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Low-power, dumb devices forecast to take IoT off cellular networks

The Internet of Things vector illustration.

The M2M industry is dumbing down, according to a report, which says low power, unintelligent devices are taking over the conversation on the Internet of Things.

The revelation comes in a report by Beecham Research, which claims that traditional cellular networks have ‘dominated the market for M2M connectivity’ but that ‘this is about to change’.

The Low Power Wide Area Networks for IoT Applications Market Report and Forecast identifies a new genre emerging, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs). These are set to become increasingly popular because they are capable of far wider ranges of M2M and IoT applications and are less constrained by either budgets or logistics such as the distance from a power source.

Beecham Research expects that by 2020 LPWANs will provide 26% of the total IoT connectivity market with 345 million connections. In 2015, says the report author, there was no record existence of LPWANs. From a standing start, the LPWAN is now growing fast enough to threaten the near monopoly of traditional cellular networks for machine connectivity.

The report investigates the growing diversity of LPWAN technologies from companies such as Sigfox and those in the LoRa Alliance (LPWAN makers which aim to standardise the LoRa protocol). Most LPWAN systems use ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) bands better known for use by short range wireless technologies like Zigbee, Wifi and 6LoWPAN. However, recent advances allow LPWANs to use the ISM bands over distances of up to 50km in rural areas and 10km in urban areas.

The report identifies TV white spaces (TVWS) as another emerging LPWAN technology with long range, low power characteristics. TVWS uses the gaps in between VHF/UHF parts of the spectrum previously used for TV broadcasting and promises to outperform 3G and 4G with its superior in-building penetration and connectivity over distances of 10km.

The hype around big data applications is a distraction from the real issues affecting the IoT, warned report author David Parker, senior analyst at Beecham Research. “LPWANs represent the most dynamic and potentially game changing development in the IoT market,” said Parker. Many applications are not big data and not necessarily real-time, interactive or immersive, the report notes.

“From a connectivity point of view, the market will move towards 4G-5G for satisfying big data IoT,” said Robin Duke-Woolley, CEO of Beecham Research, “but on the other side LPWANs and equivalent networks will address the low data IoT requirement.”

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One comment

  1. Souma Badombena Wanta 16/10/2015 @ 12:59 am

    From a strategic, performance and efficiency point-of-view, I think the requirements and demands of any IoT network specs will have to do more with the end-user application or will it will mostly serve for. Obviously we all know or should acknowledge that increased advances and improvements in communications technologies will certainly push the limits further and forward as to reach higher levels of speed, reduced latency and optimal link quality. So in the context of IoT, we are seeing a myriad of future and potential applications with different finalities, and end solutions targeting different market segments and customers. From this view then stems the imperative task of distinguishing and differentiating network specifications in the design process in order to tailor implementation and solutions for each scenarios. In that sense, I’m therefore meaning that that not all IoT solution come equal and while some will require low power/ low speed data transfers, other will require high-speed and reliable transfer in order to fulfill a particular critical need. For example I foresee that there will be static or latent IoT networks that will serve data or acquire data on demand or periodically such as Smart Grid, Utility or Smart Home IoT wich could utilize Low Power, short range and slower connections afore mentioned in the article – LPWANs ; but there will also be dynamic, mission-critical and business critical applications and solutions that will require a fast and reliable data transmission for an instant availability of the required data. For instance, categories such as Healthcare, Emergency response, Law enforcement/Public safety, Financial transactions will rely more on next-generation broadband, long-range, high-speed and low latency networks such as the ones being considered in 4G-5G for much better usability and performance.
    I believe everything will therefore depend on the applications or solutions considered to be achieved and also on the environment and availability of resources particular to a given setting.

    Souma Badombena Wanta (www.livelypulse.com)

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