IoT Time: M2M/Internet of Things weekly digest

23 Jan 2020

Lithuania’s Telia Lietuva has claimed a national first with the commercial launch of NB-IoT network services, utilising the Cloud IoT Device Connection Platform developed in partnership with Ericsson. Telia demonstrated the capabilities of NB-IoT technology with connectivity at the underground garage of its corporate headquarters in Vilnius, supporting a pilot smart parking management system developed by Italy’s Intercomp. Vilnius Central Heating and energy distribution firm ESO have already tested next-generation smart meters in Telia Lietuva’s network, while other companies to have tested the NB-IoT network include Ruptela, Teltonika and Axioma. Telia added that it will shortly introduce a residential security/safety sensor-based service connected over the NB-IoT platform.

Lithuanian cellular rival Bite Lietuva has also revealed that it is close to launching NB-IoT services. Bite’s CTO Gintas Butenas said that in 2020 Bite will be ‘actively working on various smart solutions’ on its network, adding that ‘we already have several pilot projects where we manage certain parts of the network more efficiently and easily with the help of artificial intelligence’. The executive went on to say: ‘In addition, we expect more activity with the Internet of Things – we are planning the first real-life solutions for using NB-IoT technology. The latter allows you to connect various sensors to the network.’

Vodafone Ukraine has announced the commercial launch of its NB-IoT network, covering a population of around 20 million using the 1800MHz frequency band. The company highlighted a high standard of security for users and partners with ‘SIM-based encryption and authentication not available in technologies such as LoRaWAN’ alongside the NB-IoT technology’s ability to connect inaccessible locations such as basements, elevator shafts, tunnels, etc. Vodafone’s press release also drew attention to its NB-IoT network’s support for Power Saving Mode/DRX/eDRX, ‘providing the lowest possible power consumption and, accordingly, the maximum life of the devices – up to ten years – which is critical for battery-operated devices.’ Until 20 May 2020 a promotional tariff is on offer – UAH20 (USD0.81) for a year’s device connection – which will rise to a standard price of UAH200 after that date. Vodafone Ukraine has also launched a pilot project for Smart Metering with two municipal water utilities using the NB-IoT network in Sumi and Vishneve (near Kiev).

IoT solutions firm Skylo Technologies, co-founded by Parthsarathi Trivedi, has raised USD103 million in a Series B round led by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, LiveMint reported. California-based Skylo, founded in 2017, has so far secured USD116 million in total investment, with a business model leveraging existing geostationary satellites and the cellular NB-IoT protocol for massive-scale connectivity of sensors/objects in remote areas. Targeted sectors include agriculture, fishing, railways, logistics and utilities infrastructure.

LoRaWAN IoT provider Kerlink has expanded its operations into South Africa with a distribution agreement with IoTdc, a distributor of connected hardware and device-related applications. Kerlink, which offers industrial-grade network equipment, network core, operations/management software and value-added applications, has an existing footprint of over 120,000 IoT installations in 69 countries.

Spain’s Telefonica has tested and certified the Quectel Wireless Solutions LTE Cat NB2 (NB-IoT) BC95-G module, which it says will support Smart Metering (water, gas, electricity) and Smart Cities (waste management, parking, streetlight, pollution monitoring, etc.) applications, and is currently working with customers on specific Smart Metering and Smart City projects using the module on its NB-IoT network.

The government of South Korea has built what it calls the world’s first LTE-supported natural disaster communications network, to be launched later this year, supporting faster response and information analysis with picture, video and voice transmission. The Ministry of the Interior & Safety said the first stage of the pilot programme is complete, to be used by the police, the fire department and local governments to communicate information regarding natural disasters. An official added: ‘The network has two layers, which means we can still communicate even though there is a failure in one network … The government will use the new network to provide various services such as drone footage of disasters and monitoring with the Internet of Things.’

Liquid Telecom Kenya has disclosed that it now covers 78% of Kenya with its Sigfox-based IoT network via 158 transmitting stations, having added 138 new stations in a year, Agence Ecofin reported. The IoT network is linked to Liquid’s multinational fibre-optic network. William Oungo, director of government affairs at Liquid Telecom, said the company has connected 41 out of 47 Kenyan counties to the Sigfox network, and is focusing on both rural and urban areas. The network agreement between Liquid and Sigfox was forged in August 2018.

Malaysian mobile operator Celcom Axiata has announced a collaboration with Xperanti, the country’s exclusive Sigfox network operator, which provides nationwide IoT connectivity. The pair aim to ‘collaborate in a comprehensive exploration to identify proven use cases and commercialise IoT solutions leveraging Sigfox technology with Celcom’s network, further accelerating the adoption of IoT in Malaysia’. Celcom highlights that Sigfox technology is adept at tracking and monitoring, particularly non-powered assets such as trailers, containers, livestock or the environment, at a lower cost and energy expenditure. Xperanti has already achieved 85% network population coverage in Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak, and intends to reach over 95% coverage in 2020. Sigfox networks currently cover over 65 countries.

American Tower Brasil covered 220 cities with its LoRaWAN IoT network by the start of 2020, representing over 100 million inhabitants and 62% of Brazil’s GDP (up from 170 cities and 55% national GDP coverage claimed in October 2019). It registered 1.7 billion LoRa communications during the year, with traffic concentrated in fleet management applications, and the firm says it will be aiming to grow in the agribusiness, smart cities and smart metering sectors through 2020.

Japan’s NTT DOCOMO is collaborating on the development of drone solutions and the sale of drones in Japan and Southeast Asia with Skydio, a US-based drone manufacturer with particular expertise in the field of AI-based autonomous flying and collision avoidance. Their collaboration is aimed at accelerating the development of the industrial drone market in the region. Skydio’s drones are scheduled to be showcased at DOCOMO Open House 2020 in Tokyo on 23-24 January. DOCOMO and DOCOMO Asia also announced that they will provide IoT solutions for Yanmar’s SmartAssist, a cutting-edge remote management system for IoT-enabled machinery due to be launched in India this spring. The solution is a part of DOCOMO’s Globiot initiative, which provides connectivity and operational support and consulting to Japanese enterprises with global IoT deployments.

Lastly, Globalstar Europe Satellite Services, a unit of US-based Globalstar, has reported that over 30,000 ‘SmartOne C’ and ‘Spot Trace’ satellite-enabled IoT animal collars have been deployed across Mongolia and Central Asia for tracking livestock and horses, including racehorses. Deployments have expanded widely into Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while trials are underway in other neighbouring countries.

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