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Michael Vaidakis

Head of R&D Fuelics

NB-IoT is a wireless data transfer technology designed to offer the infrastructure medium for IoT projects and therefore cover sensor installations from small-scale (a few dozen sensors) to large-scale (a few million sensors) deployments.

In large-scale installations the NB-IoT’s main advantages are:

  • The mobile network covers a large geographical area, so practically we can install sensors anywhere without the need for network coverage inspection. The increased penetration of the NB-IoT, as well as the large capacity of devices per base station, along with its wide range, make the use of NB-IoT very attractive for large installations.
  • Maintaining, upgrading and securing the network operation is the core business of TELCOs, so these are considered a given with the purchase of SIMs. (CapEx)
  • The sensors are battery-powered, so there is no limit to their locations. In large-scale installations, this significantly reduces installation costs. (CapEx)
  • Battery life lasts up to 10 years which practically means much lower maintenance costs. We essentially install the sensors and forget about them. (OpEx)
  • The cost of electronics (modem chipsets) for connecting with the NB-IoT network is low, with the possibility of further reduction due to the proliferation of devices. In large-scale installations, reducing the cost of starting a project is a key designing factor. (CapEx)
  • The annual cost of use is much lower than the existing connections through TELCOs (like Machine-to-Machine tariffs). In large-scale installations, reducing operating costs is one of the most important factors. (OpEx)

Particular attention when designing large-scale installations should be paid to:

  • the mass management of the devices. One of the key issues in extensive installations is the mass management of scattered devices. The use of an advanced monitoring and configuration system is absolutely essential. Also, standardization and independence of a manufacturer’s sensors from the final application should, in our opinion, be a necessary requirement of the installer.
  • the security and validity of data. In installations where the validity of the information is important, measures must be taken to secure the information at production, transport and storage level.
  • the management of really big data. In the coming years this will be one of the main topics of discussion for large-scale installations. Selective data transmission and storage should be considered necessary. Data processing at the sensor level as well! The sensor must be able to process the measurements and then produce and send the final information (alerts).
  • finding and management of batteries. The rapid increase in demand for batteries is an issue that will probably concern us in the early years of NB-IoT. Their management and recycling will be an issue to look at from the planning phase.
  • SIM management. Due to the scattered nature of the installations and the large number of sensors, SIM installation and replacement is a very time consuming and expensive process. One technological solution to this problem is the use of e-SIM that can provide connectivity without the physical existence of a SIM. It also releases the installer from the exclusive use of a TELCO provider.

The new era of NB-IoT will lead to:

  • the development of new services. The availability of data that covers a great area (whether geographical or demographic) will lead to the development of new services and new needs.
  • the development of new business models, either for the acquisition of sensors or for data management and the birth of new services that will emerge from data analysis. Selective dissemination of data to multiple end users can be a potential revenue model for the installer.
  • improvements in resource management. The ability to record and study the use of natural resources can lead to better and more careful consumption.
  • better predictions and monitoring of phenomena. Analyzing the data will provide us with a better understanding and a forecast for population requirements and will lead us to better planning for the management of the planet’s resources. At the same time, the dispersion of sensors can create a better operational picture of a phenomenon.

Possible adverse impacts on large-scale installations:

  • The proliferation of devices emitting electromagnetic radiation. Better emissions management is required.
  • TELCOs become a single point of failure for many services, they also gain great control over many data and services.
  • Many devices, combined with low bandwidth and battery usage, result in limited security and the risk of cyber attacks. More efficient methods are needed to encrypt data.
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Key Considerations for Implementing NB-IoT in Small & Large-scale Installations