Blink Selects MultiTech for Nationwide IoT Network Coverage

Blink Selects MultiTech for Nationwide IoT Network Coverage

Leverages Partnership with Actility to Enable Smart City Applications.

Multi-Tech Systems today announced that Blink Services, the Swedish network provider for LoRaWAN™ and smart city solutions has selected MultiTech to support its nationwide IoT network coverage initiative.

Significant to the announcements is MultiTech’s shared partnership with Actility, the industry leader in Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN). The trio will work closely to set the standard for how ‘things’ communicate with each other, locally and nationally. The combination of connectivity and scalable services will facilitate the digitization process, ensuring a necessary foundation for cities to adapt to smarter applications.

“MultiTech’s proven expertise was one important reason for choosing their solution. Another reason was the quality process from beginning to end,” said Matts Lilja, Managing Director of Blink Services. “MultiTech is an important ally with vast experience and hands-on knowledge.”

The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly gaining momentum in Sweden and strongly supported by the government. Developing smart city applications will significantly impact the cities’ management systems such as waste management, agriculture, water, lights and traffic to name a few. Leveraging MultiTech as a hardware partner will increase the speed of implementation across all processes.

“LoRaWAN is particularly well suited to smart city applications,” said Stefan Lindvall, CEO of MultiTech. “We’re pleased to work with Blink to enable such solutions across Sweden.”

Blink Services has developed its own applications in cooperation with sister company, Blinkfyrar, Sweden’s leading road sign supplier. Monitoring and maintenance of road signs is turned into a rapid and automated task, replacing manual supervision. The product Signsensor just hit the market and will save cities both time and cost. A road sign equipped with Signsensor will report any deviation, activate an alarm and report the discrepancy and action can be taken. The need to regularly and physically inspect the status is eliminated.

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Actility and Blink partner on national IoT network for Sweden

French low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) specialist Actility has partnered with Swedish LoRaWAN company Blink to roll out a national IoT network in Sweden.

The companies will work together to provide the digital infrastructure that will underpin various smart city projects cross Sweden.

The news follows the recent closure of Actility’s Series D funding round, in which the start-up secured $ 75m from investors including German engineering and electronics giant Bosch.

Read more: Kigali IoT network provides blueprint for African smart city initiatives

Benefits for urban and rural Swedes

The network will be based on Actility’s ThingPark LPWA technology platform – already in use in Saudi Arabia and Tunisia – and will build on the work already done by Blink to create networks in Helsingborg and Landskrona, in the country’s south. 

Several other cities in Sweden are standing by, ready for installation, according to Blink, but the company needed to enlist the services of Actility in order to speed up deployment.

Once complete, the hope is that the network will benefit Sweden’s urban and rural populations alike, through projects like the installation of smart traffic solutions to reduce fuel consumption and pollution.

Blink has already achieved some success in this regard. Alongside its sister company, Blinkfyrar, a Swedish road sign supplier, the company has developed a product called Signsensor. This technology detects if a road sign is damaged and alerts an engineer to repair it, cutting out the need for regular physical inspections.

The company’s ambitions in Sweden stretch beyond traffic improvements, however, and the hope is that the new network could also support other use cases, including smart agriculture technologies to drive more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming.

There is also the opportunity to integrate IoT geolocation applications into logistics and supply chain operations across a number of sectors. Having partnered with satellite connectivity giant, Inmarsat, in February of this year, Actility has bolstered its ability to offer location tracking technology ‘anywhere on the planet’, and is targeting asset tracking in agriculture in particular.

Read more: IoT on the farm: automated cow milking and more

Connectivity for an entire nation

“We’re excited to be working with Actility to bring IoT connectivity to the whole of Sweden,” commented Matts Lilja, managing director of Blink Services.

“A digital wireless infrastructure for IoT will mean major changes and many opportunities. Technology can fundamentally change the conditions for several established business models, as we already see installed systems around the world. Through working with Actility, we will be able to utilise its experience and hands-on knowledge, and work to set the standard for how things communicate with each other, both locally and nationally.”

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New earbud promises smartphone control in the blink of an eye

A new type of earbud that can recognise facial expressions is under development. Future possible uses include providing control of a smartphone to people with impaired movement.

The technology has been developed by researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Rostock and the University of Cologne in Germany.

It is based on nothing more sophisticated than an Arduino, the open source hardware/software combo designed to provide a low-cost way for people to learn about and experiment with computing.

Read more: Arduino building open-source, hackable Internet of Things kit

Ear we go

EarFieldSensing, or EarFS for short, described in an academic paper by the researchers, relies on detecting changes to the shape of the ear canal and other effects caused by facial movement. Data received by the earbud are converted into instructions which are delivered to a smartphone.

For example, when we smile, it isn’t only the muscles around our mouth that move. Muscles in the ear move, too. A sensor attached to the earlobe detects these movements as electrical field changes. These can be interpreted as a specific instruction for a phone to carry out.

The developers say that the current version of the system, which is at the prototyping stage, can detect five expressions with 90 percent accuracy: smiling, winking, turning the head to the right, opening the mouth and saying ‘shh’.

“Something as simple as answering a call with a facial expression could be possible soon,” inventor Denis Matthies from the Fraunhofer Institute told the New Scientist.

Read more: IoB Insiders: What can the iPhone teach us about IoT edge devices?

Beyond the lab

The researchers acknowledge that in commercial use the system would need to be able to include other variables beyond just detecting expressions themselves. For example, a smile could be interpreted as an instruction to answer a call only if the phone is actually ringing.

There is potential for EarFS to be used across a range of different scenarios. With smartphone makers constantly looking for the next big thing to make their phones stand out, perhaps an intelligent earbud that shaves seconds off the time needed to check a text message, listen to a voicemail or answer a call without bothering to reach for the phone could be a selling point.  In many respects, this is just a logical extension of the Bluetooth hands-free kits that have been around for years.

Indeed, Sony’s Xperia Ear is already in the market and offers a wide range of ‘remote control’ features for phones. Where it differs from EarFS is that its primary control mechanism is voice, though it does also understand when a user nods their head. Adding the ability to pick up facial expressions brings more potential than the spoken word alone.

Read more: Samsung unveils Bixby AI assistant for phones and IoT devices

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