Recently analyst group Transforma Insights predicted global LPWA connections will grow from 220 million in 2019 to 4 billion in 2030. Transforma estimates that almost two-thirds of these devices will use 5G mMTC (massive Machine-Type Communications), otherwise known as NB-IoT and LTE connectivity, operated on licensed spectrums by multinational telecoms.
The highest adoption rates are expected in China, Europe, and North America, with gas, water, and electrical metering representing the lion’s share of deployments.
Transforma founding partner, Matt Hatton, in his 2020 book, The Internet of Things Myth, called predictions of 50 billion devices by 2020 ridiculous, calling attention to existing challenges:
1. “Connectivity is the most important underpinning technology area for IoT… there is no standard for connecting distributed IoT devices.”
2. “Technology immaturity and fragmentation continued to create problems…enterprise adopters need a ‘systems-first’ approach to deploying IoT while giving ample consideration to the commercial and operational changes implicit in adopting new technology.”
He was right, but the data and operational benefits these deployments provide are so obvious the market is working hard to find solutions.
Global Connectivity is Strategic
There are different LPWA technologies—each unique. No doubt, the future holds an interesting mix of LPWA networks. Still, smart meter deployments with decade-plus lifecycles are significant, strategic investments. Our customers, risk-averse corporations, find NB-IoT best meets strategic concerns.
What are the key issues:
- Risk —Smart meters are built around a single LPWA technology. NB-IoT, a 3GPP standard, backed by telecoms with diversified business models, are the likeliest to survive this hyper-competitive landscape. Who wants to be the company that invested in a defunct offering?
- Global economies of scale —The Java programming language’s mantra in the ’90s was “write once, run anywhere”. With NB-IoT, we could say, “build once, deploy everywhere”. A smart meter designed in Sweden, built-in China, can be shipped anywhere in the world and connected in minutes. Speaking of China, ABI Research estimates, NB-IoT modules, mostly built in China, the building blocks of smart devices, will drop in price to $1.98 by 2024.
- Openness, pricing, and roaming —Australia, like most markets, has several NB-IoT networks with flexible, downward trending, transparent, subscription-based pricing. Roaming progress between carriers has been too slow, but does anyone doubt telecoms won’t address roaming?
Choosing an LPWA for smart metering means asking the following questions:
1. Does it meet the solution’s technical needs?
2. Does it support business strategy?
3. How confident are we the network will be there in 15 years?
Respected analyst Gartner highlighted these issues recently, saying in their June 2020 report Hype Cycle for IoT Standards and Protocols, “Investing in NB-IoT is a low-risk strategy…prioritize 3GPP variants, such as NB-IoT, if available.”
Enter Lightweight M2M
NB-IoT’s three-headed argument of common-sense, convenience and choice is difficult to ignore, but smart meter solutions benefit from another global standard. The Open Mobile Alliance’s (OMA) Lightweight M2M 1.1 device management standard.
OMA SpecWorks board members composed of ARM, AT&T, Ericsson, IoTerop, Itron, T-Mobile, and Qualcomm have worked tirelessly honing LwM2M 1.1’s specifications. It is now the most complete, open, standardized device management framework for massive IoT deployments.
Remember, we are talking about massive numbers of remote, constrained objects. What happens when a device behaves atypically? Can it be rebooted? Isolated? Can the security credentials be replaced? What about providing critical firmware updates? This types of functionality, requiring exacting forethought and optimization, are critical to building battery-operated smart meter solutions with lifespans of ten plus years.
Transforma’s Matt Hatton suggests IoT, due to all these challenges, requires a “systems-first” approach. For a growing number of organizations, LwM2M 1.1 is a strategic choice with undeniable logic:
- Efficiency —The core services, including data transport, security, connectivity, and device management, are complete and optimized for energy-efficiency.
- Completeness —The LwM2M contributor ecosystem comprises telecoms with rich operational experience, network infrastructure companies, and the third group with deep embedded engineering knowledge. LwM2M does everything from secure device commissioning to over-the-air updates to decommissioning with just a few mouse clicks.
- Openness —Adherence to the LwM2M standard ensures organizations have an integrated change management strategy. Deployment lifespans make interoperability a strategic necessity. What happens when a component is no longer available? Or a supplier is sold? Adaptability ensures economic sustainability.
The market is taking notice.
In a recent IoTerop webinar on Smart Water Meter adoption in Australia using NB-IoT, David Roe of smart meter solution provider EDMI said, “LwM2M 1.1 is critical to our go-to-market strategy…LwM2M 1.1 provides the perfect, implementable, open solution to build NB-IoT solutions rapidly.”
Gartner stated in the previously mentioned report, “LwM2M simplifies and unifies application and product development…NB-IoT is an ideal use case for Lightweight M2M.”
Combining LwM2M 1.1 and NB-IoT offers businesses a sustainable smart meter strategy.
To learn more
Get IoTerop’s most recent webinar, Smart Water Meter adoption in Australia using NB-IoT to see how global standards support smart meter adoption.