Small things. Daily objects. All, world wide connected. Up to here, nothing new. Our world is every day more and more connected, and the number of intelligent devices is growing so quickly. The industry needs a technology that enables objects to talk to each other freely, with low costs and low energy consumption, and the right path to achieve it has already start. The finish line is the Narrow-Band IoT (NB-IoT) and the distance to reach this goal is so short: early 2017.
Accent Systems has made the firsts steps to introduce itself in this emerging technology, to enhance the proximity solutions that offers to its customers. We’ve talked with its CEO, Jordi Casamada, and its CTO, Oriol Patau, about NB-IoT that, surely, will shape up the industry.
Let’s talk about NB-IoT… Which are the potentialities of this technology?
JC: The Narrow-Band IoT is the first technology clearly focused on connecting everyday objects to internet, with the objective of controlling them from a distance or collecting information. Its main advantage is the low power consumption, and this will allow the devices to be so small, because they won’t need big batteries. Therefore, their prices will be much more competitive.
OP: At the same time, the price of the telecom fees won’t be so expensive with the NB-IoT. The existing technologies, like GPRS, 3G, 4G…, are conceived to connect smartphones to the internet, so the monthly outlay is high (it needs lots of Internet data). With the NB-IoT the consumption will be lower because it’s one of the firsts techs developed specifically to connect small things and send small amount of data, not big quantities.
This coming technology will be useful, for example, with temperature sensors, that just need to send this information once an hour. But if you need to broadcast streaming video between two machines, this tech won’t be the one you were looking for, it will be insufficient.
Do you think the NB-IoT is the best technology for the machine-to-machine (M2M) communication?
JC: Surely, the NB-IoT will be the best technology to broadcast small amounts of information sporadically. It will enable to connect basic things like an intelligent toothbrush with use sensors associated with a dental treatment. The dentist will be able to receive all the information and monitor the patient in real time, with low costs for each other.
It is obvious; the same process could be done with other internet connections, like 3G, but do you imagine how much would the monthly fee costs? And how many times would you have to charge the battery? It would be infeasible, and the solution is the NB-IoT.
There are other technologies developed with the same objective: communicate objects. What are the differences between NB-IoT and SigFor or LoRa?
OP: The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Narrow-Band versus these other technologies doesn’t need the deployment of a new network. It won’t be necessary to install new antennas, just update their softwares, and automatically will be ready to connect with NB-IoT devices. This is not possible with SigFox or Lora, that need new infrastructure to be installed.
JC: There are also other technical advantages of this emerging technology. The NB-IoT is bidirectional (it broadcasts and receive information), while SigFox and LoRa has limited downlink capacities.
OP: It is also important to highlight the NB-IoT operates in its own frequency band, which prevent from interferences, and works in an adjustable and quicker speed.
JC: The arrival of the Narrow-Band will be imminent globally; they say it will be an overnight deployment. The only necessary thing, apart from updating the software, is that the telecom operators will be ready to get subscribers.
So, the most important step is the main telecom operators respond to the new industry demands…
JC: Exactly. In fact, it is starting to be a reality. In Singapore, for example, some telecom operators are committed to deploy the Narrow-Band this 2017 and Shanghai (China) has already started with pilot tests. This technology will be a reality next year, but at this moment it’s in a prototype phase.
Accent Systems is a company focused on offering customers proximity technology solutions, specially in the wireless device market. Do you have any projects in mind to step into NB-IoT?
OP: Since its foundation, Accent Systems is focused on machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and connected products. The vast majority of our projects are based on this kind of communication, and we’ve done them using technologies like the GPRS. Now, with the arrival of the Narrow-Band, all this projects could be done with less costs for the customer and the final user of the product.
JC: Our intention is to develop projects for our clients that use this technology, because we think it’ll suppose several advantages and benefits. During all this years, our company has developed several connected products: taximeters; people, animals and asset trackers… and our intention is to incorporate this emerging technology to these and other projects. The NB-IoT offers a wide range of possibilities to challenge unimaginable new products.
So, you are decided to bet on NB-IoT technology…
JC: Sure. From its beginnings, our company has pursued to create connected devices to facilitate people’s life, and with the arrival of NB-IoT it will be much easier. We are going to be able to connect devices that, nowadays, are not feasible to connect technically and economically. I’m almost sure that the NB-IoT will represent the authentic blast of the Internet of Things (IoT); the internet of the small things.
Which are the most outstanding use cases, with NB-IoT?
JC: It will be an authentic revolution. Until now, we’ve connected big and expensive devices, like TVs, computers or smartphones, but from now on everything can be intelligent. Imagine, for example, a smart city where all the streetlights are connected and can be controlled individually. This could optimize and reduce the consumption controlling, for example, the amount of light of each streetlight, depending on the volume of people that cross the zone.
This is just one of many different use cases in which the NB-IoT will be so useful. Some other examples: in weather stations, in air quality sensors or in vehicle fleet control; asset, people or pet trackers…+
Finally, what do you foresee in a short future?
OP: The latest informations suggest the Narrow-Band IoT will be deployed next year, in 2017. We should wait and see if the deadlines are accomplished, but what’s certain is that Singapore and China are leading the way. It’s still a mystery when it will be spreaded out in other countries.
JC: From my point of view, we’ll see it soon operating, because the necessary investment is low. Meanwhile, in Accent Systems we are preparing the ground. We are developing prototypes for some customers with this technology, and once it will be operating we will be able to introduce this new products to the market immediately.