IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

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27 Sep 2017

3 Hong Kong has completed the deployment of an end-to-end NB-IoT network in partnership with Huawei, supported by 4G LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) carrier aggregation, 256QAM and 4×4 MIMO network technology, with NB-IoT modules designed in accordance with 3GPP standards to facilitate testing and development of IoT applications. 3’s press release adds that its Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) technology ‘enables proof-of-concept activity around NB-IoT applications’, while cloud technology negates the need for additional hardware for testing, whilst also reducing investment risk and time-to-market. 3 also announced that its collaboration with Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation enables start-ups to develop and market NB-IoT applications for various industries. In one initiative, the cellco and Power Assets Holdings are researching NB-IoT applications including utility (water/electric) meters and surveillance/management of oil pipelines, whilst other projects will involve big data analysis and smart surveillance. In addition, 3 Hong Kong has established an inter-departmental taskforce offering technical, sales and marketing expertise to start-ups, to accelerate the passage of NB-IoT solutions to commercial launch and ‘speed up development of Hong Kong as a smart city’.

The UK’s BT and Hitachi Vantara have begun a project to develop industrial and enterprise IoT applications, initially focusing on ‘asset intelligence and predictive maintenance’ solutions for industry sectors such as manufacturing and transportation. The partnership leverages BT’s global network infrastructure, cloud capabilities and cyber security expertise with Hitachi’s operational and information technology (OT/IT) expertise, Lumada IoT platform software and integrated IoT services/solutions portfolio, aiming to help their mutual customers take full advantage of connected intelligence and advanced data analytics to streamline processes and optimise business performance on a global scale. The first solutions resulting from this collaboration are expected to be available in Q1 2018.

IoT specialist Kerlink has established an Indian subsidiary – Kerlink IoT Solutions India, based in Chennai – for its previously announced LoRaWAN network rollout partnership with Tata Communications, targeting 400 million-plus population coverage in 2,000 cities/communities via around 10,000 Kerlink Wirnet iBTS Compact stations with 3G backhaul.

WND Brasil has launched commercial operations in the Federal District over its Sigfox IoT network, which already covers around 100 cities including Brazil’s twelve major metropolitan regions (representing 30% of the population, or around 80 million people), with a target of covering all Brazilian regional capitals and over half the population by the end of 2017.

In other Sigfox news, GCT Semiconductor has partnered the French group to announce a world-first hybrid Cellular/Sigfox IoT chip. The GDM7243I LTE chip supports two complementary connectivity modes: Cellular LTE (Category M1 [LTE-M]/NB1 [NB-IoT]/EC-GSM) alongside Sigfox. John Schlaefer, CEO of GCT, highlighted that the new chip enables IoT devices to ‘connect to the global Sigfox network during typical operation and switch to LTE Cat M1, NB1, or EC-GSM networks on-demand’. The development was welcomed by Andres Escribano, IoT Connectivity Director at telecoms giant Telefonica, who said the hybrid solution ‘aligns with our partnership with Sigfox and will enable innovative devices and novel usage models to accelerate the growth of the IoT market’.

Vodacom South Africa has announced reaching three million M2M/IoT devices connected to its mobile network. Vodacom’s IoT head Deon Liebenberg confirmed that ‘it took us eight years to get to two million connections, and it took us only one year to get to three million’. The cellco reports a current average of roughly 50,000 new connections per month, whilst it expects the growth rate to accelerate further as it commercially rolls out LPWA NB-IoT technology (having activated its first NB-IoT base station in May 2017).

Orange Spain has demonstrated the first end-to-end LTE-M data connections over its commercial mobile network, under a strategy of the Orange Group to progressively deploy LTE-M technology in Europe, starting with Belgium and Spain this year, facilitated by a partnership with Ericsson. Orange added that the LTE-M rollout is supported by virtualised packet core mobile network technology and Ericsson radio access, and the BabelGate IoT commercial gateway developed by Spanish vendor Telnet Redes Inteligentes with Intel Atom technology. Use cases planned for LTE-M include: smart water/gas/electricity services; smart cities (e.g. parking management, lighting management, waste collection); asset monitoring; vending machines; payment systems; security and alarms; and vehicle fleet management, among others.

In another Orange Group announcement, Orange Wholesale France has signed an agreement with EBV Elektronik, part of Avnet, to distribute a range of M2M/IoT modules with integrated pre-paid connectivity across Europe under the ‘Live Booster’ banner, featuring integrated SIM cards with 2G and LTE-M connectivity. The first product of the new range, released this month, is the ‘Heracles’ quad-band GSM/GPRS module with a choice of four pre-defined 2G data bundles, as Orange aims to provide IoT object makers with ‘off-the-shelf’ connectivity across 33 countries.

Dutch telco KPN has launched an end-to-end IoT service for corporate customers under the KPN Things banner, including IoT equipment, networking, data and consulting services. KPN Things aims to provide ‘a secure and ready-made IoT solution based on KPN’s various IoT networks (LoRa/M2M) combined with a platform for a fixed monthly fee’. Carolin Nijhuis, CEO of Internet of Things at KPN, said that KPN Things ‘reduces the threshold to get started with IoT and provides a complete, safe and ready-to-use IoT solution: from sensors, connectivity and data storage to data services and integration with customer systems’.

Norway’s Telenor and Wireless Trondheim are opening their ‘IoT ProtoLab’ in early 2018 as a centre for IoT research and innovation, specifically focusing on next generation Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies and applications, aimed at start-ups, developers and students looking to rapidly prototype and develop IoT products and services. The lab will also enable collaboration with ongoing projects at the Telenor-NTNU AI-Lab. Wireless Trondheim has already enabled a city-wide IoT testbed, connected to Telenor’s ‘Start IoT’ LPWA pilot network.

US cable giant Comcast has bought IoT start-up Stringify, to incorporate the latter’s technology in its Xfinity Home/xFi product/service range. Stringify said: ‘Our team joins the fast-growing engineering group at Comcast that develops the technologies behind Xfinity Home and xFi, Comcast’s new and personalised Wi-Fi experience that provides customers unique control of their home networks … Comcast is a perfect fit for Stringify. With xFi and Xfinity Home, Comcast is delivering elegant, powerful IoT and automation experiences to millions of customers.’

Telstra has given an update on its IoT development, after launching commercial LTE-M network services in early August in partnership with Ericsson, with LTE-M currently covering three million square kilometres and 99% of the population. As reported by CRN Australia, Telstra’s group executive of global enterprise and services, Brendon Riley, announced: ‘We’re already strong today, particularly in logistics. Today, if we look at everything we’ve got connected across logistics and meters, there are about 2.1 million devices that are connected to the IoT network’, while adding that the network is also popular in industries such as agriculture and mining. Telstra’s MD of networks Mike Wright added that the telco has made its first VoLTE call over the LTE-M network in partnership with Qualcomm and Ericsson. Also this week, Telstra announced its new embedded SIM (e-SIM) based ‘One Number’ service for connecting wearable devices to its mobile network (using users’ existing mobile phone numbers), enabling incoming/outgoing voice calls and SMS via a wearable device without the user needing to have their phone with them.

Germany-based Software AG has released its new Cumulocity IoT technology portfolio for cloud-based IoT platform services enablement, which it says will address market demand for easy, fast, and scalable IoT solutions supporting enterprises of all sizes, regardless of the level of sophistication of their IoT requirements. Cumulocity IoT offers self-service IoT solutions to enable organisations to develop their own IoT applications, whilst also including a range of pre-packaged solutions such as Condition Monitoring, Predictive Maintenance and Track & Trace, as well as ‘quick and easy’ device and sensor management. Software AG says that Cumulocity IoT meets the needs of two distinct groups: companies using IoT to enhance their own products and services; and IoT service providers seeking to build and commercialise an IoT platform. Furthermore, the software group has formed a joint venture, ADAMOS, with manufacturing enterprises Durr, Zeiss, DMG Mori and ASM PT, aiming to establish global industry standards for the manufacturing sector using Cumulocity IoT as the technology foundation.

SK Telecom (SKT) of South Korea has announced a successful test run of an autonomous vehicle, travelling 26km in real world traffic conditions at speeds of up to 80kmph (average 50kmph) on the public Gyeongbu Expressway. SKT has been working with partners including LG Electronics, Nvidia and Seoul National University to develop self-driving technologies such as AI, sensors, communication and route determination/tracing functionality. SK Telecom’s head of network R&D Park Jin-hyo said: ‘We will continue to test our self-driving cars on downtown roads, national highways and motorways. Furthermore, we will connect self-driving vehicles to our 5G trial networks to advance technologies that can significantly enhance driving safety via IoT and real-time communication with the control tower.’

Lastly, Vodafone has published its fifth annual IoT Barometer Report (surveying 1,278 respondents in 13 countries). Its findings included:

• the percentage of companies with more than 50,000 connected devices active has doubled in the last twelve months

• 84% of IoT adopters say that their use of IoT has grown in the last year

• 51% of IoT adopters say that the technology is increasing revenues or opening up new revenue streams

• 66% of all companies agree that digital transformation is impossible without IoT.

Vodafone director of IoT Erik Brenneis said: ‘Over the five years of this report we have seen the number of companies that have adopted IoT double, and projects have grown from small pilots to global rollouts of tens of thousands of connected devices’. The survey claimed that 19% of companies using IoT in the Americas have more than 10,000 connected devices, compared to 13% in Europe and 7% in Asia Pacific. As project size increases, Vodafone added that companies are opting for a mix of technologies from fixed line to LPWA, with large-scale projects ‘typically’ using four connectivity options with mobile and Wi-Fi the two most popular. 28% of companies are currently considering NB-IoT and other LPWA options, the survey estimated.

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