IoT and the connectivity imperative

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As we continue ahead into the Internet of Things (IoT) and the predicted billions of connected devices, one vital element to consider is connectivity. The majority of users tend to take connectivity for granted, they just assume it will be there when needed, like flicking a light switch and knowing electricity will be there to power it or turning on a tap and knowing water will come out. But in IoT, connectivity is more nuanced than that.

IoT and the use case disparity

In IoT, there is no single use case; there are many ways connected devices are used, thousands of things they are used for, and all have different requirements. Some need low bandwidth, others need high bandwidth. There is also basic scale; some IoT use cases require national level connectivity, but an increasing number need international connectivity.

Some need heavy bandwidth, such as remote video monitoring, or entertainment in connected cars. There are indoor use cases versus outdoor, plus deep-indoor examples and even underground ones. Devices can be stationary such as in the case of gates, fixed cameras or machines in factories or range to high speed mobility examples like on trains or in cars. The variety of IoT connectivity use cases is huge.

The majority of IoT devices require much less bandwidth, such as applications like connected home surveillance or payment transactions. These are low data usage, low bandwidth use cases, but are nonetheless absolutely critical for the end-users – the risk here is a potential home security breach or revenue loss for a merchant – and as such require high reliability networks.

While IoT devices require connectivity it is a different connectivity to that required by simple ‘mobility’. While end-users change smartphones or tablets on a very regular basis, around every 18 to 24 months, IoT devices have much longer lifecycles – but customers still expect a high level of Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS).

The connected car is a good example. People rarely keep a new car for 10 years from the time they buy it, but it is still likely someone will still be using that car after 10 years. Car manufacturers know vehicles are going to have long lifecycles, so they embed IoT connectivity in the car at factory level, but they also need to know they can expect highly reliable, high QoS connectivity throughout the car’s life and in whatever country the car is shipped to. So they have to work with mobile operators to ensure that.

The importance of standards

Another use case which represents a growing portion of the market is low energy IoT devices. If your need is to remotely monitor water or gas, many of these smart meters must be located in places where they cannot simply be plugged into the electricity grid. Similar examples include parking sensors and smart building applications like devices that control temperature and humidity and energy efficiency. These all require a very low power, low data rate type of network that can give them connectivity – which makes standardization and interoperability vital.

To address the short-term need for low-power devices, Orange decided to launch a LoRa, a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) network in France, and works with the LoRa alliance to ensure interoperability with other participants and to develop the ecosystem. At the same time, Orange also invests heavily in standardization to ensure future standards, in particular in 4G, and to address IoT-specific requirements such as low-power and low-cost of devices, such as with LTE-M.

LTE-M is designed as a version of LTE that meets these low power, low data rate, long battery life needs of many IoT devices. 2G and 3G connectivity never had this kind of standardization, and we expect the LTE-M standard to gain momentum in 4G and IoT; it can help to make IoT devices as future-proofed as possible.

Coverage and local vs global thinking

Many customers appreciate the benefits of local relationships on projects, but for customers in the auto industry or healthcare or consumer electronics, IoT is seeing them go increasingly international. In IoT all that matters is that devices have connectivity, not what its phone number is or where its SIM comes from.

So in coverage terms, IoT is again different from traditional cellular. Because IoT devices can be located anywhere, coverage is vital and that is why Orange has invested in growing our footprint, working with roaming partners in over 200 territories to ensure our customers have connectivity, coverage and the high QoS they expect no matter where their IoT devices are deployed.

Security remains vital too

In IoT companies need to be confident that their connectivity is secure as well as reliable. Unsurprisingly, a regular discussion we have with customers is about cyber threats and the importance of security levels. In addition to the inherent security provided by the various communication networks, at Orange we recently created Orange Cyberdefense, a division dedicated to ensuring the utmost end-to-end security for all our customers, which also extends to IoT.

As IoT continues to grow, connectivity will continue to play a fundamental role; we must be able to connect devices at low power across large geographical areas, and at high throughput with low latency. IoT is the next great leap forward for the Internet and connectivity is the power that will drive it.

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To read more about how Orange is helping organizations of all sizes maximize the power of Internet of Things, please visit: http://www.orange-business.com/en/machine-to-machine

Fabrice Stevens

Fabrice Stevens leads the Orange France Internet of Things Business Unit, which provides IoT connectivity solutions, both cellular and LoRa, to companies from start-ups through to multinational corporations.

Since 2004, Fabrice has held various positions within the Orange Group, including R&D on network security, B2B marketing and business development, and Chief of Staff for the Mobile Enterprise Business Unit.

Fabrice holds an Engineering degree from Telecom Paris, France, and a Master of Science from the University of Illinois, US.