The freight train that is the Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining steam. Machina Research expects the global IoT market to more than quadruple between 2014 and 2024, growing from $900 billion to $4.3 trillion. Within the next eight years, Machina estimates there will be 30 billion connected IoT devices; investment in IoT will be upwards of $1.6 trillion.
If this and many other explosive forecasts are even close to being accurate, IoT promises to be both transformative and disruptive.
Communications service providers (CSPs) understand the potential and are vying for a share of the growing addressable IoT market. Many have been investing in machine-to-machine connectivity for years and more recently have been developing new technologies, business frameworks and competencies that target the burgeoning IoT market.
The big question for CSPs-as well as OEMs and other stakeholders-is which technologies will be the likely winners for connecting the billions of IoT devices?
Of course, not all IoT devices are equal, so there’s no simple answer to that question. Whether it’s short-range or long-range radio, LTE or low-power WAN (LPWAN), these are a variety factors that dictate the optimal connectivity solution depending on use case and function. Critical considerations include how much data the IoT device is transmitting and how often (throughput), and how quickly it needs to communicate (latency).
For instance, smart meters are typically low-throughput and high-latency devices. While automotive control systems are typically high throughput and require low latency, due to the safety requirements.
Power consumption and the type of power supply available are important factors. Devices such as smart meters and wearables are low-power consumers, which represents the lion’s share of the growth opportunity for IoT. Smart meters typically have access to a power source, while wearables require batteries.
Examples of heavy power consumers include IoT devices that are constantly “on” receiving and transmitting data, such as some industrial and safety and security applications. Industrial IoT devices typically have access to power, while remote safety and security applications may not, such as sensors used in agriculture, disaster relief or resource extraction applications.
In general, LTE and GSM are used if the data rate is high and power consumption is not an issue. For IoT devices that are low-power, low throughput, and do not require low latency, the preferred option is LPWAN utilizing narrow-band IoT over licensed spectrum or LoRa, Sigfox, Ingenu or other over the license-exempt spectrum.
Machina Research estimates that by 2025, cellular IoT-including 2G, 3G and 4G technologies that will be used for IoT but not specifically optimized for IoT and LPWAN-will connect about one-quarter of the 30 billion deployed IoT devices. However, even where LPWAN is not required, there is no reason why it cannot be used if it’s available.
Many leading OEM vendors have recently announced that are supporting LTE-based connectivity for IoT devices. For instance, both AT&T and Verizon have shown a strong inclination to support LTE connectivity for IoT.
Some devices require normal LTE connection and others require NB-IoT. For this reason, many operators have defined a roadmap to host a parallel LTE network only for IoT devices. At the same time, they have defined roadmaps for supporting NB-IoT LTE connectivity in the future.
Altran helps mobile operators, semiconductor companies and service providers navigate the fast-moving landscape of IoT connectivity and infrastructure. For instance, Altran has the world’s first embedded device that supports CAT-1, CAT-M1 and NB-IoT., with CAT-NB1 expected to be available commercially soon.
Altran offers a ready-to-run LTE Core Software Solution that removes the overhead of commercial LTE networks to connect IoT devices. Altran’s offering includes a VNF manager that allows operators to set up a cloud-based network to host the core network and applications.
It’s a fast moving market, investment decisions now make the difference for success in the future. We’re here to help.