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Unlock the potential of Massive IoT with Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) networks

How businesses are benefiting from greater automation, visibility and control through IoT technologies and what to consider before deploying them in your business

Building with IoT icons around it

Businesses across a wide variety of sectors are taking advantage of Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) to deploy a significant number of simple connected devices. From monitoring city infrastructure like streetlamps and parking meters to industrial and agricultural sensors transmitting data about external conditions to monitoring equipment like HVAC systems and machinery – the potential is limitless.

A crucial first step toward realizing this potential is understanding massive IoT. The term refers to IoT applications that are not dependant on ultra-low latency but are ideal for connecting a huge volume of low-cost, low-energy consumption devices on a network with excellent coverage. The growing popularity of IoT use cases where connectivity must span large areas while being able to handle a huge number of connections, is driving the demand for massive IoT technologies—NB-IoT is among these. 

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT is a wireless network technology standardized by 3GPP for cellular wireless communications. It’s also an example of a Low Powered Wide Area (LPWA) technology that is especially suited for the mass deployment of connected devices. The technology is taking off for several reasons:

  • Networks can be made up of simple devices that cost less to purchase, deploy and maintain.
  • Coverage is enhanced because of greater transmitting power resulting in better connectivity in challenging radio environments, such as deep within buildings or underground.
  • Better battery life (up to 10 years) due to device simplicity, ping timers and technical features like power saving modes and extended discontinued reception (eDRX) options.

How it works

NB-IoT is best suited for simple, applications or in tracking applications where real-time updates are not needed. For example, cities can deploy “smart” garbage bins equipped with sensors to monitor when the bins are filling up and alert the sanitation department to empty them before they are full. Not only does this reduce garbage blowing around city streets due to overfilled receptacles, the data collected can help plan collection routes and staff requirements.

What’s unique about NB-IoT is that it can connect a huge number of simple devices at a very low cost with long battery life (think 10+ years). This enables companies to deploy a truly “massive” number of sensors able to reliably transmit data from locations other technologies can’t.

This makes the technology well suited for applications such as smart meters, waste tracking, pipeline management and other fixed-location applications that don’t require up-to-the-minute alerts. The key to NB-IoT is in its ability to reliably send information at regular increments to the cloud, for example, on a mass scale.

Putting NB-IoT to work for your business

Every company’s connected ecosystem is a bit different to suit their business and operational needs. Here are three practical business areas to consider when thinking about deploying an NB-IoT solution into your business.

1. Automation: Processes that require manual monitoring or spot checks are inefficient and often inconvenient, tying up staff who could otherwise be deployed in areas of your business that require their attention.

Deploying connected devices in large buildings or to monitor utilities infrastructure such as pipelines and static machinery provides managers with greater visibility of these assets.

Picture automating mundane tasks like monitoring supply levels or building systems like lights and HVAC systems. With a series of connected devices, building managers would have access to a regular stream of data to help them predict and schedule maintenance or receive alerts to help them deploy staff strategically, eliminating the need for manual monitoring.

2. Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): NB-IoT makes it possible to deploy devices with a simpler design and as a result the devices themselves cost less. Combine this with lower maintenance costs due to longer battery life and now businesses can collect data to identify patterns that point to opportunities to reduce waste and increase efficiency. 

Imagine getting an alert about lowering stock levels before they run out, or a notification about a temperature fluctuation in a storage facility containing food or other temperature-sensitive goods. With this information the appropriate action can happen in a timely fashion before owned goods are ruined costing the company unnecessarily.

3.  Thrive in challenging conditions: Companies with dispersed operations or a need to connect to devices in challenging conditions like underground or deep within a building are relying on NB-IoT for connectivity.

For example, a multi-layer underground parking garage with motion sensors placed above each parking space would enable operators to know exactly how many available spaces they have, how long each vehicle has been parked and provide security data to keep vehicles safe. Similarity, sensors placed along pipelines, HVAC systems or building equipment would provide key information to plan maintenance, adjust systems for efficiency and identify trends for future planning.    

Understanding the opportunity

Low Powered Wide Area (LPWA) technologies are already in use across many business sectors globally, and NB-IoT, among other IoT technologies, are projected to continue to grow. According to Ericsson’s 2019 Mobility Report, the number of cellular IoT connections will grow from 1 billion devices in 2018 to 4.1 billion by 2024 with NB-IoT and LTE-M accounting for 45% of those connections.

This growth rate will create huge opportunity for businesses who can understand and integrate NB-IoT enabled hardware into their operations and unlock the potential for greater visibility, automation and control.

Learn more about the benefits and differences between Low Powered Wide Area technologies like NB-IoT and LTE-M.