Managing multiple internet of things (IoT) connectivity solutions can result in unnecessary complexity, higher costs and inability to focus on the core business. Kim Bybjerg, CEO, Teleena, a global IoT and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) enabler, explained why unifying connectivity technologies is critical, during a presentation called Making sense of the IoE connectivity spaghetti – LPWAN & 5G at TM Forum’s Internet of Everything InFocus in Amsterdam.
I get excited about how much the internet of everything (IoE) is going to change our world. People will be able to control almost everything using their smart devices, from switching on and off the lights at home, to how often their gardens are watered. Sensors will alert homeowners about everything that happens in and around their houses, from burglars to power outages. Better yet, some alerts will be sent before a problem occurs.
For traffic management, embedded devices and smartphone apps will provide population-density information to make sure transportation availability is in sync with demand. In manufacturing supply chains, sensors will accurately track materials to speed and smooth processes and distribution.
Businesses must transform their current processes and adapt to new models in order to shift from just selling products to delivering services, and they must adapt quickly to stay ahead of the competition and avoid becoming obsolete.
Making sense of the connectivity landscape is the biggest challenge to overcome in successfully deploying IoE solutions – it’s a pile of spaghetti that is growing in complexity.
Enterprises not only have to continuously adapt to new connectivity technologies to stay ahead of the game, they also need to find a way to manage all of them over multiple platforms. Companies must consider not only the plethora of existing technologies such as GSM, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, but also new technologies like LPWAN (low-power wide area network) and 5G.
LPWAN gets its footing
LPWAN technology was developed to serve applications that generate low-data rate traffic, rely on batteries and have long lifecycles. Many industry estimates predict more than 20 billion connected devices by 2020, and a large portion of them will be connected through LPWAN, which makes it a player within the IoE space that cannot be ignored.
LPWAN started to gain traction when players like Sigfox and LoRa came along. They have been able to control the market quickly due to demand for low-cost and low-data rate devices and by rapidly closing agreements with solution providers.
However, Sigfox and LoRa recently have seen serious competition from cellular carriers offering their own connectivity options through long-term evolution for machines (LTE-M) and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Mobile operators can easily rework GSM frequencies in order to serve narrowband applications. More importantly, they can offer this for a very competitive price to an already existing customer base. This will definitely shake up the market and sharpen the competition.
NB-IoT is still at its early stages, and for the next generation devices there will be a growing need for bandwidth, something no LPWAN solution has been able to focus on so far. For businesses, no single LPWAN technology dominates, at least not at this stage. 5G, on the other hand, is becoming more important than any of the LWPAN solutions.
5G poised to take off
The first public 5G networks are expected to be available in 2020, and predictions are that it will be one of the biggest game-changers ever for connectivity, with obvious advantages of greater data speeds and capacity for more devices on one network.
5G will enhance mobile services and become the heart of the next industrial revolution, especially for industries such as automotive and consumer electronic devices. It will boost the IoE space by connecting every (little) device around our homes and cities; things that we cannot imagine being connected will be, thanks to 5G.
However, there are challenges. The technology is still under development, and companies are researching its viability; without question, security and privacy issues still need to be solved. Additionally, promised speeds will be difficult to achieve because of the lack of technological support in many parts of the world. Furthermore, many current devices will not be compatible with 5G, meaning all of them need to be replaced or upgraded. Lastly, development of the infrastructure requires significant capital investment over time.
Call to action
IoE connectivity will remain complicated for a while. Many different and new connectivity providers will try to get a foot in the door, and they will all have their own management platforms. With devices scattered across isolated platforms and networks, IoE services will be difficult to manage and scale. To make matters worse, contracts with multiple connectivity providers will lead to administrative hassle, complexity and unnecessary costs.
Isolated management and connectivity solutions are becoming a handicap for succeeding in highly-competitive IoE markets. Companies must spend too much time and money managing connectivity solutions, when they should be focusing on their core businesses.
We must tear down isolated IoE management solutions, unify the countless networks and connectivity options, and stop wasting money on hidden costs. This way, every company can realize its IoE ambition.