As the number of devices connected to the IoT-network keeps rising, reliable and cost-efficient network solutions are becoming more and more crucial. Narrowband IoT is a huge step forward on this path.
Amongst the first Finnish companies, Bluugo has started utilizing Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology in our solutions. NB-IoT is a new LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technology used for the data transfer of IoT-devices.
The number of solutions utilizing IoT has been on a steady rise for the past few years. There are many differing forecasts on how the growth will continue in the future, but one thing seems certain: it is not going slow down. As the number of devices connected to the IoT-network keeps rising, reliable and cost-efficient network solutions will be more crucial than ever before.
LPWAN & The Challenges of IoT
Most IoT-solutions consist of numerous separate devices, which transfer small amounts of data at time. Traditional mobile networks do not suit this kind of data transfer well, because the required components tend to be quite expensive and consume a lot of energy, emptying the IoT-devices’ batteries rapidly. In most cases, the use of WLAN is also not possible because of its low range.
To solve these problems, various IoT-optimized LPWAN technologies have been developed, such as LoRa, Sigfox and Weightless. LPWAN technologies are optimized for transferring small amounts of data with a large number of separate devices. The components used in LPWAN-technologies are much cheaper and consume less energy than the ones in traditional Mobile Network technologies, enabling cost-efficient execution of IoT-solutions.
The challenges of previous LPWAN-technologies revolved around the low coverage of networks and the lack of existing infrastructure – in many cases, a local network operator is required to set up new base stations. NB-IoT solves this problem by utilizing the existing 4G-network which practically covers the whole of Finland.
The benefits of NB-IoT
1. Wide Coverage & Existing Infrastructure
The single greatest benefit of NB-IoT compared to other LPWAN-technologies is the network it utilizes – NB-IoT functions in the GSM-network at the bandwidth of 200 kHz. This means that the current 4G-network, already in use nationwide, can support NB-IoT with only a simple software update on the base stations, with all the required technology being there already. In addition to the existing, nationwide network infrastructure, NB-IoT also produces much stronger and more reliable signals than the previous LPWAN technologies, enabling usage in challenging environments, such as underground locations or inside of buildings.
2. Low Data Transfer Costs
With the rapid development of network technologies such as NB-IoT, the potential of IoT solutions is growing by the month and the number of connected devices is estimated to double within the next five years. Naturally, the growing market has also caught the attention of large network operators with everyone wanting to claim a piece of the action. This further increases the potential of IoT, as the intense competition forces operators to keep their data transfer prices low and to maintain a high-quality network infrastructure. The same also applies to the prices of NB-IoT devices, enabling cost-efficient execution of many projects previously deemed unprofitable.
3. Low Energy Consumption
Energy consumption is one of the key factors in most IoT solutions. The connected devices usually run with independent power sources and as the number of devices rises, energy efficiency becomes even more crucial. Changing batteries to hundreds or even thousands of devices is expensive and time-consuming. Even though all LPWAN-technologies are designed to consume as little energy as possible, NB-IoT rises above its competition once again – the batteries of NB-IoT devices last up to 10 years without recharging.
NB-IoT can be utilized in practically all IoT solutions. Its wide network coverage, strong, reliable signals and low data transfer & device prices can boost the efficiency of existing solutions and enable the execution of completely new types of solutions.
NB-IoT Tracking Solution
Bluugo is currently running a NB-IoT Tracking Solution pilot in the 4G network of the Finnish teleoperator Elisa. Using small NB-IoT Trackers, we are able to gather accurate, real-time data from e.g. location, temperature and acceleration. The trackers we are utilizing are so called logging devices – they gather data continuously but can be configured to only send the data at desired intervals. A smaller amount of data transfer actions reduces the energy consumption of the trackers and enables battery life of up to 10 years.
Our solution also features a Failsafe function: if a tracker is unable to pinpoint its location using GPS for example, it can use other location tracking methods such as WIFI networks or BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). The trackers are designed to withstand extreme conditions such as high humidity and temperatures between -40°C and +85°C, enabling usage in challenging environments. The solution is running in the 4G network of Elisa, which practically covers all of Finland – there is no need to build any new infrastructure.
Our NB-IoT Tracking Solution can be used on its own, or as a part of a larger solution to produce added value in many business processes such as Asset Tracking, Fleet Management, Supply Chain Managament & Tracking and Cargo/Delivery Tracking.
We at Bluugo see a huge potential in NB-IoT and will utilize this groundbreaking technology broadly in our future solutions.
Think your business could capitalize on the potential of NB-IoT? Contact us and we will gladly tell you more!