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Sep 07 2016

How to be smart about connectivity for smart cities

Twitter: @nokianetworks

What do you do on your mobile phone? Browse the Internet? Check your email, play a game or two, run some apps, watch some YouTube videos, perhaps some mobile banking not to mention old-fashioned voice calls and SMS messages. Mobile comms are versatile, right? Yet networks cope with all these activities using only two or three access technologies – 2G, 3G and 4G. In fact, LTE alone could handle all our needs.

This utopia of universal access is about to change. The diversity of human usage is but a tiny fraction of the vast galaxy of applications that the Internet of Things (IoT) will bring.

There are straightforward use cases - smart utility metering, intelligent waste management, delivery by drones and so on. There will be highly advanced applications – autonomous vehicles, electricity grid control, remotely controlled surgery. From making our lives more convenient to life or death applications, the range of use cases will be almost limitless.

Smart Cities are a leading area, with countless IoT applications and services. From reduced traffic congestion by helping drivers to find empty parking spaces, to connecting cars to traffic light control to improve driving safety, to linking the control of street lighting to traffic movements to save energy, the Smart City will transform urban living.

Near-zero latency will be vital for some uses, while others will tolerate considerable delay. Some applications will send and receive large amounts of data – high bandwidth will be essential. Others will have different mobility demands and varying reliability needs.

As much as people might wish to be able to deploy one type of access for all these IoT use cases, that’s simply not feasible, either technically or commercially , at least until the vision of 5G fully virtualized networks becomes reality.

Which access technology for what use?

Instead, first movers can establish competitive advantage in the IoT space by comprehensively evaluating and selecting the right fit access technologies to efficiently address the specific requirements of different IoT use cases.

Access technologies for IoT connectivity extend from the tried and trusted  2G, 3G and unlicenced technologies to more specialized licenced options such as EC-GSM (Extended Coverage GSM), NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT) and LTE-M (LTE-Machine). All these have specific characteristics and advantages. For example, NB-IoT offers 20 dB extended coverage compared to LTE Rel 8, ideal for reaching sensors, tracking and metering devices at remote locations or within building basements. With downlink data rates up to 26 kb/s and uplink data rates up to 62 kb/s, NB-IoT is optimized for low-data volume metering, control, tracking and sensor devices.

By contrast, LTE-M offers both downlink and uplink data rates up to 1 Mb/s as well as 12 dB greater coverage compared to LTE, making it ideal for medium data volume things such as spectroscopy, cameras, displays and applications involving human interaction.

The choice of which connectivity technology to use depends on the business model and application. For example, say you want to build a business around a tracking service. You know that the “things” which you are offering to track can move to remote rural or deep indoor locations. If you chose the connectivity with inadequate coverage for your application, how will you explain to your clients that at some locations, you have no clue where the “things” are?

Choosing the right technology can vastly improve the performance of IoT applications too, including up to seven times better coverage, a reduction in the complexity of IoT devices by 85 percent and a battery life of around 10 years using only two AA batteries.

IoT will also depend critically on networks being interoperable. Silos won't work. Smart City networks must be able to access and use data with the right security and privacy for the many IoT uses involved. For this to happen, the right connectivity solutions must be used.

Pick use case, set parameters, choose network

How do you get it right? The first step is to decide the uses cases and then set the technical parameters of the access that will be needed. Then it’s a matter of selecting the right network infrastructure and operational processes to satisfy the business case. Nokia can help – we provide the expertise to design, integrate and customize connectivity, management, platform and application layers, allowing you to meet the specific needs of different vertical industries.

Services play a critical role in the IoT life cycle. Nokia’s approach to IoT encompasses an entire ecosystem of consulting, connectivity, security, device and application partners. The aim is to help operators and enterprises connect the technology dots. From consulting to operations, we help operators plan, enable and manage the most efficient multivendor networks for IoT, while assuring service reliability backed by committed Service Level Agreements.

Smart city progress @ M1, Nedaa and Zain KSA

Here are a few examples of operators adopting this approach in support of Smart city progress:. M1 and Nokia just announced Singapore’s first nationwide commercial NB-IoT deployment for developing innovative smart nation services that improve citizens’ lives and make businesses more productive. In Dubai, the Government Security network operator Nedaa is applying IoT technologies for emergency services, e-government, transportation and healthcare. Meanwhile, Zain KSA is transforming Jeddah into a smart city by 2018 with IoT and cloud services connecting and managing a wide array of devices, vehicles, homes and applications.

The IoT has arrived. Let’s make the right connectivity choices together to build smarter and safer cities.

Visit our website for more on IoT for service providers.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #IoT #connectivity

About Adolfo Masini

As head of IoT Connectivity Nokia, Adolfo is responsible for the overall strategic direction and market introduction of end to end IoT mobile connectivity solutions. With over 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, he’s spent most of it providing infrastructure systems solutions to wireless, wireline and CATV service providers worldwide.