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Four reasons why NB-IoT is the enabler of mass IoT apps and tracking

Everyone understands the need to track and trace and tracking was one of the first apps that kick-started the M2M industry at scale about two decades ago. It now encompasses everything from routine shipments to monitoring of high value equipment and has even further proved its worth in the pandemic, enabling tracking of essential shipments and cold chain logistics for vaccines.

With narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) now rolling out across the world, the technology is powering tracking applications for the mass-market, bringing new capabilities and functions to tracking and opening up new markets and use cases. Four essential attributes of NB-IoT, in addition to the fundamental ability of throughput, were discussed in a recent Quectel webinar on the subject and are detailed below.

1. Cost efficiency

NB-IoT offers the potential to enable tracking, tracing and other IoT apps at very low price points. In the webinar, Gulay Kurt, the IoT product manager at Verizon Business, pointed out that enormous growth in NB-IoT connections is expects, with ABI Research projecting one billion connections in 2025. A key reason for this is its cost. Kurt added that Verizon is looking to enable services that utilize modules that cost under US$4 with connectivity offered for US$1 a year. These numbers bear out the cost attractiveness of NB-IoT and will fuel the technology’s uptake.

2. Power consumption

Long battery life is essential for massive IoT devices with the duration a product can operate a foundation for profitable service provision. By utilizing chipsets that offer power saving mode functionality, battery life can be extended and meets the needs of applications that demand long in-service lives, said Vieri Vanghi, the vice president of product management at Qualcomm Europe. Vanghi added that a further benefit is enabling modules that can be made with an extremely limited bill of materials (BoM). This speeds up and simplifies device development and money saved in the development phase by minimizing BoM cost feeds directly through to eventual service profitability.

3. Real-time visibility

Traditional tracking was more of a system of record than a dynamic statement of current status. Systems used to very accurately tell you where a package was two hours ago or let you know retrospectively of issues such as high temperature or impact but modern supply chains demand real-time visibility into precisely where a shipment is or if a shipment has been delayed or spoiled. Venu Gutlapalli, the CEO of Tag N Trac, a specialist provider of tracking technology pointed out how NB-IoT can provide this real-time visibility while also enabling tracking capabilities in single use formats, for example as adhesive labels. This miniaturization of tracking capability has been utilized to monitor and track vaccine shipments in the pandemic and is being particularly useful for vaccines that demand tight temperature control in transit.

4. Mass IoT is a global market

IoT is part of the global economy so it’s essential that IoT modules are designed for the global market. Companies don’t want to have to select NB-IoT modules for multiple regions and nations so being able to select a global module reduces complexity and saves cost. Neset Yalcinkaya, the vice president of products at Quectel Wireless Solutions, explained that rich interfaces, low power and the availability of modules for the global market are enabling mass IoT. Kurt also added that Verizon is working to enable global roaming for its NB-IoT customers. The global ecosystem around NB-IoT is maturing as more regions gain in-depth coverage and this has the potential to further accelerate adoption.

These four points were just some of the topics covered in the recent Quectel-hosted webinar: How NB-IoT is enabling accurate mass market IoT apps and tracking. You can listen to the webinar here which also includes a lively Q&A with the four panellists.