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Understanding Massive IoT and why it matters for your business

How 5G will take today’s IoT to a whole new level


According to Ericsson’s recent mobility report, 52 percent of all cellular Internet of Things (IoT) connections are expected to be Massive IoT connections by 2025. If you’re thinking to yourself “what is Massive IoT and what does this all mean for the future of my business?”—now is the perfect time to find out. First, let’s start with a definition. 

Massive IoT primarily consists of wide-area use cases, connecting massive numbers of low-complexity, low-cost devices with long battery life and relatively low throughput speeds. Evolving technology continues to transform how businesses advance their current IoT solutions across operations.  

As 5G rolls out in Canada, many business 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. 

Three characteristics of 5G explained

Instant Responses. Ultra-low latency means ultra-fast response times. The 4G network responds to our commands in just under 50 milliseconds. With 5G, it will take around one millisecond—400 times faster than the blink of the eye­. This will do away with the cables currently connecting many solutions and enable most operations to move to the cloud. Ultra-low latency is essential for IoT applications requiring truly instant responses, such as autonomous vehicles and drones. 

Unprecedented Speeds. Throughput speed is the amount of data that enters and goes through a system, typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) delivering connection speeds up to 50 times faster than current LTE networks will be key to applications such as video surveillance with instant AI analysis to support emergency services.

Connections Everywhere. Capacity, the maximum amount of data that can be transferred through a wired or wireless network, determines how many simultaneous voice and data connections it can handle. When fully operational, 5G networks will have the capacity to connect 500 times more devices than 4G. This is the foundation for the future of Massive IoT—a world with a million or more connected devices per square kilometre.

The ability of 5G networks to support a massive increase in low-cost devices that consume minimal energy and can reliably send small amounts of data at regular intervals will result in big opportunities for businesses that are already using IoT. 

There are exciting opportunities to deploy Massive IoT in smart metering, asset and fleet management as well as process automation, to name a few use cases. 

Looking to the future

There is good reason why experts are excited about the future of Massive IoT. A recent whitepaper by Ericsson states that there are over 1 billion cellular IoT connections today (2020), and this number is predicted to grow to 5 billion connections by 2025. The introduction of 5G has inspired almost every industry to explore the potential of cellular connectivity and how it can transform business operations. In some regions, the government is encouraging the adoption of IoT with incentives to promote sustainability, innovation and growth. 

Current IoT vs Massive IoT

IoT today spans almost every sector including transportation and logistics, utilities, agriculture, smart cities and more. Across these business areas, various types of meters, sensors and trackers are making it possible to stay informed about operations, automate processes and make future business more efficient.  

Most IoT solutions today are well served by 4.5G LTE and Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, especially for low-bandwidth use cases. But as we approach a future with a million connected devices per square kilometre, many of them requiring high-bandwidth connections, 5G networks will be essential.

Massive IoT has the potential to not only benefit existing processes but also change society through innovation. For example, as the shift from fossil fuels continues, society’s demand for electricity grows and so does the need for a reliable power supply. 

To enable the transition toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, investment in the smart grids of tomorrow is necessary. For these alternative power sources to be feasible, massive connectivity is vital to counter the increased risk of network disturbances due to the way these energy sources work and their inherent lower predictability. 

More and faster responses to adjust the balance between energy generation and energy consumption will be needed in the future. Massive IoT connectivity will play a key role when it comes to enabling this need for fast and accurate power grid balancing. 

By enabling revolutionary smart monitoring, Massive IoT will give power companies the real-time information they need to balance and predict power consumption and generation over time. The power grids of tomorrow will be digital infrastructures, highly connected and automated by embedding various low- and high-bandwidth sensor technologies into their physical assets and integrated with Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence, exchanging information with other devices and systems over a 5G network.

Similarly, smart cities are another prime opportunity for the extreme coverage of Massive IoT. Connected devices such as water, gas and electricity meters, street lamps and even rental bikes require reliable connectivity in a variety of conditions both indoors and outside in the elements. 

5G networks of the future can handle a massive deployment of IoT devices with minimal network capacity impact. This means cities with density akin to New York, London or Beijing could launch a multitude of connected devices that reliably transmit data at regular intervals, offering huge potential value in terms of improved efficiency, sustainability and safety for industry and society.

Prepare for a paradigm shift

Combined with lower device costs and minimal power consumption, the massive increase in capacity that 5G will bring to IoT technology and virtually every sector will be orders of magnitude beyond current LTE technology. Businesses already deploying IoT devices across their operations are well situated for the future of Massive IoT. With a transformation of this scale on the horizon, now is the time to consider how the characteristics of 5G can benefit your business.