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Exponential networks like NBIoT and LoRa have emerged with the aim to facilitate the deployment of cheap, abundant and intrinsically smart battery operated sensors that will be commissioned on the fly and will be working for 10 years. This is the new era. In Fuelics we try to follow these design principles and produce sensors that will be easily commissioned (actually we want the sensor to be installed by agnostic users), will produce minimum data (as a way to minimize OPEX) and will be able to measure accurately any operational value.

But, is the market ready for massive deployments of sensors? Well, yes and no.

In order to be able to deploy battery operated sensors first of all you need to be able to transfer the measured data over the cloud. In NBIoT the data are being broadcasted over the already installed LTE cellular network (which is a rather dense infrastructure in the city environment), whereas in LoRa the data require concentrators that have to be privately deployed in unlicensed chunks of spectrum. So, in both cases you need the infrastructure and somebody to turn the engine on. With NBIoT, the aforementioned ignition is a software upgrade (well it looks like that from a macroscopic view). With LoRa you actually need to install antennae that will concentrate signals over a mesh network. Fueling the ignition process requires ONE THING. Investments!

And now let us consider that investments are done and Athens, Greece (the city I work and live) has a fully fledged exponential infrastructure. Will we be able to massively deploy sensors now? Well yes technically, but NO financially or ecosystem-wise. Once the networks operate and the 125KHz of NBIoT spectrum (it is obvious that in Fuelics we love this technology) is available everywhere, the market has been weaponized with the infrastructure, but we lack of the end-mile services. During our involvement with NBIoT development we have recognized that weakness. What will be the services fueled by exponential sensors that will be massively rolled out?

I have made a short list of possible services based on massively deployed sensors.

A) Tank Monitoring. Tanks come in millions. Fuel tanks, water tanks, garbage tanks (bins = a form of tank), water gathering tanks (cisterns). In Fuelics we have been developing NBIoT sensors for all the above markets.

B) Water and Gas Metering. Most of the sensors already deployed do have a dry contact (pulse) output, therefore by attaching a exponential module instantly billing or value added services can be offered. In Fuelics we have developed a multimodal NBIoT telecommunication extender capable of receiving information from water or gas sensors.

C) Facility Management. This is a market segment with vast interest, since this is an old school business that is being gradually transformed into an IoT business. In Fuelics apart from water, gas, or fuel management of buildings, we consider investing in the development of exponential grade sensors towards facilitating the holistic building management. Burners and elevators will be our primary focus.

D) Electricity Management. Countless technologies can be mentioned here. Metering, sub metering, energy harvesting, energy actuation and so one. From heating to lighting, numerous IoT sensors can be deployed and integrated with legacy SCADA or BMS systems. This market segment is huge. At Fuelics we are investing in designing a remote energy management unit with power switching and net metering capabilities. 

E) Parking Management. The market is huge once again. How many parking slots are available within a smart city infrastructure? Hundred thousand to million parking slots, I roughly calculate. We have piloted our NBIoT parking sensor successfully.

F) Are there more? Let’s discuss it and see if we can find synergies.

Overall, in my opinion, we are in a chicken and egg situation. Everybody wants to transform towards IoT rationale, but there are no integrated services yet or fully fledged networks to support them. The remedy for our ecosystem is to create synergies between sensor manufacturers and middleware IoT platform providers with the aim to launch cheap and innovative services for the end mile.

Dr. Evangelos Angelopoulos is a serial entrepreneur and industrial Adjunct Researcher in NSCR Demokritos Greece, doing research on the quality and quantity assessment of diesel fuel, while trying to identify markets for massive deployment of exponential sensors and simultaneously facilitates the transformation of basic research towards new innovative industrial grade products.

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Massive Deployment of Exponential IoT sensors. Is this the time for it?