Cellular IoT helps physical things (like sensors) connect to the internet through the same mobile networks as smartphones. This simple and important feature of cellular IoT, makes this technology highly important for many industrial and individual applications.
Cellular IoT is basically a developed connectivity system, that connects various objects to the internet. Especially with the development of 5G technology, cellular IoT is going to gain more importance and frequency of use over time, since it can be applied to many fields. Cellular networks can connect smartphones to Google Maps, E-mail accounts and more; it carries our voice through the air, and it not only provides connection with our friends and family but enables us connecting with the physical objects surrounding us like electricity meters, hospitals, boilers, streetlights etc. It can also be used for many industrial applications like manufacturing and agriculture.

It’s foreseed that the number of devices that connect to internet by using cellular IoT technology will increase dramatically in the coming years. More than 20 billion devices are expected to be connected through this technology by 2023.

Why is Cellular IoT expanding so much?

Cellular networks which provide big flows of data are prevalent all around the world, which is an advantage of not being in need of creating new physical infrastructures in order to support IoT networks. For a long period of time, cellular-enabled IoT devices consumed too much power, that decreased their practicality for the applications. However, today, new kind of cellular technologies, such as NB-IoT, are able to transmit reasonable amounts of data accross significant distances without the need of draining the battery. With the help of 5G technology, there is no reason not to be optimistic for the brilliant future of cellular IoT technologies.

Snapshot of Two Key Forms of Cellular IoT: LTE-M and NB-IoT

Either LTE-M or NB-IoT technologies are used for all current cellular IoT applications. You basically pick one of these two technologies according to the GSM cellular infrastructure used in your neighbourhood. On the other hand, there are significant differences between these aforesaid technologies. So, for now no matter what, you should choose the one which is compatible for your city.

LTE-M

As mentioned before, LTE technology is standart in the US, in majority of European countries and China as of 2019. It is estimated to overhaul GSM for cellular IoT applications. LTE-M, which is abbreviation for “Long Term Evolution for Machines’’, is a kind of network standard that let’s IoT devices to piggyback on present cell networks.

With essentially just a software update, LTE-M-enabled devices can communicate with the cloud. In general, LTE-M devices are the best match to “mission-critical” applications in which real-time data transfer makes the difference—for example, self-driving cars or emergency devices in smart cities.

NB-IoT

NB-IoT, which stands for “Narrowband-IoT,” is great for areas without good LTE coverage, or when you only need to transfer small amounts of information—for example, when using a soil sensor for smart agriculture or an energy usage monitor in a smart city. NB-IoT uses only a narrow band of the total bandwidth cell towers project. If you’re deploying in an area in which GSM is the standard cellular technology. On the other hand, if you foresee needing to send only small amounts of data across the internet periodically, NB-IoT might be the right choice.

5G and the Future of Cellular IoT

Despite all the hype around 5G, it’s actually just like all the other “Gs” (i.e., generations) of the cellular internet; 5G is better, way faster, and stronger. 5G will most likely transform the IoT landscape, even though it’ll likely operate in tandem with LTE and GSM cellular networks into the 2020s. On the industrial IoT end, ultra-secure, private 5G networks will be enabling millions of devices operating at tenfold the speed of existent networks.

On the consumer end, 5G can make self-driving cars or immersive VR & AR environments a reality. It’s an exciting time to be learning about the power of cellular IoT.