IoT Roundup: M2M/Internet of Things developments

US cellular giant Verizon has launched the first nationwide commercial 4G LTE Category M1 (Cat M1, or LTE-M) network, which spans 2.4 million square miles, calling it the only Cat M1 network providing scale, coverage and security for customers seeking wireless access solutions for IoT. Verizon’s Cat M1 network is built on a virtualised cloud environment which enables rapid IoT solution deployment and nationwide scaling aimed at increasing IoT adoption for developers and businesses, with economical IoT data plans (starting at USD2 per device per month).

Mike Haberman, Network Vice President at Verizon, declared: ‘As the natural shift from CDMA-based IoT solutions to the more robust and cloud-based LTE technology occurs, it’s important we stay ahead of that technology evolution for our customers so we can continue to provide them service on the best and most advanced wireless network. Our commercial deployment of the nationwide LTE Cat M1 network does just that.’ Verizon has enabled an open ecosystem for Cat M1 that includes infrastructure providers and manufacturers of chipsets, modules and devices; its Cat M1 partners include Sequans, Telit, U-Blox, Sierra Wireless, Gemalto, Qualcomm Technologies, Altair, Encore Networks, Link Labs and NimbeLink.

Another US biggie, AT&T, this week announced a project with Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to enable IoT solutions in the air base’s operations and infrastructure, by installing and integrating network-connected sensors, whilst embarking on proof-of-concept IoT demonstrations of smart perimeters, gate monitoring, notifications, fleet management and more with Maxwell. Elsewhere, in the autonomous vehicle segment, AT&T has successfully trialled a switch allowing the real-time exchange of data between devices from different manufacturers – a crucial stage in making driverless vehicles a practical reality.

Also in the States, as IoT becomes ever-more mainstream, MVNO FreedomPop has expanded into the business subscriber and M2M sectors, including the launch of a mobile connectivity service for IoT applications; IoT devices can connect to FreedomPop’s network on data plans starting at USD1 per month.

South Africa’s Vodacom has partnered PTC, a specialist in Industrial IoT, augmented reality and connected solutions, by implementing a local version of PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform to develop new IoT applications and solutions. A press release says that the launch of ThingWorx in South Africa will allow Vodacom to serve customers across the continent as it creates and develops secure IoT solutions across key vertical sectors, including retail, health, utilities, manufacturing, logistics and consumer markets. Vodacom is the first African operator to form a relationship with PTC, whilst the collaboration is an expansion of the existing relationship between PTC and Vodacom’s parent Vodafone Group.

Gemalto has been selected by Japan’s SoftBank Corp as a partner for On-Demand Connectivity (ODC) services enabling both consumer and industrial M2M/IoT connectivity and deployment of value added applications and services. Under the collaboration, Gemalto will supply its Remote SIM Provisioning platform, allowing SoftBank to remotely manage initial connectivity and subscriptions throughout a device’s lifecycle – applicable to various applications such as connected cars, wearables, traffic monitoring systems, smart meters, etc. A Softbank spokesperson said: ‘As the number of connected devices grows each day, and the demand for flexibility and seamless user experience soars, we believe ODC is a game-changer for the telecommunications industry.’ According to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), domestic IoT revenue is forecast to reach USD130 billion this year, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11%. JETRO expects IoT expenditures and investments in Japan to cross the USD100 billion mark by 2018, growing at a 17% CAGR. The current top-spending sectors are manufacturing, transportation and utilities.

Norway’s Telenor has unveiled an ‘experimental’ IoT offering, ‘Telenor Start IoT’, available free of charge from 1 May 2017 to Norwegian entrepreneurs and students, to support development and rapid prototyping of new IoT products and services. Telenor has set up Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) experimental networks, initially based on LoRaWAN technology, utilising Telenor Connexion’s Cloud Connect enablement platform, and will provide development kits to start-ups, students and developers free of charge for five years, initially in Oslo, Trondheim and Tromso. Other network technologies may be included alongside LoRa in due course, such as 2G/3G/4G, NB-IoT and eMTC standards, the company stated. Previously, the Telenor-NTNU AI-Lab opened on 8 March 2017 at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), conducting research and running innovation programmes within artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and IoT. Currently, over a million devices/’things’ are connected to Telenor’s mobile network in Norway, whilst new LPWA IoT technologies will go commercial on its network in 2018.

Telenor also announced this week that it is the latest cellco to implement the Cisco Jasper IoT connectivity management platform – Control Centre – to enable enterprises to ‘easily and cost-effectively deliver new connected services through connected devices’. Cisco Jasper currently partners 50-plus mobile service provider groups to manage M2M/IoT devices across more than 550 mobile networks worldwide. This global scope offers Norwegian enterprises on Telenor’s mobile network the ability to quickly expand the delivery of products and services to other countries.

Brussels-based wholesale international communications operator BICS has announced a partnership with Hanhaa, an IoT/M2M services specialist based in the UK, to provide global connectivity for Hanhaa’s new ParceLive parcel tracking service, which enables users to track their packages’ location, condition and security across the globe. ParceLive updates users on shipments regardless of the country or carrier, and allows analysis based on multiple shipments (e.g. tracking an entire supply chain). The small ParceLive trackers incorporate multiple functionalities including sensitivity to moisture, impact and a GPS; the trackers are returned by the recipient for recalibration before being reused.

A fishy story to finish, as the CEO of Thai cellco DTAC, Lars-Ake Norling, has tipped Thailand’s seafood industry to be a major beneficiary of 5G/IoT technology, reported MobileWorldLive (which dubbed the idea ‘the Internet of Trout’). Norling cast his line at the ‘Unlocking 5G Spectrum Towards Sustainable Thailand 4.0’ event, reeling in delegates with the bait of next-generation technology boosting net profits in the Thai fish industry by using image sensors to monitor fish stocks (e.g. diagnosing parasitical infection early, allowing farmers to remove diseased fish from their healthy stock). Alongside this ‘angle’, the DTAC big-fish also noted that Thailand is stuffed to the gills with 5G/IoT opportunities in such sectors as healthcare and autonomous vehicles. DTAC itself appears to have landed a whopper of a partnership with the Thai government, hooking up with the state on national digital society goals – aiming to ensure that 5G will be Thailand’s ‘catch of the day’ in 2020, rather than ‘the one that got away’.

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