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The State of Indoor Positioning and Asset Tracking Using BLE and LoRa

Illustration: © IoT For AllThe indoor positioning and asset tracking space remains the wild west despite many companies working towards developing a robust, cost-effective, scalable solution. BLE, WiFi, Ultra Wide Band, RFID, and Ultrasonic, to name a few, have been used in the past to develop Indoor Positioning and Asset …

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What Is CBRS and How Does It Help IoT?

Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Things continues to grow fueled by applications that solve problems for enterprise customers. One of the biggest barriers to IoT solutions in enterprise settings is reliable and low-cost wireless connectivity. Where Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Zigbee and others have tried to solve the problem before, CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) is posed to offer a viable alternative for enterprise IoT connectivity.

What is CBRS?

Specific to the United States, Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a piece of the radio spectrum between 3550 – 3700 MHz. This is a valuable area of the spectrum because it allows good propagation (ability to penetrate walls and go medium distances) with the benefits of higher bandwidth services, such as LTE and 5G.

CBRS spectrum can be used to deploy a stand-alone, private LTE or 5G network inside a building.

Before CBRS, ensuring a robust cellular network inside of a facility, like a hospital, required installing a carrier-specific Distributed Antenna System (DAS). These systems are costly and only work with one carrier. CBRS systems have the potential to offer a “neutral host” for LTE/5G connections which would connect cellular devices (like phones or IoT sensors) via the CBRS radio infrastructure and then on to the carrier’s packet core network. For phones (and there are not many out yet) that support CBRS, they could use these in-building networks independent of what mobile operator they are using. 

For an IoT device inside of a building, using CBRS could prove a much more reliable connection than trying to connect from the basement HVAC controller to a cell tower 2 miles away, for example. 

Business Benefits

Neutral Host IoT Connectivity

For a direct-to-cellular IoT device (like a pharmacy temperature monitor in a hospital) that is installed in an enterprise, using CBRS as the primary cellular connection could be free if the device was provisioned to participate directly on the enterprise CBRS system. No need to pay Verizon, if the enterprise is providing all of the components for connectivity.

Alternative to Wi-Fi

CBRS 4G/5G systems use radio technology that is much more advanced than Wi-Fi and can cover 3-4x the range even at equivalent power levels. And since security and access are controlled via SIM cards, many of the headaches of managing Wi-Fi access and security are alleviated for IT teams. 

Better Performance Than LoRa or Zigbee

IoT specific wireless technologies like LoRa or Zigbee often use an application layer routing design, which means that some of the flexibility and robustness of the IP network are unavailable. Things like firmware upgrades and service changes are much easier for direct-to-IP connections like those enabled with CBRS 4G/5G.

Broadband Phone and Data Services

IoT is not the central use case for CBRS. It is the ability to improve phone performance in buildings that is the main value driver. IoT networking becomes a nice-to-have add-on for CBRS investments, at least at this stage. Alternatives to Wi-Fi for other devices, like laptops and TVs are likely to be seen in the future of CBRS enabled buildings.                                          

CBRS Applications

Good IoT applications for CBRS are ones that require a lot of bandwidth and probably aren’t battery-powered. Such as:

  • Video – Surveillance or Computer Vision Applications
  • Real-time control- Building Automation, HVAC
  • Push-to-talk- Security, operational voice such as in healthcare
  • Mains powered sensors- Temperature, Air Quality 
  • Gateway based IoT – Indoor positioning, where sensors talk to a local gateway

Indoor Positioning Example

CBRS could be a potential candidate for secure, high-bandwidth backhaul and long-range connectivity for campus-wide IoT solutions of the future. What makes CBRS attractive compared to Wi-Fi is the range the can be supported from a single access point, mobility support for users on the move, and spectral efficiency/capacity to support a large amount of traffic. 

Source: Qualcomm, Architecture for Private LTE Networks

For high-reliability use cases or those in environments already plagued by complex IT systems and crowded unlicensed band usage, like hospitals, CBRS could open up a new capability to install IoT solutions. Indoor positioning systems that rely on Bluetooth or Ultrawideband often have high frequency, real-time data flow requirements that can be challenging for Wi-Fi-based backhaul. CBRS small cells connecting to CBRS IoT gateway devices could provide a new way of solving the backhaul problem.  

For CBRS-based IoT networks, the near term challenges are how device management (SIM-based security and provisioning) will be handled and the limited availability of CBRS capable gateways and sensors. Companies like Athonet are working to solve the software and orchestration problems created by new CBRS enterprise deployments. 

Potential Barriers

Country-Specific

CBRS is solidly a USA-only spectrum band. However, other countries are releasing the public spectrum for unlicensed broadband wireless as well. The downside is that each country will require specialized radio hardware to work in a certain band. As these bands take off, cellular module manufacturers are likely to incorporate them. A “private cellular only” module might be on the market in the next few years.

Licensing Details

CBRS is a hybrid of licensed and unlicensed spectrums. 70 MHz out of the 150 MHz total bands are available through auctions, which will likely be consumed by the mobile operators. The remaining 80 MHz is available as General Availability. 80 MHz is still a large amount of spectrum to do private cellular operations. However, just like congestion in the 2.4 GHz band, CBRS GAA spectrum will likely see more and more use over time. 

Customer Availability

For an IoT company looking for connectivity options, CBRS should be on the radar, but it is certainly too new to rely on just yet. Unless an application is very valuable, the cost of deploying a standalone CBRS network just for IoT likely won’t be justified. Waiting for customer sites to adopt CBRS is likely the strategy that the IoT community will have to adopt.

CBRS is an exciting leap forward for publically available spectrum in the US. How it will play out for enterprises and the IoT community will be very interesting. Watch this space.

Source: IoT For All

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Lessons Learned Launching a New Connectivity Platform for IIoT | Wolfgang Thieme, CPO of BehrTech

#IoTMakers E054

Listen on Apple Podcast  |  Listen on Spotify  |  Listen on Google Podcasts

In this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Chief Product Officer of BehrTech, Wolfgang Thieme, joins us to talk about BehrTech’s MYTHINGS connectivity platform and LPWAN’s greater role in the industrial IoT space. 

To kick off the episode, Wolfgang introduces himself and provides an update on what BehrTech has been up to since we last spoke to their CEO, Albert Behr. Wolfgang shares the latest progress on the launch of the MYTHINGS platform and talks about the process of refining and executing a go-to-market strategy. He also discusses the process BehrTech uses to gather feedback and lessons learned as the team adjusted to best serve customers in the industrial space.

We talk about the role LPWAN plays in the IoT space and how it enables companies to roll out massive deployments with hundreds or thousands of devices at a relatively low cost. Wolfgang shares with us some of the key considerations when building a network meant to scale and how companies launching new IoT deployments must consider scalability upfront.

To close out the conversation, Wolfgang shares his advice for companies looking to get into the IoT space, saying that speed to market and flexibility are key. He also shares some of his excitement for the rest of 2020, speaking to some of the advances in connectivity, in particular, that he believes will propel IoT capabilities forward.

Interested in connecting with Wolfgang? Reach out to him on Linkedin!

About BehrTech: BehrTech offers a disruptive wireless connectivity software platform that is purpose-built for massive-scale Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) networks. At the core of the platform is MIOTY, a new communication technology standardized by ETSI that provides reliable, robust, and scalable connectivity unlike any other technology on the market. With its approach to interoperability, BehrTech makes it easy for end-users to retrofit its MYTHINGS platform in any environment and enables partners, system integrators, and VARs to deliver fully-integrated IIoT solutions that enable data-driven decisions to be made.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:40) Introduction to Wolfgang Thieme

(02:35) Introduction to Behrtech

(03:36) Are there any new initiatives happening at Behrtech?

(05:52) What’s the difference between LoRA and Behrtech’s platform MYTHINGS?

(07:42) What are some ideal use cases for LPWAN technologies?

(09:07) In developing the MYTHINGS platform, how did you approach your go-to-market strategy?

(11:35) What has the market response been like since launching MYTHINGS?

(13:56) How important are partnerships in IoT development and deployment?

(15:45) What role does LPWAN play in launching massive and scalable networks of devices?

(20:33) What are some of the challenges in implementing existing LPWAN technologies in industrial IoT deployments?

(22:53) How important is quality of service in industrial IoT deployments?

(24:04) What advice do you have for companies interested in getting into IoT?

(28:03) What are you looking forward to the rest of the new year?

Source: IoT For All

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Expert Predictions: LPWAN and IoT In 2020

Illustration: © IoT For All

With the continued maturation of low power wide area networks (LPWANs) and the Internet of Things (IoT), here are my predictions for the coming year:

Prediction 1:

LPWAN and IoT devices deployed in 2020 under a traditional connectivity model will represent less than ten percent.

A connectivity business model (that is, paying X dollars per month for each device connected to a network) is the most familiar business model in the communications industry. However, the majority of enterprise and volume use cases for the IoT are moving to other business models. The driving factors behind these alternative business models are:

  • SLA requirements
  • Access and ownership of data
  • Demand for complete solutions
  • Edge requirements

Prediction 2:

Asset tracking will be the “key app” for LPWAN

The highest-volume use cases in 2019 fell into the smart building and smart metering vertical markets. New asset tracking systems enabled by new indoor solutions, along with the improved return on investment (ROI) of indoor/outdoor solutions with much lower device and infrastructure costs, will start to drive significant volume in 2020, moving asset tracking ahead of other use cases.

Prediction 3:

Half of all enterprise deployments will deploy on-premises LPWAN network solutions at the edge before moving to Cloud-based network solutions

The driving factors behind on-premises and edge solution requirements are:

  • Ease of deployment with LPWAN
  • Data/network security
  • Critical low latency edge decision making
  • Availability or quality of backhaul
  • Interfacing with existing on-premises systems

If you look at this history of technology adoption, you’ll see that it is typical for enterprises to own new solutions end-to-end before starting to contract components of the system out to the ecosystem for SLA improvements or cost reduction. One historic example of this is in data storage: most companies started with on-premises data storage before moving to the Cloud. Hybrid solutions that offer both edge/Cloud options and transition between them will win the majority share of volume.

Prediction 4:

Satellite will play a significant role in LPWAN going forward

There is a flurry of activity in the satellite space. This is driven by small, lightweight satellite designs and new low-cost deployment services. In addition to traditional players, there are approximately 20 new start-ups in the low-cost low Earth orbit (LEO) space, all with designs for satellites that are about the size of a basketball. Companies in this sector are projecting that worldwide coverage is attainable for a cost of approximately $20-25 million, making it very cost-competitive compared to traditional tower deployment models in use today.  

Prediction 5:

Large Cloud providers will start to play a major role in LPWAN

Mobile operators, cable operators, semiconductor companies, telecommunication equipment providers, enterprise solution providers, start-ups and new market entrants have been the primary drivers of the LPWAN market to date. Major Cloud providers have realized that the critical way to access IoT data and volumes is to offer and abstract the complexities of wireless connectivity and device hardware. 

Source: IoT For All

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What Are LoRa and LoRaWAN? | Wienke Giezeman, CEO & Co-Founder of The Things Industries

#IoTFounders E048

Listen on Apple Podcast  |  Listen on Spotify  |  Listen on Google Podcasts

On this IoT For All podcast episode, Wienke Giezeman, CEO and Co-Founder of The Things Network, discusses what LoRa and LoRaWAN are, the role they play in the IoT connectivity space and how they are fueling the growth and adoption of IoT.

Wienke touches on the types of use cases that are best suited for LoRaWAN, what types of use cases LoRaWAN is not well suited for, the current state of the Internet of Things industry and how market fragmentation is affecting IoT adoption across the board.

Wienke and his team are putting on an industry event called the Things Conference where experts from all over the world will come together to discuss all things LoRaWAN. He was generous enough to provide us a discount code to all our readers and listeners if you are interested in attending! Please use the code: iot-for-all

Interested in connecting with Wienke? Check out his LinkedIn!

About The Things Industries: The Things Industries provides a LoRaWAN network management system that allows anybody to build LoRaWAN networks where data is routed in a secure end to end manner. Being interoperable with many IoT data platforms, LoRaWAN gateways and LoRaWAN sensors.

Key Question and Topics from this Episode:

(03:18) What is the Things Network Conference?

(07:30) Winke Giezeman Intro

(10:50) What is LoRa? What is LoRaWAN?

(16:15) How does LoRaWAN fit into the LPWAN connectivity spectrum and how do LPWAN technologies influence IoT Adoption?

(30:50) What use cases is LoRaWAN best suited for? Not well suited for?

(38:42) What is the current state of IoT and what are the biggest challenges affecting IoT adoption?

(41:12) How does the fragmentation of the IoT market affect adoption?

(43:16) How is hardware affecting IoT adoption? What needs to be done to make IoT hardware better?

(46:33) What should we be most excited about for 2020 as it is related to LoRaWAN?

Source: IoT For All

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What is Satellite LPWAN?

Satellite LPWAN, as the name implies, is a low powered connectivity option for IoT and other devices.

Constellation

Satellite LPWAN constitutes a direct connection between IoT devices and the telecommunications provider. Satellite networks are typically deployed in what’s called a “constellation”. A constellation is a fleet of satellites, and in the case of Satellite LPWAN, a constellation consists of a large number of relatively small communications satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). LPWAN satellite constellations tend to contain fewer satellites and typically consist of lower-price, lower-cost satellites.

Satellite Coverage

Satellite LPWAN’s strength comes in the form of coverage. Because the device is communicating with a set of satellites, coverage generally consists of anywhere on the face of planet Earth that you can see the sky. This type of global coverage is generally only available through satellite networks and allows connected devices to report data from remote areas where other communication options simply won’t reach.

Satellite Costs

Unfortunately, Satellite networks don’t come for free, and the cost of launching a satellite network is very high. For example, satellite telecommunications company Globalstar began launching its second-generation satellites into LEO in 2006, and the total estimated cost of the project was $1.2 billion for 48 devices. Prices may have lowered significantly since 2006, as evidenced by the estimated cost for Space X’s Starlink ($10 billion for ~4,000 satellites), but deploying a satellite network remains prohibitively expensive. These costs are passed over to network users, meaning that satellite data plans are also typically more expensive than their terrestrial counterparts.

In addition to increased cost, satellite network throughput is relatively low in comparison to traditional networks as a result of spreading coverage so thinly over a massive area. To illustrate, the number of telecommunications towers in the US is ~300,000. Despite that, there are still areas of the US that aren’t covered. Network speed on the other hand, is very high from these towers. Compare that to the increase in coverage from a cellular network to the entire earth, but with ~50 devices instead of ~300,000. Its easy to see why satellite communications are more expensive, and generally slower than terrestrial networks. As a more concrete example, Globalstar is capable of providing 256 kb/s connection speeds at a cost of roughly $4/Mb. Since phone pictures are typically 1-2Mb, thats $4-8 in cost just to upload a single photo! These costs are subject to economies of scale, but are still prohibitive for everyday usage.

Planet-Wide Coverage

Satellite isn’t all downsides though. As previously mentioned, its coverage is planet-wide. This makes satellite potentially the only viable option for companies that want to track things or connect to the internet in the middle of the ocean or in other remote areas where infrastructure is sparse. Satellite is perfect for those occasions, and can even be paired with more traditional connectivity options to control costs. In this case devices can do things like connect to cellular services when they are available, allowing them to send data frequently and at low cost, and then to connect to satellite services when cellular is not available, ensuring not only that data is never lost but also that cost is minimized.

Satellite LPWAN is a network connectivity option that excels in coverage, but struggles in cost and throughput. This makes satellite best for mission-critical data being sent from remote areas, and is generally best coupled with other connectivity options that can be used as available. This ensures that cost does not run out of control while still maintaining a global level of services.

Source: IoT For All

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Selecting the Right Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) Technology

Illustration: © IoT For All

The world of the Internet of Things (IoT), and its uses across industries, is expanding drastically. It’s transforming the way human and devices interact with each other, creating market opportunities and enabling change across industries. Continuous enhancements in various technologies make it very difficult for the user to select the best technology for their specific needs. Based on various parameters, there are a few low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies to consider.

Some broad parameters to include and the best protocols for long-range communications are the following:

  • Type of industry application
  • Easy access to technology and hardware availability
  • RF band of operation
  • Data rate
  • Security concerns
  • Availability of technology support
  • Power consumption

LoRA 

LoRa stands for long-range radio. It’s a wireless protocol specifically designed for long-range, low-power communications. It mainly targets M2M and IoT networks, and it was developed by Semtech. This technology enables public or multi-tenant networks to connect the number of applications running on the same network.

LoRa Alliance was formed to standardize LPWAN for IoT; it’s a non-profit association that features membership from the number of key market shareholders, which includes CISCO, Actility, MicroChip, IBM, STMicro, Semtech, Orange Mobile and many more. This alliance is key to providing interoperability among multiple nationwide networks.

LoRa devices offer features such as long-range, low-power consumption, and secure data transmission for IoT applications. These technologies provide greater range than cellular networks and can be used by public, private or hybrid networks. It can easily plug into existing infrastructure and enables low-cost battery-operated IoT applications.

Applications for LoRa wireless technology include smart metering, inventory tracking, vending machine data and monitoring, and automotive industry and utility applications. These technologies are widely deployed and incorporated with many systems; even the small maker-style computers like Arduino have LoRa options. Accordingly, it’s very easy to develop LoRa applications for both large-scale manufacture and more specialist applications.

SigFox

SigFox is a French global network operator, currently deployed in 19 countries, covering 1.2 million km². It operates at 868 or 915 MHz and transmits very small amounts of data very slowly (300 b/s) using binary phase-shift keying (BPSK). It can achieve long-range coverage and has general characteristics that make it well suited for any IoT application requiring only small amounts of data.

SigFox sets up antennas on towers (like a cell phone company) and receives data transmissions from devices (like parking sensors or water meters). These transmissions use frequencies that are unlicensed with a 915 MHz ISM band in the US, which is the same frequency a cordless phone uses.

This technology is suitable for any application that needs to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Things like basic alarm systems, location monitoring, and simple metering are examples of one-way systems. The signal is sent a few times to “ensure” the message goes across; there are few limitations, such as shorter battery life for battery-powered applications and lack of ability to ensure the message is received by the tower.

LTE-M

LTE-M is an LPWAN radio technology standard developed by 3GPP release, 13 standard that defines narrowband IoT (NB-IoT or LTE Cat NB1). LTE-M leverages lower-cost modules, enables extended battery life, provides better signal penetration, and has the ability to use existing infrastructure.

With uplink and downlink speeds of 375 kb/s in half-duplex mode, Cat M1 supports IoT applications with low to medium data-rate needs. At the same speed, LTE Cat M1 can deliver remote firmware updates over the air (FOTA) within a feasible time period. This creates the best possible IoT connectivity solution for security, scaling, and cost.

It has a narrow bandwidth of 1.4 MHz compared to 20 MHz for regular LTE, giving a longer range. Using the same cell handover features as in regular LTE, mobility is fully supported. It’s possible to roam with LTE-M, as it’s suitable for applications that can be operated across multiple regions. The latency is in the millisecond range, offering real-time communication for time-critical applications. Battery life is up to 10 years, on a single charge with low-cost maintenance, even when end devices can’t be connected directly to the power grid.

A discourse on various IoT protocols is helpful when trying to select the best protocols for long-range communication. Due to its dependence on multiple aspects, deciding on the selection of long-range communication wireless technology for your application can still be challenging.

Written by Priyanka Purbe, Senior Firmware development Engineer, VOLANSYS
Source: IoT For All