NB-IOT vs unlicensed LPWAN

One of 3GPP’s chief low-power, wide-area (LPWA) technologies under development is NB-IOT (narrowband IOT) . Many have been speculating over the differences between NB-IOT and the current LPWAN technologies in the unlicensed frequencies such as LORA, Weightless-P, Sigfox, RPMA. Some individuals have even gone as far as saying NB-IOT will be the death of LPWAN technologies. But that is likely not going to be the case as there will always be a huge difference in use-cases of licensed and unlicensed technologies. The best analogy is WiFi (unlicensed) vs 4G (licensed). The business models and use-cases built around WiFI and 4G are “night and day” .

NB-IOT may not be as robust as we are expecting it be. Check out the following features that are likely to be a slight let-down to NB-IoT enthusiasts

1.No full acknowledgement: By design (found in 3GPP Specification TR45.820) NB-IOT is planned to only acknowledge 50% of messages serviced by the wireless technology. This is due to limited downlink capacity. Unlicensed technologies like Weightless-P allows 100% full acknowledgement of every message. If every message is of high value, you will need to know if your messages are successfully sent/received via an acknowledgement.

 

2. Long Latency: Transmit packet aggregation from buffering of messages and data. NB IOT will not be able to support “real time” responses therefore not suitable for time sensitive applications.

3. IoT devices in the network will not be the priority. The licensed spectrum is EXPENSIVE. Ingenu mentioned “$4.6 billion in a recent auction for only 20 MHz of spectrum!” IoT traffic will always come second to high profit margin, cellular traffic.

4. Long battery Life? The actual battery life will remain unknown until the Cellular LPWA networks are commercially available.

5. Availability: NB IOT is a technology that will be ready a few years down the line.

6. Compatibility: NB-IOT will differ across regions and carriers. Huawei initially pushed for a clean slate NB-IOT technology that would not be backwards compatible with 4G etc. This actually makes a lot of sense as it would be eliminating a lot of the unnecessary overhead.  But just as Huawei began making progress, Nokia and Ericsson began insisting on building upon the frameworks of LTE which means significantly more complexity and unnecessary overhead. Not a very nice foundation for such a huge project.

 

LPWAN Technology Comparison

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Some buzz/updates from the IoT space:

LoRa :

Where are the large-scale deployments? Having been released over 5 years ago and still not having any single large-scale deployments is worrisome. Being first-to-market has attracted a HUGE ecosystem of makers.  But the limitations of LoRa are becoming more and more apparent.

Rather disappointing as far as spectrum friendliness. When LoRa is deployed, it indeed basically renders all other technologies in the ISM bands useless. This is not something that is going to go over well with any of the LPWAN ISM band technologies or RFID technologies wanting to cooperate in the same spectrum.

 

Sigfox:

They are operators with a vertically integrated technology. Sigfox proposes an end-to-end solution, from the device to the management interface. It’s up to the user to encrypt data within the 12bytes payload.

Sigfox wants to collaborate with giant telecommunication companies and deploy a $/message business model. In my opinion, the IoT space not ready for a $/message plan. VERY few real IoT application actually make sense to adopt this type of payment plan. With that said, all the technologies that survive in the above comparison chart may potentially be offered by Sigfox in the future . With its current technology, it can only continue to tout its theoretical “coverage”.

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Weightless (formerly known as Weightless P): The technology has been renamed simply Weightless. The Weightless Starter Kit has extremely solid performance. We see this as a strong contender moving forward as the IoT community becomes more aware of LoRaWAN limitations.

May 2018 – Weightless becomes the first LPWAN technology to win a serious country-wide tender (Smart Meters)

OnRamp (RPMA): Company Ingenu has made an aggressive marketing push of their technology. They stress “simplicity is key:  one worldwide band (2.4 GHz), no sunsetting (we will commit to never sunsetting the RPMA technology), no burdensome certification process.” Unfortunately, 2.4GHz still requires a certification of the end device in Europe, this has a cost. For those who might not know : Sunsetting, in a business context means to intentionally phase something out or terminate it.

Also, Europe has tightened the 2.4GHz regulation this year, some countries may require licenses for OnRamp outdoor usage. RPMA is 1MHz bandwidth, spread spectrum with large spreading factor. UNB (ultra narrowband) is seemingly the simplest and lowest cost connectivity which covers a few solid cases.

Business Model: Ingenu sells licenses to use their technology in given territories ($300,000-1M USD). After purchasing an expensive license, the purchaser can then buy and deploy Ingenu base stations (said to be over $5000 USD per access point). They are currently struggling to find companies to license their technology.

 

Lora by Semtech : Wireless Connectivity Solution Analysis

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LoRa is a long range wireless connectivity solution developed by Semtech. If you want to learn about the pros of this solution please visit the website: http://www.link-labs.com/lora/

Here are my major concerns regarding this solution.

1)      LoRa is very spectrum unfriendly. When LoRa is transmitting, most systems become inoperable.  LoRa and Sigfox cannot live happily together. LoRa would completely render Sigfox useless if deployed in the same vicinity.

2)      Large bandwidth

3)      High power

4)      No interference awareness or fair-use methods of communication

Check these engineering threads in which TI experts tear LoRa apart.- https://e2e.ti.com/support/wireless_connectivity/f/156/p/343273/1477077.

Quirky: Wink Hub Recall

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April 20, 10:22 a.m. PT: A Wink representative issued the following statement:

“Yesterday, Sunday, April 19, Wink worked diligently to enable a self-service fix for users comfortable making some quick changes to their home’s router settings. Instructions for users recovering their Wink Hub can be found at recovery.wink.com. For those who wish to send their Hub in for repair, they can continue to do so free of charge by visiting hubrepair.quirky.com. We’ll provide a box and shipping label and be sending replacement Hubs as soon as possible.

Approximately 25% of Wink users were impacted by Saturday’s outage and we were able to recover and reconnect 40% of those users within 10 hours. Thousands have already selected the self-service fix and by the end of Monday, April 20 we expect the outage to be limited to 10% of Wink users.”

My take:

This product is absolutely terrible. I purchased it online and should have taken careful attention to the dimensions of this beast. ITS HUGE! There is no place to put this awkward clunky thing. I bought a “smart” light bulb and connected it to hub. I used the mobile app to control the light. The latency is awful! It sometimes takes up to 5 dreadfully long seconds for it to actually turn on. The recall won’t fix the main issue; that main issue being that the product flat out sucks.

Thread – Wireless Communication Protocol

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Thread is also a new wireless protocol that recently has entered the IoT market. Its seven founding members aim to develop Thread, a new IP-based wireless networking protocol, as a better way to connect products in homes and to realize the IoT.

The figure above depicts the Thread protocol stack. Thread has not standardized the application layer, which gives application developers the freedom to develop the applications they deem fit. The IP support of Thread makes it suitable for developing open systems; essentially making it easier to interface with other IP enabled mobile devices. On the network layer (NWK), Thread supports UDP on top of 6LowPAN. Thread also provides a horizontal layer that provides security and authentication functions that enables devices to securely exchange information. On the media access layer (MAC), Thread supports a mesh topology with a maximum of 250 nodes. For the physical layer (PHY) Thread used the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless RF specification that operate in the open 2.4 GHz band, allowing for a data rate of 250 kbps.

Frequency Bands Optimal for the Internet of Things

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Frequency bands of operation for the Internet of Things

Keeping in mind that the requirements of wireless IoT are: low-power, low-cost, medium range (local to metro area), and moderate data rate, it is reasonable to assume that the frequency of operation should be between 100 MHz and 5.8 GHz. Lower frequencies would not allow for sufficient data rate due to limited contiguous spectrum availability, while higher frequencies would have a very short range. The frequency bands in this range between 100 MHz and 5.8 GHz can be sorted in four groups.

  1. Unlicensed bands: 315 MHz in US, 433 MHz almost worldwide, 780 MHz in China, 868 MHz in Europe, 915 MHz in US / Asia, 920 MHz in Japan (formerly 950 MHz), and 2.4 GHz / 5.8 GHz almost worldwide
    • Unlicensed IoT long-range wireless technologies:
      • Weightless (data rate: (0.625kbps -100kbps)
      • LORA (data rate: 0.3 kbps – 27 kbps)
      • Sigfox (data rate: 0.1 kbps)
  2. Licensed bands: cellular networks bands, granted to network operators for deploying specific cellular technologies 2G / 3G / 4G. There are 14 frequency bands defined for GSM (3GPP TS 45.005), 26 for WCDMA (3GPP TS 25.101), and 44 for LTE (3GPP TS36.101) .
    • NB-IoT in the pipeline

The main GSM bands in use are:

    1. GSM 850: 824.2-849.2 MHz uplink, 869.2-894.2 MHz downlink
    2. GSM 900: 880-915 MHz uplink, 925-960 MHz downlink
    3. DCS 1800: 1719.2-1784.8 MHz uplink, 1805.2-1879.8 MHz downlink
    4. PCS 1900: 1850.2-1909.8 MHz uplink, 1930.2-1989.8 MHz downlink

North America and Canada are using GSM 850 and PCS 1900, with PCS 1900 primarily used in urban areas and GSM 850 in rural areas for better coverage. In Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, most providers use GSM 900 and DCS 1800, GSM 900 is the most common. South America is mixed, for instance GSM 850, GSM 900, DCS 1800, and PCS 1900 are all present in Brazil.

The main WCDMA bands are:

  1. IMT (band 1): 1920-1980 MHz uplink, 2110-2170 MHz downlink
  2. PCS A-F (band 2): 1850-1920 MHz uplink, 1930-1990 MHz downlink
  3. AWS A-F (band 4): 1710-1755 MHz uplink, 2110-2155 MHz downlink
  4. CLR (band 5): 824-849 MHz uplink, 869-894 MHz downlink
  5. EGSM/U-900 (band 8): 880-915 MHz uplink, 925-960 MHz downlink

Bands 1 and 8 allow roaming in ITU Regions 1 and 3, and some countries of region 2. Bands 2 and 4 allow roaming in ITU Region 2 only.

LTE has seen a proliferation of frequency bands, and provision for global roaming would require support for bands 1 (2100 MHz), 2 (1900 MHz), 3 (1800 MHz), 4 (AWS), 5 (850 MHz), 7 (2600 MHz), 8 (900 MHz), 13 (700c MHz), 17 (700b MHz), 18 (800 MHz), 19 (800 MHz), 20 (800 DD), 25 (1900 MHz), 26 (800 MHz), 28 (700 APT MHz), 29 (700 de MHz), 38 (TD 2600), 39 (TD 1900), 40 (TD 2300), and 41 (TD 2500). When 2G allows global roaming with a quad-band device, 4G requires a 20-band, or icosa-band device.

  1. Licensed bands with exceptions: the most common is known as TV whitespaces, already regulated in Europe and the US, to allow for the usage of frequencies granted for TV broadcasters, but not used in other application areas.
  1. Forbidden bands: aeronautical, maritime, military, etc.

From the perspective of power efficiency, the lower operating frequency that is used the better. For instance, as pointed out in [36], the laws of physics imply the path loss at 2.4 GHz is 8.5 dB worse than at 900 MHz (Friis Transmission Equation), which translates into a 2.67x range improvement for the same transmit power. Electronic circuits also lose efficiency at higher frequencies. Therefore, 2.4 GHz transceivers would always consume more than 433 MHz or 900 MHz transceivers for the same performance / transmit power.

In practice, lower frequencies are yet constraining in that the required antenna size for best performance gets large: 17.3 cm for 433 MHz compared to 3 cm for 2.4 GHz. In addition, the usable frequency bands are usually narrow and duty-cycle-limited and may not allow for sufficient data throughput.

TV whitespaces are interesting as well; however, the regulatory framework is complex, with potentially very dynamic frequency allocation and the need to rely on a central entity regulating the allowed channels in real-time.

It is considered that the license-free Industrial, Scientific, Medical (ISM), and Short Range Devices (SRD) sub-GHz frequency bands (just below 1 GHz) are potentially the best for IoT applications. There has been and there still is a significant harmonization effort across all countries to enable these IoT applications, even though supporting 868 MHz (Europe), 915 MHz (USA), and 920 MHz (Japan) frequency bands already allow for a very wide coverage. Europe has opened the 863-870 MHz band and Japan has recently switched from 950 MHz to 920 MHz with relaxed constraints and higher allowable transmit power of 20 mW instead of 1 mW previously. This allows for good coverage and high data rates.

The regulatory framework for these license-free sub-GHz frequency bands is often deemed stringent and restrictive. This is actually not really the case, provided that the protocol is smart enough to implement interference-avoidance algorithms. If the RF application correctly implements the algorithms, there are actually very limited constraints. In addition, these constraints work both ways as they guarantee less interference from other devices that are operating on the same frequencies.

Today there are many frequency bands around 1 GHz licensed for cellular deployments. However, with the IoT market growing, one could reasonably expect that some operators would want to re-allocate their expensive spectrum for the IoT, much like they have started doing for M2M. In short, it is suggested that the license-free sub-GHz frequency bands to be the most promising for IoT applications, however, provisions for operation in current sub-GHz cellular bands have to be made.

Sigfox Pros and Cons

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Internet of Things Wireless Connectivity Option Analysis: Sigfox

PROS and CONS

Sigfox intends to deploy a managed network, much like a cellular network, dedicated to the IoT. Sigfox uses sub-GHz frequency bands and claims that it achieves long-range communication by relying on a very low data rate of 100 bps, approximately 100 to 1,000 times less than the other IoT technologies discussed so far. Such a low data rate results in great sensitivity, which allows for long-range communication of multiple kilometers, provided there is no interference at all. Like LORA, Sigfox faces constant criticism regarding its theoretical vs actual range performance. Its actual performance substantially worse than the theoretical marketing numbers use to attract LPWAN  enthusiasts. Although a managed IoT network is a viable approach to a number of IoT applications, the current Sigfox technology has several shortcomings that make it not suitable for the widespread IoT applications.

Sigfox does not employ any collision-avoidance techniques. Consequently, Sigfox technology is put under stringent transmit power, and in Europe duty cycle, limitations by not being able to transmit more than 1% of the time. Stricter regulation in Japan enforces power spectral density limitations, essentially making ultra-narrowband inapplicable.

Sigfox’s 100 bps data rate is not practical for regular GMSK modulation. This translates into a 2 seconds transmission time for a mere 12 bytes of payload. Because of the ultra-narrowband requirement, it also mandates the use of a very precise crystal, like Temperature-Compensated TCXOs, which are more expensive than regular 20ppm crystals. Besides, such narrowband transmission is the worst type of interferer for other systems. A single Sigfox device could already interfere with any wideband system. If you consider thousands of Sigfox devices, which do not implement any fair use, collision avoidance and Listen Before Talk mechanisms.

The narrow band also makes it difficult to recover the data from the base station as the result of frequency error. Current Sigfox deployments are only one-way. Enabling two-way communication is quite challenging if possible at all. One-way communication means no acknowledgement. This means that an application can only achieve reliability by retransmitting the same data many times in case the applications did not receive it in the first place. Always transmitting 3 times, for instance, directly translates in a 3x power consumption increase, which is very inefficient for resource-constrained devices.

Relying on high sensitivity, i.e., low received power, to achieve communication in a shared frequency band is most likely bound to cause reliability issues. Although Sigfox system can theoretically achieve km range, in practice any legal and regulation-compliant system using the same spectrum and that are deployed nearby a Sigfox device, or even worse a Sigfox base station, may be enough to jam the Sigfox network.

Sigfox’s data rate is so low that even sending the smallest of data, for instance 10 bytes of information, requires a transmission time of about 10 seconds. This means the probability of collision with other devices is increased. In addition, the power consumption is high as the transmitter consumes roughly the same whether it operates at 10 bps or 100 kbps, but it has to be on for 1,000x longer, resulting in 1,000x higher energy consumed.

Such a low data rate and long packet duration, several seconds compared to typically milliseconds, make Sigfox extremely sensitive to frequency inaccuracy and interference. In particular, mobility is almost impossible, and experiments have shown that communication is unreliable over 6 km/h pedestrian speed, and may have issues with the speeds of cycling or running.

In short, Sigfox would not be a feasible IoT protocol for fast-moving and resource-constrained IoT devices that need to communicate at high data rates.

Fostar unveils wireless camera for home

Wireless Surveillance Camera – but lacks the battery life to make it truly “wireless”

AveAsia

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Fostar unveils its latest home surveillance camera. The FC2501P is a 1.3 megapixel indoor PT wireless IP camera. Private mould by Fostar, the camera boasts the following features:

1.HD quality image– with display resolution 1280*960, the HD image offers detail and high quality view.
2.EZLink for easy connection–the new and fast way EZLink helps to connect the camera with just 3 steps via free App.
3.PT– the pan: 355°and tilt: 120°provide full angle and clear view to users.
4.PIR — advanced Passive Infrared PIR ensures accuracy of alarm.
5.I/O port– external I/O port for various alert devices, e.g. infrared sensor, door magnetic, fog sensor, etc.
Besides, FC2501P also supports night vision up to 8m, two-way audio and Micro SD card storage.

(Fostar)

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The internet of things is revolutionising the world of sport

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By Stephen Pritchard

Each game in this year’s Six Nations championship will produce two million rows of data, equivalent to more than 1,400 actions (tries, conversions, tackles, passes and so on) per game. This data will be fed to broadcasters, fans (via the official Six Nations app among other channels) and to coaches who can and will use the information to improve player performance.

The idea of capturing data during a sporting event is not new but the richness of the data now available and the speed at which it is gathered certainly is.

In the 1950s Charles Reep, an RAF officer and accountant, pioneered the idea of data capture in sport. While watching football matches he created a system of paper notation to record players’ moves. It took him three months to wade through the data produced by the 1958 World Cup final.

Reep’s work is not without controversy: among other things, he is credited with driving English football managers’ fondness for the long-ball game. But there is no doubt that his work and the system of notational analysis he patented has changed the way teams play sport and how fans now watch them.

Reep, of course, only had the most basic tools available to study a match: his eyes, a notepad and a pencil. It was only in the 1990s that football, rugby and a raft of other professional sporting clubs started to install cameras which enabled match-play monitoring.

The move to digital cameras, that can capture much better pictures and transfer far more information, is even more recent.

Over the last few years, clubs have started to marry up information from their cameras and video screens with other sources of data, especially information from GPS (global positioning system) satellites and accelerometers worn by players.

“We are seeing the convergence of health and lifestyle technology,” says Mark Skilton at PA Consulting. “You can wear a sensor in your shirt, on your wrist, shoe or raquet; we’re even seeing sensors in golf clubs to monitor players’ swings using kinetic real-time feedback.”

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But the way sports are layering these different technologies together is changing coaching, the way fans view sports and even how sports clubs are run. A variety of applications now mean the keen fan can see not just how their team performed but which players were most influential in the game. Any fan with a WiFi connection and a tablet device now has, in effect, a coach’s eye view of the game.

In Reep’s day, sports analysts had no choice but to go through their notes after the game. Even the first-generation video coaching aids required back-room staff to watch hours of footage in order to pick out the key parts of the game to show players. Now, because of digital technology, access to all this information is as good as instant.

Sports are benefiting too from off-the-pitch technologies making it easier to capture and share information.

The development of ubiquitous networks of connected sensors and communications, known as the internet of things, is giving rise to intelligent buildings. Sports venues are no exception and teams and sports scientists can piggyback on this intelligence to share rich data.

Technology company Cisco is heavily involved in smart buildings but also has a project called the Connected Athlete.

The Connected Athlete takes data from sensors, for example in a shoe or boot, and then connects that up to the stadium’s WiFi network or even a low-powered cellular phone transmitter so that teams can monitor it. But because the internet of things allows the athlete’s sensors to connect to other networks, it can be shared with fans and broadcasters too.

Much of the power of the internet of things in sports, relies on the idea of a “smart building” to tie together existing technology resources. These include WiFi, sensors including intruder alarms, door entry systems, thermostats and smart meters, digital displays and even electronic ticketing.

In this way, building owners and building management software know where people are, what they are doing and how much energy they are using.

From a business perspective, such data becomes very valuable when it comes to cutting the running costs of large buildings, but they bring benefits too in public safety and security.

Coupling a smart building with digital signage allows building managers to give visitors up to date information, and redirect people away from busy areas to where queues are shorter.

Already being used to ease congestion at airports, an intelligent building system can direct people to the least busy turnstile or bar, or even where the toilet queues are shortest. Signs can direct the public in an emergency, but the rest of the time they can show match information, player statistics or even special offers.

A proof of concept by Accenture (who sponsor this series), goes a step further. Trialled at Twickenham during the Six Nations, their technology combines a wireless headset with the Six Nations app and information cards created by an expert curator showing data from critical points in a game.

Hooked up to the Wi-Fi network, according to Ben Salama, UK and Ireland managing director of Accenture Mobility, the tech could be extended into areas as diverse as catering. “You could see half time scores from other games,” he says, “but also to order drinks to be delivered to your seat without missing any of the game.” This, he says, is one way for sporting venues to increase their revenues.

There is still some way to go before such gadgets become mainstream at sporting events. Cost is one barrier. Others include connectivity and battery life.

Accenture admits that most UK stadiums lack a powerful enough WiFi system to support a truly connected experience; the firm had to build a new network at Twickenham for its proof of concept.

Manufacturers also say more needs to be done to allow devices to stream more data and to last for a match, or beyond, on a single battery charge.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to reduce power consumption the technology consumes,” says Sujata Neidig, director of business development for consumer technology at Freescale, a microchip maker. “And we are also looking at wireless charging.” That way, fans can focus on the game rather than hunting for a power socket.