For many organizations, digital transformation has evolved from the buzzy talking point of nearly a decade ago to a competitive differentiator – and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are at the foundation.
The power of IoT multiplied by cellular technology creates a world of possibility that previously could not exist. Ericsson predicts that by 2025, five billion cellular devices will be in use with unprecedented potential. And with 5G becoming a reality, enhanced by AI and edge computing, cellular technology isn’t just about improving efficiency, it’s laying the building blocks to change the way businesses operate.1
Enabled by connected sensors and dedicated software, IoT devices have made tracking, recording and extrapolating data simpler and more precise. Whether tracking the movement and status of vehicles in real time or enabling smart cities to monitor and provision utility needs or ensuring the safety of valuable assets in remote locations, IoT technologies are not only changing how organizations operate, they’re expanding the possibilities of what they will be able to do in the future.
Here are five IoT network technologies that are transforming business.
Designed for IoT, LPWA is a wide-area wireless network technology able to connect billions of devices. Providing better signal range and penetration, an LPWA network makes massive connectivity of IoT devices possible with reliable connectivity, extended battery life, minimal device cost and enhanced coverage. LPWA technology works well in situations where devices need to send a small amount of data over a wide area while maintaining battery life for many years. They are well suited for static applications in densely developed locations such as smart cities, or in widely dispersed and mobile applications such as fleet monitoring and mobile asset tracking, just to name a few.
NB-IoT is designed specifically for fixed applications and provides better penetration for connections in places like utility vaults and sensors located underground or deep inside buildings. NB-IoT is used to deploy a significant number of simple connected devices in applications or tracking instances where real-time updates are not needed. Where NB-IoT excels is in its ability for mass connection of IoT devices across a wide area with slightly better coverage and penetration and very low power consumption. It can do this by limiting the bandwidth it uses to a single narrow-band. 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 (10+ years). This enables companies to deploy a truly “massive” number of sensors able to reliably transmit data from locations other technologies can’t.
LTE-M provides higher bandwidth speeds than other LPWA technologies with broad coverage capabilities. LTE-M also provides lower latency and mobile handoff between cell sites. This attribute makes it ideal for applications such as transportation and supply chain tracking where information being collected by connected devices needs to be sent in real-time. Extended battery life makes long-term deployment possible, reducing maintenance and operation costs
A transformational technology, 5G is more than an incremental technological evolution from 4G; it is a giant leap forward, promising three fundamental changes: increased capacity (see Massive IoT below), higher throughput speeds and lower latency. 4G networks are built with large radio towers that transmit signals over long distances using lower frequency radio waves—and will be an important part of wireless services for many years to come. 5G networks add many more small-cell antennas connected to buildings, streetlights and other objects. These small cells transmit massive amounts of data over short distances using ultra-high-frequency spectrum.
Capacity refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transferred through a wired or wireless network, which determines how many simultaneous connections it can handle. Throughput speed, is the actual amount of data that enters and goes through a system, typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). Finally, latency refers to how much time it takes for information to get from one point to another. The more that latency can be reduced, the better a group of connected devices can communicate.
Massive IoT, as the name suggests, consists of wide-area use cases, connecting massive numbers of low-complexity, low-cost devices with long battery life and relatively low throughput speeds. Massive IoT deployments can include hundreds to billions of connected devices with the primary goal to efficiently transmit and consume small amounts of data from vast numbers of devices. As 5G rolls out in Canada, industry leaders are looking at what will be possible in the future. The benefits of 5G are driven by its primary characteristics, which make it leagues ahead of current LTE network technology and will transform the IoT solutions of today into the Massive IoT solutions of tomorrow.
A wireless private network (WPN) is a custom cellular network built on your site. A managed solution available for both 5G and 4G LTE use cases, a WPN provides a dedicated, custom-built wireless network platform to securely connect devices according to each customer’s needs. While it is available as a stand-alone solution, a WPN can also run or alongside or extend and enhance existing WiFi infrastructure. Because the network is private to each customer, it can deliver high performance with low latency—also allowing you to prioritize network traffic, control sensitive data and run business applications.
 Ericsson, “Report on Digital Transformation,” September 2020