Insights / NarrowBand IoT


M2M communication: e.g. Smart Cities and the Industrial Internet

More and more things are being fitted out with M2M solutions and thereby made usable in a new way. Learn more about different key topics within M2M communication like Smart Cities or the Industrial Internet.



Narrowband IoT – A new M2M standard for the Internet of Things

Smart City

NB-IoT is a new standardized cellular technology running on existing operator networks, optimized to enable the Internet of Things. With its unique capabilities it allows for a large number of low cost, low power devices with deep indoor penetration.

The radio technology Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is one of the most promising innovations in M2M communication for the Internet of Things. NB-IoT as a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology with low power requirements, wide area coverage and deep indoor penetration provides a low cost solution for the narrowband Internet of Things. In five years, market researchers from Strategy Analytics anticipate five billion LPWA connections worldwide.

Standardized operation in existing networks

NB-IoT is designed for use where conventional M2M channels such as mobile networks, DSL, WLAN or Bluetooth are uneconomical or simply do not meet the requirements of the application (e.g. deep indoor penetration). The solution can be operated in existing operator networks. Based on 3GPP standards and therefore operating in licensed spectrum, it ensures stability, reliability, and security in the future.

Low power consumption, strong propagation, low device unit costs

Low power consumption and wide area coverage are two of the core features of an NB-IoT network. To fulfill these requirements M2M modules are required to function independently of an external power supply. In addition, very strong propagation is needed to enable signals to penetrate into cellars or channels. As they mostly transmit only small amounts of data, and often do so only once an hour or day, these NB-IoT modules run on a single standard AA battery for ten years and more, working unattended throughout. With material costs of less than five dollars per module, using an M2M network is profitable for small and midrange businesses too. The potential uses are many and varied:

Smart Metering: NB-IoT for gas and water meters

One of the most suitable uses for NB-IoT is Smart Metering: Gas and water meters, unlike smart electricity meters, are not connected to the electricity supply and are also often located in cellars where conventional mobile network connections are usually either weak or non-existent. Battery-powered NB-IoT modules need no power connection, deliver deep indoor penetration, and thereby establish a reliable connection even in areas where mobile reception is poor. The provider is able to read the meter remotely and the end customer does not have to stay at home in order to wait for the meter reader to come by.

Smart Cities: Connecting street lights and parking spaces

In smart cities, NB-IoT technology is conceivable for use in street lighting, for example. Lamp posts fitted with appropriate modules can be switched on and off or dimmed remotely and trigger an alarm if they malfunction. If a city connects its parking spaces by NB-IoT, better use is made of free capacities. Motorists are directed by a smart parking guidance system of this kind to the nearest free parking space by the shortest route. In waste disposal, garbage cans fitted with NB-IoT modules alert a control center when they are full. As a consequence, waste disposal companies can optimize vehicle routes and reduce costs.

Transport & logistics: Container tracking and refillable tanks

In transportation and logistics very little information is often needed in very small data packets, and transmission does not even have to be in real time. So NB-IoT is a suitable low-cost solution. In container tracking, for instance, hourly notification of the container’s location is all that is required. In the case of refillable tanks or bottles, providers of industrial liquids or gases monitor levels, pressure and temperature as required. Railroad operators locate freight cars by NB-IoT.

Industry: NB-IoT on pallets and pipelines

There are industrial M2M uses for NB-IoT too, especially when the use of WLAN equipment for close-range transmission is not worthwhile. In warehouses, goods can be located and tracked if the pallet is equipped with an NB-IoT module. The result of this Industrial Internet solution is a more efficient warehouse management. In order to monitor oil and gas pipelines, sensors relay important information about pressure, flow rate or possible leaks. There is often no external power source for pipelines in inaccessible areas. Here too, NB-IoT is a contender because the modules have a long service life, require no maintenance and have a 20 decibel wider range than conventional mobile network connections.

Farming and forestry: Monitoring livestock 

NB-IoT technology is also suitable for agricultural use where there is no power supply or network coverage is poor. In irrigation of fields or plantations tank levels, pump pressure and flow rates are measured. The location and health of livestock can also be monitored, thereby preventing inter alia the spread of diseases. In forestry, low-cost sensors can be distributed in large numbers in the woods to report information such as temperature, smoke development or wind direction.

Consumer Electronics: NB-IoT for tracking

NB-IoT is suitable for locating pets or valuables. In order to not lose sight of a pet or an expensive bike, an NB-IoT module can be a low-cost alternative to a GSM tracker.

These examples prove that there is a strong demand for future-safe, reliable technologies like Narrowband IoT and that a new market with new business models is opening up for business enterprises.

A new standard for the Internet of Things

In cooperation with the GSMA, the global industry association of mobile network operators, and the standardization body 3GPP, Deutsche Telekom took development of NB-IoT technology forward. In September 2015, the 3GPP members agreed on basic NB-IoT specifications for existing GSM and LTE networks. Standardization of the new technology was finalized by the 3GPP in June 2016.

“Our concern is with the introduction of cellular Internet of Things solutions based not on proprietary but on global standards.” (Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO Deutsche Telekom AG)

Jointly with the Chinese network supplier Huawei, Deutsche Telekom became the world’s first network operator to carry out a successful NB-IoT trial in its mobile network. The first application, a fully up-and-running commercial Narrowband IoT smart parking system with parking sensors built into each parking space, communicates with motorists via an app that directs them to available parking spaces. Now Telekom has launched the first end-to-end Narrowband IoT network worldwide in Germany, Greece and the Netherlands.

Tags: Low Power Wide Area / LPWA , Narrowband IoT / NB-IoT , Smart Cities , Smart Metering