Unlicensed IoT is really threatening mobile operators’ LPWAN future

15 Jun 2018

Image: MicroOne/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, a report finds that in the battle for LPWAN, mobile operators face being left in the dust by private companies building their own networks from scratch.

We learned a little more about Ireland’s hunger for everything related to the internet of things (IoT) after the latest ComReg report for the first quarter of 2018 showed that the technology continues to march on.

According to its findings, machine-to-machine (M2M) subscriptions increased to 881,540, a 24.6pc annual increase, and made up 14.6pc of all mobile subscriptions in Q1 2018.

Future Human

Now equating to almost 15pc of all mobile subscriptions in Ireland, IoT connections are mostly controlled by Vodafone, which has just under 50pc of the market share, followed by Three (48.1pc) and Eir (2.6pc).

NB-IoT and LTE-M under threat from private networks

Low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) are a battleground right now, not just involving major telecoms companies and mobile operators, but a number of new players eager to bypass the traditional networks.

Now, a report from ABI Research claims that the latter is already outstripping the established network types such as narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M.

The figures showed that LPWAN providers, such as the European provider Sigfox, accounted for a whopping 93pc of connections in 2017.

One of Sigfox’s biggest competitors, LoRa, has also shown a significant increase in demand for its LoRaWAN service with 54pc year-on-year growth, largely attributed to its exponential growth in China where 40 cities have deployed its smart meters.

Meanwhile, across both cellular and non-cellular networks, connections are expected to grow globally at 53pc each year until 2023, driven by market growth in smart meters and asset trackers.

IoT connections to hit 50bn by 2022

Meanwhile, over at Juniper Research, analysts now estimate that the total number of IoT connections will exceed 50bn by 2022, up from an estimated 21bn in 2018.

The new research found that this growth, equivalent to 140pc over the next four years, will be driven by services moving data processing more locally and away from the cloud (edge computing), increasing both deployment scalability and security.

It added that a substantial proportion of the estimated 46bn industrial and enterprise devices connected in 2023 will rely on edge computing.

The report also believes that consortium-run blockchains or similar distributed ledger technologies, such as Iota, will play an important role in delivering future IoT events or payment transaction management.

As for who is leading the rankings in industry vendors, the authors put IBM as a global frontrunner, followed in order by Microsoft, Intel, Bosch and Nokia.

Volvo agrees deal to buy latest laser sensors for autonomous cars

A US-based start-up called Luminar has just signed a lucrative deal with Volvo to provide the car manufacturer with its latest LiDAR sensing platform for autonomous vehicles.

Over the past year, Luminar created 3D LiDAR data infrastructure, labelling and annotation tools to make sense of the data being produced by its sensors. It believes it can provide Volvo with better-than-human perception capabilities of up to 250 metres into the distance while driving.

“Volvo is at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development and their safety-centric approach to autonomy is directly aligned with our sensing capabilities,” said Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell.

“Our LiDAR is the first to deliver the necessary performance to enable safe and reliable long-range perception, which is required to unlock their goals of autonomy at highway speeds.”

Volvo is now the fourth car manufacturer to partner with the start-up, which only last year came out of stealth and has so far raised $36m in funding.

Google Home can now manage multiple commands

Moving towards the consumer end of things, Google has started to roll out stacked commands for its Google Home personal assistant device in the US.

According to The Verge, this means that you can now ask three commands in a row.

So, instead of having to labour through each question slowly, you could ask Google Assistant about the weather in three different locations at the same time if you’re planning a big trip.

So far, it seems to only be available to English speakers in the US, but there are plans on rolling it out to other languages and likely to other countries as well in the months ahead.

Updated, 10.45am, 18 June 2018: This article was amended to clarify that Sigfox is not a private network provider. 

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic