Nearly every time I read some article about the Internet of Things I feel that common folks have to think we are completely nuts 🙂 Do we really believe that we’ll control temperature in room via sensors in our cloths? Or that my fridge will communicate with my wash-machine and my microwave oven, monitoring my GPS and getting ready when they’ll notice I’m coming home? It reminds me the programs for 8-bit computers which were making lists of what you needed to buy in supermarket …
And still the IoT is reality. The IoT, or M2M if you want, is not about bringing the Internet to the devices but on contrary making smarted devices which need the Internet in order to behave even smarter (enough of ‘smart’, I promise). A few years ago if we wanted to connect some device (e.g. for SCADA, telemetry, etc.) into our information system we would need to have a traditional radio network. Later it was possible to add a GSM module. Now the price of devices is low and with LTE or in future with 5G network in place the data is not a problem. Just for a fun I can buy a cheap Raspberry Pi and interconnect with LTE module. And indeed, the M2M traffic is now the 2nd biggest source of revenue after the data for many mobile operators. The next year it can be the number one.
Of course, LTE is not the only one. For LTE-A an energy use and cost still remain concerns. More and more we can hear about alternative approaches such as Low Power Wide-area (LPWA) networking or Li-Fi.
IoT is not about standards (now)
The IoT is here already. It doesn’t wait for OMA (OMA_LWM2M), GSMA standards (GSMA IoT web) or Atis (5G Reimagined: A North American Perspective). This can be a surprise for some T1 operators. IoT is what we call ‘enterprise’. It’s like with the web applications. We don’t need to integrate them. They are (firstly) created ad-hoc to fix a problem. If you can’t do it fast, someone else can. Remember the drones? After the military usage one of the very first industries which started to use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) was surprisingly agriculture. Farmers didn’t care about how cool it was neither what were the standards. They saw that it could help them with their existing problems. Btw. the agriculture is one of the IoT early adopters too.
That doesn’t mean there are no standards at all. In the the recent specification for LTE (release 12) 3GPP defined communications Category 0 for the needs of M2M traffic. The 3GPP workshop in the September this year was fully focused on the 5G and M2M. But this standardization process happens while or even after the first applications were launched. As the father of IoT Kevin Ashton put it:
Instead of people trying to standardize so that Google can work, they’re trying to figure out how Google works so they can be better in their Google results — which is much more efficient than a standards meeting.
The market is greedy and new technologies as LoRa, Sigfox, Weightless or Symphony are quickly emerging. For example T-Mobile along with the Sigfox just finished their pilot in the Czech republic. As the result they plan to cover the entire country with a minimal number of 350 base stations by the end of 2016. But there are many other deployments. And not always the T1 Operators are taking part in them.
IoT – how to get lost easily
Well, I’m not an expert and don’t care much about the access networks. I care more about the application and service logic. And how to implement a reliable service on top of these new networks. We all can see what it takes to deploy a simple VoLTE network for just tens or hundreds million subscribers. With IoT we will talk soon about billions. Right now each operator has monitoring centres and many people providing the support.
When it comes to the troubleshooting we have to go into traffic logs, through pcaps, check the SIP headers and it requires some experience. There is no ‘killing’ troubleshooting or monitoring tool. I wonder how this will work with IoT. It is not that difficult to create a new bubble. (And the IoT is big all right.) But often it is quite hard to sustain it (while it is still growing).