The internet of things was one of the hottest topics at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with news of expanding networks and more momentum for various types of IoT connectivity and use cases.
Here are some of the major themes of enterprise IoT news from MWC 2018:
-Low-power wide-area IoT network coverage is becoming more extensive and functional in 2018, with LoRaWAN roaming in Europe having been successfully field-tested by Orange and KPN. LoRa Alliance said that 67 public LoRa networks have been established so far, and LoRa roaming is expected to be enabled by the end of this year. Agriculture is the fastest-growing vertical market for LoRa, according to Sara Brown, co-chair of the LoRa Alliance marketing committee. LoRa’s most recently released specification also includes geolocation capabilities, and Brown said that some providers are combining that with other wireless technologies to achieve location accuracy within one to two meters.
In addition, Actility released a version of its ThingPark platform specifically for the enterprise users to easily set up their own, private LoRa networks.
-Cellular IoT connectivity is expanding as well, with the GSMA announcing ahead of MWC that nearly two dozen mobile operators have commercially launched 41 narrowband IoT or LTE-M networks around the world. NB-IoT in particular is expected to make a splash this year, with major growth anticipated in China in particular because the Chinese government has a goal of connecting 600 million devices to narrowband IoT networks by 2020. Cisco is jumping on that market, announcing what it says is the first commercially validated global NB-IoT platform, its Cisco Jasper Control Center for NB-IoT — which has been in trials with China Unicom and will be able to control both cellular and NB-IoT devices.
“The demand for low cost, low power connectivity is extremely high throughout China, and we expect to have over 100 million NB-IoT connections on our network by 2020,” said Xiaotian Chen, GM of China Unicom’s IoT business unit, in a statement. “By embracing multiple technologies for both traditional and low power devices, we give our customers – regardless of their industry – the flexibility to choose what fits their specific business needs.”
Meanwhile, Sierra Wireless launched its first LPWA cellular router for commercial and enterprise IoT applications, which combines LTE, LTE-M and NB-IoT connectivity for use cases such as digital signage, building automation and ATMs. AT&T also unveiled a new multi-connectivity platform for managing IoT devices across multiple network technologies, from LPWA to 4G and even satellite.
-Location information for enterprise IoT was another major theme at MWC, as Strategy Analytics noted. Some of the news on that front included Aeris’ collaboration with TracPlus to offer IoT services including tracking employees and physical assets in real-time. Sierra Wireless also showcased how some of its modules are being used in enterprise IoT contexts, from smart shoes that track falls and enable workers to receive and send alerts while working in dangerous areas to remote monitoring of commercial washing machines.
-Edge computing is a big enabler of enterprise IoT applications (as well as 5G), and on that front VMWare launched new edge computing solutions tailored for asset tracking and surveillance. China Unicom said that it will conduct large-scale trials of edge cloud computing and also launched an edge cloud service platform; the trials will be conducted across a wide array of venues including stadiums and campuses in 15 cities in China, and partners include ZTE, Intel, Baidu and Tencent. AT&T, which kicked off work at its Edge Computing Test Zone in California shortly before MWC, talked up the role that edge computing and virtualization will play as it transitions its network to 5G.