NB-IOT: Redefining IOT Connectivity

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. IOT opportunities in modern networks.
  2. Narrow band: Enabling Efficient Coverage
  3. Efficient Power Saving Mechanism

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

How has the Evolution from 2G to 5G Paved Way for IOT?

The evolution of wireless technologies from 2G to 5G have paved the way for interconnecting network opportunities for IOT in commercial as well as industrial space; which describes the concept of an interconnected network of physical devices. IoT sensors are increasingly being employed in Internet of Things (IoT) devices not only in commercial applications such as home lighting and security control, but also in industrial applications such as energy and utility management, asset tracking, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, which in turn opens the new avenues in the industrial IoT, but it also highlights key issue.

The present wireless technologies are in-efficient to meet prerequisites standard of surging IIoT like efficient coverage, low power and low data transfer rates. Although, low-power wireless area network (LP-WAN) technologies have been advancing continuously; however, to comply with the requirements, the deployment of such devices may pose security and reliability concern. Particularly, in mission-critical applications where the compatibility issue results in higher operational costs.

As per the latest IHS estimates, ~75 billion smart devices will be in use by 2025, accounting nearly 400% increase over the roughly 15 billion devices in 2019. Thus, telecom operators are investing significantly in such technologies which aid billions of devices.

Narrow band: Enabling Efficient Coverage

While wireless opportunities in industrial IoT space keep augmenting, the key concerns like in-efficient coverage and battery drainage needs to be addressed for the faster adoption. This is where Narrow Band-IOT fits rightly. Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) is a low data rate, long-range extension of the LTE network defined under 3GPP, which optimized IIoT applications such as smart-metering, smart grid and so on where robust coverage and scalability are imperative. NB-IoT devices are essential, as low bandwidth, seamless connectivity and battery life are requisites for successful deployment IIoT.

How to Optimise Power Consumption for More Battery Life?

In low coverage areas, more repetitions are essential to transfer data. The more repetitions require longer duty cycles of the IoT modems which in turn increases power consumption, which reduces battery life. Frequent repetitions due to network misconfiguration or network implementation also have a similar impact. Thus, longer battery life is needed to avoid higher cost as battery life is impacted by low coverage.

For long battery life, operational devices need to be categorized under active, idle and sleep modes w.r.t power consumption. Also, device manufacturer needs to comprehend operating conditions better in terms power consumption in various instances, such as remote software update, transmission repetition in extreme coverage, or a device unable to connect to the server. Considering such measures are effective to an extent, however, they are not enough to meet IIoT requirements.

Efficient Power Saving Mechanism

The 3GPP standard stipulates a ‘Power Saving Mode’ to strengthen battery life. PSM enables a device to be in the deep-sleep mode and switch off its circuitry when it is not in an active state. This method is quite effective for IoT which characteristically sleep, except when they need to transfer data as per their trigger schedule like smart meter, environmental devices and so on.

NB-IoT enables a high volume of low complexity, connected devices intended to transmit data packages that enhanced coverage while bringing the network closer for deeper indoors and more reliable connectivity.

FAQs

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

What is an Optical Fibre Cable?

An optical fibre cable is a cable type that has a few to hundreds of optical fibres bundled together within a protective plastic coating. They help carry digital data in the form of light pulses across large distances at faster speeds. For this, they need to be installed or deployed either underground or aerially. Standalone fibres cannot be buried or hanged so fibres are bunched together as cables for the transmission of data. This is done to protect the fibre from stress, moisture, temperature changes and other externalities. There are three main components of a optical fibre cable, core (It carries the light and is made of pure silicon dioxide (SiO2) with dopants such as germania, phosphorous pentoxide, or alumina to raise the refractive index; Typical glass cores range from as small as 3.7um up to 200um), Cladding (Cladding surrounds the core and has a lower refractive index than the core, it is also made from the same material as the core; 1% refractive index difference is maintained between the core and cladding; Two commonly used diameters are 125µm and 140µm) and Coating (Protective layer that absorbs shocks, physical damage and moisture; The outside diameter of the coating is typically either 250µm or 500µm; Commonly used material for coatings are acrylate,Silicone, carbon, and polyimide).

An optical fibre cable is made up of the following components: Optical fibres – ranging from one to many. Buffer tubes (with different settings), for protection and cushioning of the fibre. Water protection in the tubes – wet or dry. A central strength member (CSM) is the backbone of all cables. Armoured tapes for stranding to bunch the buffer tubes and strength members together. Sheathing or final covering to provide further protection.

The five main reasons that make this technology innovation disruptive are fast communication speed, infinite bandwidth & capacity, low interference, high tensile strength and secure communication. The major usescases of optical fibre cables include intenet connectivity, computer networking, surgery & dentistry, automotive industry, telephony, lighting & decorations, mechanical inspections, cable television, military applications and space.

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