When thinking about the Internet of Things (IoT), I get excited about how much it is going to change our world. People will be able to control almost everything from their smart devices, from switching on and off the lights at home, to how often their gardens will be watered. Home-owners will also have sensors that alert them about everything that happens in and around their houses, from burglars to power outages. Better yet, some alerts will already be sent before the actual problem occurs. Additionally, embedded devices and smartphone apps will provide population-density information to make sure transportation is in sync with the demand. Furthermore, Manufacturers and Supply Chains will have sensors that accurately track their materials to speed up and smoothen processes and distribution, optimizing their supply chain.
Businesses have to transform their current processes and adopt new models in order to shift from just selling products to delivering services. Better yet, organizations need to adapt to this movement actively in order to stay ahead of the competition and before becoming obsolete.
Unfortunately, many attempts to adjust to this new way of thinking are still failing today due to a variety of reasons. It is clear that the current way of doing IoT will simply not scale to the extremes that the future requires. In particular, making sense of the connectivity landscape is the biggest challenge to overcome in successfully deploying IoT solutions; it’s a pile of spaghetti, which is getting more complex as the movement develops. Enterprises not only have to continuously adapt to new connectivity technologies to stay ahead of the game, they also need to find a way to manage all of these over multiple platforms. A few of the connectivity technologies that companies have to start preparing for, if we have to believe the Analysts, are LPWAN and 5G, as well as the current plethora of technologies such as GSM, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth and many more. But how will these technologies affect the current landscape? For now, let’s discuss LWPAN and 5G.
Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN)
Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) was developed to serve applications which generate low data traffic, rely on batteries and typically have long life cycles. According to several Analysts, there will be 20+ billion devices by 2020 of which a large portion will be connected through LPWAN, which makes it a player within the IoT space that cannot be ignored.
The LPWAN movement really started to gain traction when players like Sigfox and LoRa came along. They were able to control the market quickly due to the demand for low-cost and low-data-rate devices and by rapidly closing agreements with solution providers.
However, Sigfox and LoRa recently acquired some serious competition from cellular carriers who nowadays are offering their own connectivity options through Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) and NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT). Cellular companies are able to easily rework GSM frequencies in order to serve narrowband applications. More importantly, they can offer this for a very competitive price to an already existing customer base. Customers, who are currently using their mobile services, can swiftly start using their low-power data solutions. This will definitely shake up the market and sharpen the competition.
Although, LTE-M and NB-IoT offer advantages over Sigfox and LoRa, this does not mean it will make the mature networks all-conquering. Looking ahead, NB-IoT is still in its early stages, and for the next generation devices, there will be a growing bandwidth need, something no LWPWAN solution has been able to focus on so far. For businesses, no single LPWAN technology should outweigh the other, at least not at this stage. 5G, on the other hand, is getting more important than any of the LWPAN solutions currently out there.
The first public 5G networks are expected to be available in 2020 and the predictions are that it will be one of the biggest game changers ever known within the connectivity landscape, with the obvious advantages of greater data speeds and the capacity for more devices on one network.
5G will enhance the mobile services as we know it today and it will become the heart of the next industrial revolution, especially for industries such as automotive and consumer electronic devices. It will boost the IoT space by connecting every (little) device around our homes and cities; things that we cannot imagine today will be connected thanks to 5G.
Although there are high hopes when it comes to 5G, there will also be some challenges on technology, availability, and costs. At this moment the technology is still under development, as well as research of its viability; without question, security and privacy issues still need to be solved. Additionally, the speed this technology is claiming seem difficult to achieve, because of the lack of technical support in many parts of the world. Furthermore, many of the current devices would not be compatible with 5G, meaning all of them need to be replaced or upgraded. Lastly, the development of the infrastructure also requires high investments over time.
Although we only have 3 years left before 5G hits the market, there are still many challenges to overcome, which means there is still a lot that needs to be defined before we are all becoming involved with another connectivity confrontation.
With IoT still being under continuous development, the expectations are that the connectivity space will remain complicated for a while. Many different and new connectivity providers will try to get a foot in the door in the upcoming years, all with their own management platforms. With devices scattered across isolated platforms and connectivity networks, it will make IoT hard to manage and scale. What makes matters worse are the contracts with multiple connectivity providers, which leads to administrative hassle, complexity, and unnecessary costs.
Although I support a continuous development of IoT connectivity, I do believe isolated management and connectivity solutions have become a handicap for succeeding in the highly-competitive IoT markets. It requires too much resource and infrastructure from companies, while they simply need to focus on their core business. Therefore, I feel we should tear down isolated IoT management solutions; unify the countless networks and connectivity technologies and stop wasting money on hidden costs. This way, every company can realize their IoT ambition.
About Kim Bybjerg, Teleena’s CEO
Kim Bybjerg is the CEO of Teleena and has extensive experience in the IoT field. Kim has been involved in countless IoT projects across Europe and outside, being responsible for the go-to-market strategy, the commercial and product strategy, as well as the execution of these strategies.
Prior to Teleena, Kim has been Director Business Development in Europe, Middle-East and Africa for Jasper (now Cisco-Jasper), a large provider of IoT SaaS services for Telecom operators. Before that, he has been Managing Director at JHB Group, which evolved out of two technology companies: mobile payment enabler, Liquix, and smart-metering company, Xemex. As Director M2M Northern Europe at Vodafone, Kim has been developing the M2M activities for one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. Before Vodafone, he already setup the M2M business for KPN, where and for which he also established a partnership with Jasper.
Prior to becoming an expert within the IoT space, Kim held various Management positions at Orange, Siemens, IBM and AT&T.