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IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

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20 Jul 2017

South Korea’s KT Corp and LG Uplus have jointly established what they claim to be the world’s first nationwide commercial NB-IoT network. The announcement on 17 July came eight months after the pair began the LTE-based rollout, now covering Seoul and all metropolitan areas, plus small towns, ports and roads. Expansion of their commercial NB-IoT services ranges is planned for August, including remote gas meter reading, with other service launches expected to quickly follow, in areas such as vehicle management/tracking and other utility meter/system management applications. Director of IoT at LG Uplus, An Sung-joon, said: ‘Based on leadership of NB-IoT technologies, we are going to seek to coexist with small and medium South Korean companies continuously and we are planning to actively support these companies to enter global markets.’ Kim Joon-geun, head of KT’s ‘GiGA IoT’ business division, added: ‘We are going to grow the number of members of GiGA IoT Alliance to 600, and see it as an opportunity to find start-up companies that are looking to enter IoT markets.’ Note that South Korea’s SK Telecom operates a rival nationwide low power wide area (LPWA) IoT network, based on the LoRaWAN standard, using unlicensed spectrum and separate to LTE infrastructure.

In the US, meanwhile, T-Mobile claimed a national first with the completion of live NB-IoT network tests in Las Vegas in partnership with Qualcomm and Ericsson across multiple LTE sites in the city, utilising 200KHz of AWS (1700MHz) spectrum and Qualcomm’s global multimode LTE IoT modem. T-Mobile’s CTO Neville Ray confirmed that its NB-IoT network will go fully commercial later this year, including NB-IoT access for customers of its existing all-in-one IoT access packages. The cellco’s first pilot NB-IoT projects in Las Vegas will include flood/storm drainage sensors, smart city lighting, and monitors for temperature, humidity and other environmental factors.

Telefonica Mexico (Movistar) has confirmed that it is integrating Sigfox LPWA IoT technology into its managed connectivity platform, to enable B2B customers to deploy IoT devices ‘on a massive scale’. ‘Depending on their needs, users will be able to choose the most appropriate type of connectivity or even combine them, implement use cases and create new service opportunities that, in other circumstances, would never have been possible,’ said Mariano Moral, B2B vice president of Telefonica Mexico, following the signing of an agreement with French-backed Sigfox and its local partner company in Mexico, IoTnet (part of the WND group).

Ericsson is building an end-to-end NB-IoT network solution for Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom, comprising the Ericsson Radio System, Massive IoT radio access network (RAN) software, virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC), virtual Subscriber Data Management (vSDM), and the IoT Smart Device/Application service. The vEPC is being deployed as a dedicated IoT Packet Core, using network slicing functionality, enabling Chunghwa Telecom to explore massive machine type communications use cases and rapidly bring new services to market, a press release stated. Chen Shyang-Yih of Chunghwa Telecom said: ‘NB-IoT technology is one of our primary focuses in 2017, and we are keen to explore more opportunities based on the new technology.’

Comcast has announced plans to expand its enterprise LPWA IoT service, machineQ, based on LoRaWAN, to twelve major US markets, namely Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington DC. ‘We believe that Comcast has a unique opportunity to leverage our existing network assets and Semtech’s LoRa technology, to fuel IoT innovation with disruptive new business models and smarter cities,’ said Alex Khorram, general manager of machineQ. Comcast held LoRa trials in October 2016 in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area, and expanded to Chicago in November, with interest in machineQ coming from industries including healthcare (patient monitoring, laboratory sciences tracking), public utilities (remote utility metering), automotive (asset tracking, telemetry), and smart cities (outdoor lighting, waste management, utility grid monitoring).

Telefonica-backed Brazilian operator Vivo and China’s Huawei have opened a laboratory in Brazil for the development and testing of NB-IoT solutions, in partnership with others including module/chip maker u-blox and CAS Tecnologia. Initial tests are focused on metering and tracking applications. Vivo also announced this week the launch of ‘Vivo Eficiencia Energetica’, a solution offering companies automation and control over energy consumption.

T-Mobile Austria has announced that it connects one million active M2M SIM cards worldwide; the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary operates as an international M2M hub for B2B customers and therefore counts M2M SIMs connected in other countries besides Austria. For instance, cars produced by BMW since 2016 are equipped with M2M connectivity from T-Mobile Austria. The cellco also plans to roll out NB-IoT technology this year.

In Russia, developers supported by the state-backed Internet Initiatives Development Fund have finalised the Narrow Band Fidelity (NB-FI) IoT standard, which has been submitted to the federal standards regulator Rosstandart, under a plan to see commercial usage of the standard in 2018. The homegrown standard is designed to enable devices to exchange data at a distance of 10km using the 868MHz band, which is currently unused, with no licensing necessary.

Indian ICT solutions group Tech Mahindra has teamed up with IoT platform provider PTC (ThingWorx) to set up an industrial IoT (IIoT) Centre of Excellence facility at Tech Mahindra’s campus in Bangalore, aimed at showcasing IoT solutions to transform companies’ operations, based on technologies including the ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform.

German tech firm Siemens is launching an IoT development hub in Singapore, utilising the vendor’s IoT operating system MindSphere to create new digital applications with customers and local educational institutions. The hub is expected to support the city-state’s plan to become a ‘smart nation’ leveraging digital technology to boost productivity and efficiency in manufacturing, transport and energy. The German company will set up a 60-person team in the hub which it expects to expand to 300 staff by 2022.

Siemens has also forged an agreement with Vietnamese broadband operator FPT to jointly implement and develop the MindSphere cloud-based open IoT operating system for global B2B customers, including Asia Pacific markets (Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Korea and Australia) and Europe.

Digicel Group has signed a deal to market the Buddy Ohm system for monitoring building energy consumption throughout 26 Caribbean and Central American countries where it operates its mobile networks. The product will be branded Ohm – powered by Digicel and will be shipped to customers with Digicel SIM cards, enabling them to relay data to the Buddy cloud over Digicel’s cellular networks.

America Movil (AM) and Samsung Electronics have agreed to work on commercialising IoT smart solutions projects in Mexico for consumers and businesses, as part of their recent ‘4.5G’ network development partnership. AM’s COO Angel Alija said: ‘… with the forthcoming implementation of the 4.5G network, each new device that connects to the internet through our system will find less latency, much greater speed, vast coverage and the best overall connectivity support.’

Kazakhstan’s OrionM2M, which operates a LoRa network in the country, has introduced a range of new M2M/IoT devices for utility and other sectors, including the OrionMeter device for collecting data on water, gas and power consumption, OrionGPS devices for managing employees and vehicles, and OrionSecurity sensors.

Australian smart water meter company WaterGroup has signed a five-year partnership with Sigfox-based IoT network operator Thinxtra for implementing water leak detection systems. The Sigfox network currently covers 71% of the Australian population and is expected to reach 95% by the end of the year.

Japan’s Softbank has agreed to invest in energy IoT platform Encored, and will launch a new brand name, Encored Japan, on 1 August. Softbank will acquire new shares in Encored through a third-party issuance by the end of July. Encored’s ‘Enertalk’ platform analyses real-time energy data from IoT devices, currently installed in around 100,000 households worldwide.

Out on the roads, Rogers Communications has launched a ‘Canadian first’ connected car device built by China’s ZTE and powered by the Mojio open platform. The ’Rogers Smart Drive’ device allows subscribers to the operator’s family-oriented ‘Share Everything’ packages to: track a vehicle’s location (and set alerts to monitor vehicle speed); turn their car into a Wi-Fi hotspot for communications/navigation/entertainment via Rogers’ cellular network; diagnose car faults, get maintenance reminders, and be alerted of incidents e.g. the car being hit while parked. Rogers’ VP Leroy Williams said: ‘Of the 24 million cars on Canada’s roads today, over three-quarters don’t have Wi-Fi or any connectivity features. We’re excited to be the first carrier to introduce this kind of device to Canadians’.

SK Telecom is the first South Korean mobile operator to win state permission to test autonomous cars on public roads. It plans to develop a self-driving car in partnership with Hyundai, Seoul National University and US tech group NVIDIA. The operator previously unveiled its ‘T5’ connected car solution in partnership with BMW in November last year, as part of the development of ‘5G vehicle-to-everything (V2X)’ communications technology.

Finally, experts from Russia’s Ural State Agricultural University (Urga) and Ural Federal University (UFU) are developing an autonomous tractor; they are currently testing a remotely controlled ‘drone tractor’ equipped with artificial intelligence and special sensors enabling operation in standalone mode. Programmers expect to completely replace the human remote control element with autonomous systems for agricultural use in future. By 2019 around 30% of Russian farms could be using IoT technologies (up from 0.05% today), according to the state-backed Internet Initiatives Development Fund, conducting research with the Russian Association of the Internet of Things and the Ministry of Agriculture’s department of IT.

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