In IoT technology, the application determines the choices

IoT solutions are rapidly growing more popular. The technology offers opportunities from remote surgeries to managing office conditions. Tampere-based IGL-Technologies utilizes LTE-M technology to manage car charging posts – why did the company end up with this solution and what should anyone interested in IoT solutions know about choosing the right technology?

Alexander Ivainen, CEO of IGL-Technologies, got his business idea from his studies. Ivaine, who studied automation at Tampere University of Technology, had become familiar with various network solutions through his studies. Looking out the school window at the car heating poles in the yard, he began to think about solutions for remotely controlling them - and that's where the idea started.

Today, IGL-Technologies produces parking management solutions that include booking a parking space, paying for street parking, and controlling charging posts for electric cars. The control of charging posts requires a secure and as low-latency network as possible, and one that works even in difficult conditions, such as underground or far from cities. To guarantee reliable connections, the company is about to switch to an LTE-M network.

Low-power and far-reaching networks

The LTE-M network is one of many mobile network connection systems developed specifically for IoT applications. LTE-M is part of a family of LPWAN networks, or Low-Power Wide Area Network. As the name suggests, LPWAN consumes little power and works even over long distances.

"Before the LTE-M connection, we also tried other LPWAN alternatives, such as NB-IoT and Sigfox. However, we decided to choose LTE-M because we aim for the shortest possible latency, i.e. real-time use," Ivaine says.

There are several different types of LPWAN technologies, including LTE-M, NB-IoT, Sigfox, LoRa, Symphony Link, and Weightless. At the core of this technology is to provide IoT devices with more than ten years of battery life and a functioning connection. The idea is not to transfer a massive amount of data quickly at once, but to send small amounts of data less frequently and more reliably. In this way, even devices that are not plugged in have a long life cycle and service interval.

Three tips for deployment

When implementing IoT solutions, you should first pay attention to the application: how much data do you want to transmit, where the data goes, whether latency is important, whether battery life is critical, or does the solution need a global connection. For example, in the case of charging posts, the aim is to minimise the latency, while in long-term monitoring of indoor air at the office, latency is less significant. In other words, in this technology, the application determines the type of connection you should get.

"When our customer needs a charging post, they want to connect to it right away, and not just seconds later. LTE-M met our demands, while with Sigfox, for example, the latency became too long. In addition, our connection must operate in underground parking garages and in rural areas, which resulted in certain additional requirements for the technology," Ivaine describes.

Secondly, it is worth to consider the timing, as technologies are constantly evolving. At the moment, LTE-M and NB-IoT are good choices, as they operate globally in many applications. 5G is also entering the world of IoT, and although 4G is still quite adequate for many applications, the situation may change over time as the requirements evolve. It is important that the provided service works flawlessly both today and tomorrow.

As a third tip, it's a good idea to map out potential partners. You don't need to waste time reinventing the wheel. Often, telecom operators offer many kinds of help for IoT deployment from brainstorming to maintaining connections. Doing everything yourself does not always save money or time, as the deployment of new technologies often involves a lot of learning-by-doing and surprising twists and turns. When the operator does the deployment, it is backed up by all the know-how and experience they have gathered during the years.


Want to learn more about LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies? Download our free Diving Deep with IoT webinar!