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A particular term has been garnering a lot of buzz in the IoT world lately. The term is, NB-IoT . An abbreviation for Narrowband IoT, it is a standards-based Low Power Wide Area technology developed to enable a wide range of new IoT devices and services. It is known to significantly improve the power consumption of user devices, spectrum efficiency and system capacity, especially in deep coverage areas.

NB-IoT is supported by almost all major mobile equipment, chip set and module manufacturers, and can co-exist with 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks. The technology benefits hugely from all the privacy and security mobile network features, such as support for user confidentiality, identity confidentiality, entity authentication, mobile equipment identification and data integrity. According to tech experts, the technology which started rising to the fore in the past couple of years, is slated to take over the world in 2017. A preview of the same was seen at this years Mobile World Congress in the Mobile World Capital, Barcelona. A number of leading telecom players unveiled their respective rollouts of this IoT-enabler at the event. The names include Verizon, NTT DOCOMO, Deutsche Telekom, KPN and several others.

Why is NB-IoT important?

Since a majority of security-critical IoT devices are located in deep coverage locations and are difficult to locate, hence they need a device transmitter that operates at a very high power that results in battery drainage. Unfortunately, the existing cellular standards don’t have the capability of supporting power consumption. This is where NB-IoT comes into the picture and helps in providing support with lower device power consumption, optimised network architecture, low-delay sensitivity and ultra-low device cost.

NB-IoT deployment has three main variants:

Guard-Band – It makes use of bandwidth reserved or unused LTE usually carry Guard band

In-band – It makes use of spectrum allocated to Long Term Evolution (LTE)—utilising resource blocks within a normal LTE carrier

Standalone – It makes use of dedicated spectrum and utilizes new bandwidth apt for the re-farming of GSM spectrum

Advantages of NB-IoT

Low Power Consumption – As stated above, NB-IoT doesn’t need to run a heavy operating system or even indulge in much signal processing, this makes it comparatively more power efficient than all the cellular technologies currently present in the market.

Faster to market – The technology is extremely easy to deploy as it can either be deployed for In-Band, Guard-band or Standalone, which results in faster time to the market.

Low Device Cost – NB-IoT is simpler to build with much lower complexity than others. It’s cost of device is also considerably low and averages out to be around $5 per module. MCUs can do the work here instead of several CPUs running at multiple GHz.

Ubiquitous connectivity and coverage – The technology is capable of supporting massive number of devices by easily establishing networks that can connect to billions of nodes. In addition to this, they are especially designed for extended coverage indoors with low device complexity.

Multi–year battery life – The technology’s power consumption capability gives it an ability of supporting a multi-year battery life for one’s devices.

Potential Applications of NB-IoT

It’s aforementioned features make NB-IoT ideal for a number of industries. Some of the potential applications are mentioned below:

Home Automation: Since NB-IoT doesn’t function on a heavy Operating system with Linux that consumers power at the speed of the light, it can be of considerable help when running smart home devices that are required to be run on less power.

Transportation: The tracking of vehicles and shipping containers in real-time can help in considerably reducing illegals activities. In addition to this, NB-IoT can also be used to collect real time data from vehicles, road sensors and help in navigation, traffic analysis etc.

Retail: The technology can help in bettering the in-store experience of retail store customers as it can connect a large number of devices like EPOS machines, barcode scanners and cameras etc. Its long battery life with less power consumption feature will also help in the industry.

Smart cities: NB-IoT can significantly help in countering the parking trouble as it can better the performance of the parking solutions available to us today.

Industrial Automation: The technology can be used to monitor water and gas meters, via small and regular data transmissions. It can also be put to use in underground cellars where connectivity is a major issue for installed meters.

[Top Image: huawei.com]

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