TECHNOLOGY BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
Internet of Things (or IoT) is one of the major trends in current technology industry, but it is not so easy to reach an agreement of what it really means. From a recent survey of the top 10 companies in the sector, it seems evident that everybody has their own definition and vision of IoT, but also everyone does agree on the basic fact that IoT means connecting smart devices to a cloud application through the Internet (as opposed to the connection to Internet of the humans, as we know it).
Examples are: Home devices (for controlling and monitoring lights, heating/cooling, intrusion alarms, smoke/gas/flooding sensors and reporting, etc.), Health and Wearable devices (sport devices, health monitor, sleep sensors, etc.), Smart Meters (for electricity, gas, water, etc.), Agriculture sensors (for the monitoring of plantations, crops, bee-hives over large tracts of land, leading to Internet of Agriculture), Insurance Telematics (whose purpose is to collect data about car trips to compute customized insurance bills or precisely determine roles and responsibility in case of a car accident); this is just to name a few.
From a technological point of view, IoT is the interconnection of a huge number of (intelligent) devices / sensors / actuators connected through the Internet to provide to Cloud applications the ability to store / publish / manage data from the real world and to control / execute remote commands back to the real world.
Given this definition, it is easy to agree with the market analysts that forecast a near future in which the Internet will be dominated by the connected devices more than the human being (via PC, smartphones/ tablet, etc.) in term of nodes and data generated; in fact due to the high density of potentially connectable devices it is not difficult to foresee applications involving billions of nodes.
The kind of traffic generated by the “things” will be very different from the traffic generated by humans (which typically look for high bandwidth for data transfer, video streaming, file upload, online gaming, etc.). Due to the “always connected” nature of the IoT devices the traffic generated will be more likely characterized by modest data-rates and throughputs, but will require very high reliability, 24×7 connectivity and low latency. These factors vary based on the application.
This traffic will require dedicated specific connectivity devices that will lasts years when battery-operated, that will be very spectrum efficient while using only small portions of the available spectrum, paving the way for new narrowband communication standards.
STANDARDIZATION / DEPLOYMENT
From the above, it appears evident that one of the most important part in the IoT game is the ability to connect a host of new devices to Internet; in doing this, the wireless cellular communication technologies will play a big role in the IoT equation because, it allows connectivity and mobility at the same time.
For this purpose, new 3GPP standards have been studied and are now available, allowing the use of widespread access technologies in the IoT scenarios (like 4G LTE, which will be the one of the first key enabler for the mobility function of the IoT).
The new standardized features devoted to IoT will have impacts on the radio interface and on the protocol stack in order to adapt them to the specific needs of the connected devices. In particular:
NB-LTE and LTE-M (first drafted in 3GPP Rel. 12 and further optimized in Rel. 13): these new narrowband radio interfaces have been standardized to address the need of the IoT market (NB-IoT) and will be an evolution of the present LTE interface optimized for IoT. In fact, according to 3GPP, the new technology will provide improved indoor coverage, support of massive number of low throughput devices, low delay sensitivity, ultra-low device cost, low device power consumption and optimized network architecture. Moreover these new interfaces will enable the GSM re-farming allowing the re-use of 200 KHz GSM carriers or a wider 1.4 MHz band making the system much more easy to deploy.
New categories of User Equipment (e.g. CAT-0 and CAT-M UEs) will be specifically targeted for IoT providing simplified access (cheaper and with lower energy requirements) to LTE and extending the addressable market of LTE technology. This will be achieved by providing a simplified protocol stack and inexpensive chipset to be embedded in the devices with reduced bandwidth and throughput. Available. These devices will also have very low power requirements permitting years-long operations with a single low cost battery.
RELEVANCE TO AZCOM AND AZCOM CONTRIBUTION
Azcom Technology’s solutions for advanced LTE connectivity and customizable platforms will enable customers to adopt the best technology for their IoT application. In fact, Azcom is very active on the standardization side keeping the pace of the mentioned new standard proposals and timely adopting them on its products and solutions, e.g., the new features require deep adaptation on the eNodeB and could be implemented in Azcom Technology’s proprietary LTE Small Cell solutions which are very flexible and easily customizable to the customer needs.
Moreover, as a design service provider, Azcom can speed-up the introduction of leading edge communication technologies to customers with specific requirements. In fact, Azcom is a long-time partner of some of the biggest players in the IoT arena and is focused in the provision of turn-key original projects to enable the IoT vision to become a reality.