The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer a mere buzzword. Increasingly, more everyday objects are incorporating sensor technology connected to the internet, allowing companies, homes and everything in between to operate smartly.
For example, when connected to the IoT, rubbish bins could notify authorities when they are full and need emptying. Water meters could report on consumption and potential leaks. Smoke alarms could verify their status without manual testing. These are all useful functions that could save time and money — especially when considering that there are thousands of these kinds of objects around us in our homes, workplaces and towns. The applications are practically endless: moisture sensors in agriculture, pressure sensors in gas tanks, burglar alarms and parking space monitoring, and much more.
The problem with conventional IoT solutions is that they can be completely over the top and uneconomical for these potential use cases. A bin, a water meter or a house alarm doesn’t need to send lots of data; perhaps just a few bytes per day.
What they do need is IoT hardware and connectivity that is extremely low-cost, lasts for years on a single battery charge, and can reliably connect even when they’re installed in objects such as basements or underground.
Enter the newest kid on the block: Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology, which Vodafone is bringing to Malta for the first time, powered over Vodafone SuperNet and in collaboration with Nokia and Affirmed.
NB-IoT is a new technology standard, just like 3G and 4G, designed to provide connectivity for an IoT application. Devices are equipped with sensors used to monitor and collect data, which is then transmitted over the NB-IoT network and stored on a server. The data can then be managed and converted into information which can be visualised through dashboards in apps or websites.
Its breakthrough technology means that it's able to maintain a strong, uninterrupted connection, whilst also conserving battery. This makes it particularly suited to monitoring devices such as water meters, which have a tendency to turn up in difficult locations with poor network coverage. NB-IoT, however, has excellent coverage and penetration. So, for instance, by installing connected flow meters around a water distribution network, a utility company could automatically detect leaks, meaning less time, cost and disruption digging up roads.
What are the main benefits for businesses using NB-IoT technology?
Power consumption can be a big problem for companies building IoT solutions. Who wants to change the batteries on thousands of devices every six months? NB-IoT takes power efficiency to a new level - with this technology, a device’s connection could have up to 10 years' worth of life.
Power savings = cost savings. Plus, NB-IoT hardware sensors are simpler to create and come cheaper.
Reliability: NB-IoT is being rolled out over MCA-licensed spectrum, guaranteeing the resource allocation needed for managed Quality of Service.
Security: Devices that are used together on a NB-IoT module are encrypted heavily, which makes it difficult for hackers to gain access or interfere.Strong coverage over large areas
, meaning that devices located underground can connect via NB-IoT, whereas previously they could not with 3G/4G.