In the shadow of the global pandemic, the importance of the Internet of Things, or IoT, has become greater than ever before. At the same time, mobile networks have emerged as an IoT connection technology. Why has this happened, and how does the future look like?
Companies and society are highly dependent on logistics, i.e., supply chains of goods and their smooth operation. The world experienced this very concretely in March 2021, when a large container ship was stuck in the Suez Canal. The great importance of logistics has been gravely felt as a result of the corona pandemic.
“Right now, everyone is asking where the vaccines are. This has raised awareness of global supply chains. The online stores have also received a lot more attention. Everyone would like to know where the goods are moving, how they are moving and whether they will arrive on time. For this monitoring to be cost-effective, supply chains need to change. Not just in medical supplies, and not just in e-commerce, but in society at large," says Jelte Jansons, IoT Product Manager at Telenor Connexion. Telenor Group is the owner of DNA.
Jansons notes that change requires a digital transformation. He admits it sounds like a worn-out buzzword, but the change won’t happen without it. In practice, implementing change will require the effective implementation of IoT solutions. The Internet of Things, on the other hand, depends on working connectivity.
“Network connections may not be the driver for the IoT transformation itself, but they are crucial as infrastructure. If the infrastructure is not in place, the journey of the digital transformation will not be good,” Jansons emphasizes.
Mobile connections are unbeatable for IoT in logistics
In the past, it has often been thought that a local wireless LAN, or Wi-fi connectivity, is sufficient for the Internet of Things. Alternatively, connectivity has been based on short-range technologies such as Bluetooth or Zigbee, which is familiar to few. Then, which connection technology is best in terms of reliability and, at the same time, cost-effectiveness?
“Connectivity based on mobile networks is much easier to use than other technologies. Mobile networks represent a strictly standardized and globally available technology, and its development is predictable. When you choose mobile networks for IoT connectivity, you can focus on developing your own services instead of fixing the connections. At the same time, it will offer the advantage to bring your service up to a global scale,” says Jelte Jansons.
He points out that mobile networks inherently support mobility, which is crucial if an object is moving, as in logistics. With mobile connections it is not a problem if the object that needs to be tracked moves from one country or continent to another. Operator roaming largely covers the needs of the Internet of Things. Without mobile connections, it would not be possible to have fleet management, which is a popular IoT application.
“At Telenor, one recent example of a service that has switched to mobile connections, is an electric car charging service, which offers consumers charging stations in their own yard. The company originally used its customers' own Wi-fi for remote monitoring and control of the service. Dependence on Wi-fi caused constant problems when the connection was lost for various reasons. For example, users might buy a new Wi-fi router and forget that the charging station was connected to the old one.”
As consumers, we are accustomed to the need to charge mobile phones almost daily, and that normal mobile connections consume plenty of electricity. However, very low power LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies operating on 4G and 5G mobile networks have been developed for the needs of IoT. For example, DNA has an LTE-M network covering almost the entire area of Finland.
“IoT is a long-term game that requires very long lifecycles and large-scale implementations. Everything must be stable technically, commercially and legally. There is a great value in having connections that work for a long time, even ten years or longer,” Jansons describes.
Do you want to know more about the current state of the Internet of Things and communication technology? Read here what three things you need to know about IoT before it is implemented!