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Cellular Technologies Enabling the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is about connecting things. When the remotest of the things lie beyond the reach of WIFI networks (for example, trees in the Amazon forest), cellular technologies can provide a viable communications infrastructure. To this end, 4G Americas, a telecommunications industry trade organization, has published a new white paper (PDF) titled "Cellular Technologies Enabling the Internet of Things." The press release cites the progress the wireless industry is making "in facilitating the Cellular Internet of Things (CIoT) standard," and describes the white paper as exploring "the key considerations for developing an end-to-end CIoT solution."

In addition to presenting the state of wireless technology as it relates to the Internet of Things, the 65-page paper talks about CIoT standards development that is ongoing through the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). Intel's Roa Yallapragada, a co-leader of the team that authored the paper, said, "To address the Cellular Internet of Things opportunity, the global standards organization, 3GPP, is defining progressive IoT technology refinements that occur over multiple 3GPP Releases to insure the reduction of complexity and power consumption to address the needs of varied use cases."

The executive summary begins by describing the reasoning behind the white paper's genesis:

This white paper presents the key considerations for developing an end-to-end Cellular Internet of Things (CIoT) solution. The IoT is a network of physical objects, machines, people and other devices to enable connectivity and communications to exchange data for intelligent applications and services to be developed. The devices consist of smartphones, tablets, consumer electronics, vehicles, motors and sensors capable of IoT communications. Numerous market analyses and predictions indicate that the field of IoT is expected to bring a revolution of tremendous growth opportunities with millions of new end-point and gateway (GW) devices, innovative network infrastructures and new sets of enablement protocols/technologies and exciting applications.

The white paper's core is six detailed sections:

  • "IoT Market Drivers" describes the evolution from machine-to-machine (M2M) to IoT, IoT market drivers and sizing, and concludes with an example of the IoT market for the United States;
  • "Industry Verticals and IoT Use Cases" provides a list of 3GPP machine type communication (MTC) requirements and example MTC/IoT use cases for automotive, fleet management, wearables, and other cellular IoT verticals;
  • "Typical Functional Architecture and Commonly Used Protocols in IoT" focuses on hardware devices, networks, connectivity platforms, IoT protocols, and IoT security issues;
  • "Advancements in LTE for Machine Type Communication" covers the latest innovations and issues related to LTE (Long-Term Evolution, a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals), including MTC features, use cases, cost, and power management, and also categorizes current LTE MTC devices;
  • "Enablement of IoT Communications" presents possibilities whereby IoT platforms could utilize search engines to locate data sources and applications, interact with social media, and apply policy-driven communications (to prevent network overloads and other potential problems);
  • "IoT Standards Development" describes current efforts by industry standards organizations including 3GPP, the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), the GSM Association, and oneM2M.


The paper concludes:

The emerging 5th generation technologies are expected to address the upcoming future of an even further interconnected world with more sophisticated use cases. The era of massive IoT communications is dawning, where emerging use cases include remote control of door locks and street lights, road sensors for smarter traffic management, tactile and sensory feedback applications.

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