With over 12 billion devices currently connected to the internet, and an estimated 50 billion to be connected by 2020, the Internet of Things continues to affect ever-increasing aspects of our personal and professional lives. Not least in the industrial sector, as smart devices evolve to become active contributors to the business process.
Despite the numerous benefits which industrial IoT will bring, manufacturers in particular will face a number of challenges when implementing an IoT solution. Challenges which 4G LTE is perfectly positioned to address:
A delay of even a fraction of a second for messages to navigate the network could have serious ramifications, resulting in significant productivity reduction and potential safety issues. While non-cellular LPWAN technologies can entail inherently high latency for even very short messages (sometimes up to 11 minutes), cellular – Initially designed for voice and real-time data calls – includes low latency integrated as part of the 4G specification. The new generation of CAT-M1 networks inherit this low latency, and 5G (when it emerges) will improve this even further by using shorter frames to achieve latency requirement of time critical systems.
With devices having to communicate over vast distances, both the individual devices and the networks they are utilizing will need to be secured in order to guarantee the integrity of operations. Proprietary technologies relying, as they do, on proprietary security schemes are unsuitable for addressing the evolving nature of cyber threats. Other LPWAN technologies, such as SigFox, may only encrypt authentication while relying on higher layers to secure data. LTE, on the other hand, is based on some 35 years of cumulative learning by hundreds of market players and open security standards, providing an extremely secure solution.
The IoT will continue to expand and evolve and, as it does, devices will need to be intermittently upgraded, requiring platforms flexible enough to adapt to future requirements. Firmware Over-the-Air (FOTA) capabilities are integral to any 3GPP deployment. Altair, in particular, utilizes software-defined radio technology flexible enough to allow OTA upgrades and even introduce new features on physical layers which would otherwise require a hardware change. As for alternative technologies, such as LoRa and SigFox, even if OTA upgrades were possible, they would entail such significant time and battery drain as to negate the benefits of the update.
Industrial IoT will present a number of challenges, along with the numerous opportunities it brings. Businesses will require a solution that is cost efficient, easy to implement, readily adaptable to a changing climate and new applications, and able to secure the companies’ integrity; all this without demanding excessive maintenance. Cellular IoT is perfectly positioned to provide such a solution.