Cellular networks connect our phones to Google Maps, Facebook, and Email; they carry our voice through the air. Just like we connect to our friends and family, today we’re also connecting with the physical objects: streetlights, electricity meters, boilers that occupy our everyday lives
The same cellular technology behind our smartphone is supporting the next era of innovation “Internet of Things” (IoT). Instead of needing to create a new network to host our IoT devices, cellular IOT dwell on the same mobile network as smartphones.
These technologies include 3G, 4G, 5G, and LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M. Cellular IoT offers global coverage, reliable connection of IoT devices, and low-cost hardware that is required for cellular IoT connections.
More and more devices are getting connected together and building internet of things (IoT) architecture across the world. FMI predicts that there will more than 30 billion connected devices by year 2024.
Cellular networks capable of facilitating massive flows of data are now widespread, so we don’t need to build any new physical infrastructure to support cellular IoT. Cellular networks provide the backbone, allowing us to access the internet and also serve a critical and growing role in many Internet of Things applications.
Although connectivity technologies continue to be improved, ultimately, there will always be a tradeoff between power consumption, range, and bandwidth. Cellular connectivity has historically been focused on range and bandwidth at the expense of power consumption.
It’s called a cellular network because the network operators split up areas into “cells”. The area of each of these cells depends on usage density. As users move between cells, their frequency is automatically changed to switch over to new cell towers. The terms 3G, 4G, 5G refer to 3rd, 4th and 5th generations respectively.
Each generation is a set of standards and technologies that are defined by ITU Radiocommunication Sector.
Starting with 1G systems, a new generation has been introduced about every decade. Each generation brought new frequency bands, higher data rates.
2G, 3G, and 4G, new cellular technologies like NB-IoT and LTE-M are aimed specifically at IoT applications. The next generation of cellular connectivity (5G) promises speeds of up to 100Gbps (compared to the 1Gbps of 4G). This massive bandwidth will be a critical enabler for many applications of the future and it can also serve as a substitute for physical cable. Without spending resources on cable infrastructure building, 5G can be readily used. New applications which have previously been limited by the amount of data that needed to be sent, can now use the cloud.
5G also promises maximum low latency and high degree of reliability, making it an enabler for industrial IoT applications. The factories of the future may use 5G instead of wired Ethernet to become more dynamic and reconfigurable.
Although consumer Internet of Things (IoT) has been at the center of attention, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)’s role is paramaount in optimizing our cities, factories thorugh remote monitoring and remote controlling capabilities.
Some important distinctions between the consumer and industrial IoT ecosystems are:
IIoT devices are built to be industrial strength, to be able to survive environments that wouldn’t be encountered by consumers. Such conditions include extremes in environmental conditions such as power, temperature etc.
IIoT Systems must be designed for scalability. Because IIoT systems can generate billions of datapoints, consideration also has to be given to the transmission of data to a central data acquisition platform. In order not to overload these centralized systems with data, IIoT hardware are designed in a way that can handle preliminary analytics directly at the device-level.
IIoT devices have industrial communications and power requirements. IIoT sensors are often installed to measure parameters at remote infrastructure that is difficult to physically access, such as oil and gas facilities, pipelines, water reservoirs, transformer substations etc. To minimize the amount of field visits required, IIoT devices are designed to have the maximum possible battery life for example.
IIoT must meet higher cyber-security standards. Cyber-security is an important challenge in critical processes such as managing street lights.
The huge amount of data generated by machine-to-machine and machine-to-person communication necessitates data transfer in real time at minimal cost and cellular networks are fulfilling this particular need of the market.
Cellular IIoT is widely used among the following various industrial segments:
- IT and Telecommunications
- Energy and Utilities
- Scientific Research
- Financial Services