opting instead for the lower initial investment required for an upgrade to M1. This is due to the availability of an M1 eco-system driven by the initial U.S. deployment.

With the initial U.S. deployment in place, an M1 ecosystem has been created that can be easily applied to Europe, with devices, chipsets and certification processes already available. In February, Orange Europe announced the deployment of M1, with pilots beginning this year, while NB1 will be added to their offering at some point in the future.

Asia is somewhat divided over the M1/NB1 issue. Much like their European counterparts, Japanese operators have opted to start with M1, motivated by the existence of an M1 ecosystem. China, on the other hand, has opted to begin with NB1, driven predominantly by Huawei as the only current vendor with a commercial narrowband offering. In South Korea, this division is even more evident. At least one carrier is already gearing up to roll out M1 offerings this year, while others will wait for NB1.

Some countries will have M1 coverage, some will have NB1 coverage, and some will have both. Devices that target global applications, such as pallet tracking and cold chain management, will need dual-mode operation as key  requirement. In places that are covered by both M1 and NB1, this will enable such devices to select the optimal network in terms of cost and quality.

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IoTCAN partners with Actility to begin rollout of nationwide IoT connectivity network for Canada

IoTCAN partners with Actility to begin rollout of nationwide IoT connectivity network for Canada

Actility and IoTCAN, the Canadian communication service provider, today announce they have launched a LoRaWAN network covering the Greater Toronto area. This is first step in the rollout of a national IoT network in Canada.

IoTCAN is working with several key partners provide carrier-grade fully -integrated customizable solutions, encompassing different elements of the IoT value chain in the LPWAN segment, including devices, network and application layers. Actility’s contribution is the ThingPark IoT technology platform and experience in nationwide LPWAN deployments globally. IoTCAN expects to have expanded to more than 300 sites by the year-end, covering major metropolitan and industrial areas in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Ossama Bessada, Co-CEO of IoTCAN commented:
“We are happy to partner with Actility who is the worldwide leader in the domain. Actility is able to provide us with a platform that would enable us to offer our different solutions whether for smart cities or others at a carrier-grade level of service. The breakthrough capability of tracking devices with low power consumption is also a solution which we look forward to bringing into the Canadian marketplace.”

“We’re excited to be working with an innovative IoT solution provider like IoTCAN on another national-scale LPWAN deployment, adds Actility CEO Mike Mulica. “With over half of all national and large scale LoRaWAN roll-outs selecting ThingPark to power their networks, it’s the platform of choice for carrier-grade solutions. And with this announcement following closely on from the LoRa Alliance All-Members Meeting hosted in Philadelphia this week, it’s clear that LoRaWAN is now taking off in North America on a large scale as the best communication solution for industrial IoT applications.”

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IoT Business News

GDPR compliance: We need to comply but where to begin?

When it comes to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses know they need to comply, but aren’t sure where to begin (or don’t think it’s time to start yet). The GDPR will be officially enforced beginning on May 25, 2018, and while it’s still over a year away, now is the time to […]

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Why building smart cities in 2017 will begin with transportation infrastructure


The smart city concept is not a new one. The main attraction at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair was the General Motors Pavilion’s Futurama ride that ferried visitors past incredibly detailed models, accompanied by the narrator’s welcome “and now, we have arrived at this wonder world of 1960.” Of course, because GM was the sponsor, the focus was on transportation. But if the entries to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2016 Smart Cities Challenge are any indication, modernizing our cities’ transportation infrastructures will be the primary focus of urban planners in 2017.

GM’s Futurama ride showed a future with multiple lanes of asphalt connecting cities and rural areas, and city streets teeming with cars. Sounds quaint today, but in 1939, that would have seemed like something out of a science fiction novel.

“You have to understand that the audience had never even considered a future like this,” Dan Howland editor of the Journal of Ride Theory, told Wired magazine back in 2007. “There wasn’t an interstate freeway system in 1939. Not many people owned a car. They staggered out of the fair like a cargo cult and built an imperfect version of this incredible vision.”

Today, that grand vision of vehicles moving freely and efficiently down wide open highways and city avenues has devolved into mile after mile of traffic congestion and pollution. Modernizing our mass transportation systems is one of the primary obstacles urban planners face, and the U.S. has fallen behind much of the world.

Juniper Research’s “Worldwide Smart Cities: Energy, Transport & Lighting 2016-2021” report ranks the world’s top smart cities. 60 percent are in Europe thanks to innovations in reducing congestion and energy consumption. Singapore earned the top ranking due to its application of smart mobility policies and technology, particularly its fixed and cellular broadband services, city apps and strong open data policy.

“Congestion and mobility are almost universal issues for cities to address,” notes the report’s author Steffen Sorrell. “Facilitating the movement of citizens within urban agglomerations via transport networks is fundamental to a city’s economic growth. When addressed effectively, the impacts are substantial: higher economic productivity, potential for new revenue streams and services as well as a measurable benefit in reduced healthcare costs.”

Fortunately, it does appear that U.S. city planners received that message loud and clear in 2016. 77 cities submitted entries to the Department of Transportation’s $ 50 million Smart City Challenge that detailed their plans to leverage new and developing technologies to solve their transportation problems.

Columbus, Ohio won the contest, and will not only receive $ 40 million from the federal government and another $ 10 million from Seattle-based Vulcan owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen; it will also reap an additional $ 90 million in matching funds from local companies, governments and non-profits.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says a significant factor that contributed to Columbus’ win was its plan to increase and improve poor people’s access to multiple transportation options. For example, autonomous vehicles will link neighborhoods where unemployment levels are higher than the city average to nearby jobs centers, health care and other essential services.

Additionally, the city’s application proposes leveraging data collection and analysis technologies to transmit real-time information about traffic and parking conditions and transit options to minimize traffic issues associated with major events or incidents. It also plans to build “smart corridors,” starting with a bus rapid transit routes that use wireless technology among and between vehicles and infrastructure to improve safety, efficiency and usability.

These efforts to bring an aging and obsolete mass transportation system network into the 21st century is a critical component to any smart city project. Like Columbus, most cities’ networks were built decades ago, and are based on proprietary solutions. These aging networks are expensive to operate and difficult to manage as more people adopt smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and other mobile devices. It creates a fragmented communications system, and the increases public safety risks.

Private companies and nonprofits have committed funding and their expertise to help not only Columbus, but also the cities that didn’t win (or even enter) the DOT’s contest. These companies represent sectors such as cloud computing, telecommunications, electric vehicle charging infrastructure systems, and wireless transmitters for vehicles and infrastructure. The DoT reports 150 companies and nonprofit groups have pledged as much as $ 500 million worth of support.

All of these government agencies and private sector organizations came together in 2016 to begin building a new ecosystem for the design and construction of new transportation networks and capabilities, or the modernization of existing ones.

As a result, expect to see the visions like those several other cities presented in their DoT contest applications become reality in 2017, including:

Denver: Proposes building a new data management system to collect data from multiple sources to provide a real-time picture of travel in the city, including where people are moving and how they’re getting there. People will be able to access the information on their mobile devices, and make decisions on the best transportation options at any given time.

Pittsburgh: The Steel City’s plan includes a real-time adaptive traffic signal control system called Surtrac that will monitor traffic and control lights on the streets that feed into downtown. The lights will use sensors to identify transit and freight vehicles and allow them to move through the signals quicker, reducing pollution that would occur while the vehicles are idling at a stop light.

Portland: A cornerstone its plan is a mobile app that enables residents to compare transportation options, and pay for the option they choose within the app. The city also wants to build traffic sensors and signals that can receive and transmit data, and install technology in fleet vehicles to collect data on traffic conditions. New Wi-Fi-enabled kiosks will provide internet access and travel information at all transit stops.

For these amazing 2016 ideas to become reality in 2017 and beyond, there’s one critical component that all smart transportation networks must share: universal availability. That includes interacting with all contactless technologies (i.e., Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi) to provide an easy access to the information from the city objects and get data about the traveller’s journey pattern. No proprietary software that favors one hardware vendor, application developer or communications provider over others.

City planners must partner with technology developers and integrators that offer connectivity across all mobile devices to ensure the networks they begin building in 2017 can scale to meet the needs of residents, visitors, businesses and government 20 years from now.

To borrow from GM’s Futurama ride, “now we have arrived at this wonder world of 2038.” Latest from the homepage