IoT global round-up: China hits the road, 5G studies speed up

13 Jan 2017

Image: asharkyu/Shutterstock

The themes of 2017 will largely revolve around two or three key topics, with robotics, automated vehicles and internet of things (IoT) to the fore. But 5G sits above it all.

Last week, CES saw the release of what felt like a record number of smart devices, with connectivity and ‘smart’ added to everything and anything.

The real story was probably behind the scenes though, with partnerships between major telecoms companies.

The push towards 5G has ratcheted up in recent weeks, with 2017 signifying an immediate increase in research and projects.

In China, where some of the most exciting IoT projects are already underway, a connected car is nearing completion. However, the western world is not being left behind.

Las Vegas, for example, plays host to an interesting autonomous shuttle bus system for the coming days.

Here are some of the wider IoT stories that you might have missed during the early days of January.

Ericsson strikes deal with China Mobile

A big push towards connectivity in China is evident, with smart cities and IoT projects cropping up in cities from north to south. With that, China Mobile’s ‘big connectivity’ strategy has brought Ericsson into the fold.

The two companies want to start in-depth cooperation to manage connections efficiently, provide a consistent service to global enterprise customers and explore new IoT markets.

China Mobile will use Ericsson’s device connectivity platform to streamline the process for provisioning, as well as deploy services to capitalise on new business opportunities.

“China Mobile expects to have 200m IoT connections by 2017,” said Yuejia Sha, EVP of the company.

“We stick to the strategy of open cooperation with our partners for win-win results. China Mobile strengthens the collaboration with global leading enterprises of advanced platform, application and intelligent hardware to drive the rapid development of our industry, and provides superior applications and services to our customers.”

EU researches 5G capabilities

The EU Horizon 2020 initiative’s latest research project sees €5m put into Orca (Orchestration and Reconfiguration Control Architecture), a study on approaches to faster wireless internet speeds.

Running until the end of 2019, Orca takes in the Trinity College Dublin-based Connect Centre, alongside research groups in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the US.

“This research is urgent,” said Prof Luiz DaSilva, principal investigator at Connect. “The internet is already under immense pressure as it struggles to cope with user demand.  The growing popularity of internet television and on-demand video means wireless technology must find new ways of delivering much faster speeds.

“Until now, some of the leading ideas for the future of wireless internet have been examined only with theoretical simulations. This project will allow us to test these ideas experimentally.”

The project will support the EU’s ambitious connectivity plan that aims to offer download speeds of at least 100 Mbps to all households and make 5G commercially available by 2020 in all member states.

Dr Maice Costa, prof Luiz DaSilva and Dr Francisco Paisana of the Connect Centre at Trinity College. Image: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

From left: Dr Maice Costa, Prof Luiz DaSilva and Dr Francisco Paisana of the Connect Centre at TCD. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

China’s first ‘internet car’

Security company Gemalto is partnering with Banma Technologies to make the Roewe RX5, what the duo claim to be China’s first internet car. Banma is a partnership between Alibaba and SAIC Motor Corporation.

Alibaba put €150m into SAIC in 2015, with the former providing cloud computing, digital entertainment, maps and financial data to the project. “In the age of the internet economy, cross-boundary integration has become an inevitable trend,” SAIC said at the time. “The cars of the future must be internet-oriented.”

However, thoughts of a speedy release proved unfounded, with things finally kicking into gear in the early months of 2017.

The RX5 will utilise Gemalto’s security software, securing cellular M2M connections for industrial applications. The car will also feature “advanced telematics”, according to the manufacturers, with a Bluetooth virtual car key, smart locating of the vehicle, voice-command-enabled remote control of in-car functions, and real-time road condition alerts.

Electronic shuttle buses

Viva Las Vegas. The famous city in Nevada has revealed an autonomous shuttle bus service in conjunction with Navya, the company making the buses, and Keolis, a fleet logistics provider.

It began on Wednesday, on the back of a significant autonomous vehicle push at CES in the US, and will run as a pilot until 20 January. Interestingly, Navya’s ARMA shuttles are those being used, having proved operational already in France since 2015.

Far from an extensive bus route, the shuttles are largely operating in limited areas, but the live test is still notable. They can carry one dozen passengers, reaching nearly 30mph.

The cost to run the shuttles is estimated at $10,000 per month but, if it is structured in a way similar to New York City’s LinkNYC internet booths, then advertising could well finance the whole thing.

The smartest breast pump around

Reaching back into the throes of CES, a product emerged that caught us off guard. In the relentless pursuit to make everything and anything ‘smart’, a product called Willow has emerged in the last place you’d look: a bra.

The Willow is actually not the first attempt at improving on a breast pump, though it seems to be one of the more interesting.

The pumps look relatively discreet and, once the required pumping intensity is determined, it works away without the need for any more manual interaction.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic