While the din around the coming promise of 5G was unmistakable at this year’s Mobile World Congress, there was also plenty of buzz around the IoT—and, for the most part, the talk was much more grounded in reality. While 5G is all about the “big pipe,” IoT is much more about the small sensors that, when used together as part of an IoT solution, can deliver big results for organizations.
After a week at the show, I walked away with three impressions about the IoT market as it stands today:
- Mobile operators are getting real about IoT. In his presentation at the IoT Mobile Summit, Cameron Coursey, vice president of product development-IoT Solutions at AT&T, announced the carrier has 53 million “things” connected via its network. With that scale, it’s easy to now see how quickly IoT devices will outpace the number of handset customers carriers like AT&T have by orders of magnitude. IoT has matured considerably in the last year. It’s no longer a solution looking for a problem, it’s here, and it’s here at scale. And this year’s MWC show floor makes it clear, it’s here on a global scale.
- NB-IoT will enable carriers to scale even more quickly. A significant portion of the GSMA’s booth focused of NB-IoT. Narrowband IoT is an LTE-based Low Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technology that delivers IoT connectivity over cellular networks. And that means mobility and near-ubiquity, among NB-IoT’s other benefits.
We had conversations with carriers from all over the world about how they can utilize NB-IoT for many of their business-critical applications. Asset tracking is an obvious one, and where most conversations start, but then they quickly evolved to include applications beyond tracking, including environmental monitoring, smart cities, smart metering, facilities management and hundreds of other applications. LTE-M has already been rolled out, but it is just a step along the way to a more robust carrier offering both LTE-M and NB-IoT.
- LoRa was well-represented as well. When it comes to low-power IoT, LoRa is always in the conversation, and MWC was no different (while ironically, at least at this year’s show, Sigfox’s presence was virtually nonexistent). The LoRa Alliance celebrated its 100th network operator that has deployed and operated a LoRaWAN network and showcased the global nature of IoT, as well as its ability to enable fast time to revenue.
At Longview, we see LoRa and NB-IoT working together to deliver to customers the comprehensive solutions that help them best meet their business goals. That might be LoRa in some cases, NB-IoT in others, or a combination of the two. In the oil & gas industry, for example, LoRa can be used to track contractor equipment onsite, and NB-IoT for vehicles or rail cars as they move offsite.
Perhaps the best IoT moment happened well away from the show floor. A knock on the door alerted us that the hotel room’s bathroom toilet was “running,” meaning water was being wasted. Sensors on the toilet alerted the maintenance staff to the issue, proving that the IoT really is everywhere!