Europe Builds a Network for the Internet of Things. Will the Devices Follow?

The Internet of Things faces a chicken and egg problem:

Europe is building a network for the Internet of Things before it really has the “things.”

by Russ Juskalian July 19, 2016

With much industry fanfare last month, Dutch telco KPN announced that it had completed nationwide coverage of the Netherlands in a wireless Internet of things network. Like a traditional cellular network, but with far lower costs and energy requirements, KPN’s network can connect sensors monitoring everything from rail switches at Utrecht Central station to depth sounders at the Port of Rotterdam and baggage handling at Schiphol Airport.

A spate of similar Internet of things (IoT) networks are going up in France, Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere across the globe. Still, it remains a question whether enough fee-paying devices will connect to cover the cost of building this infrastructure.

So far, KPN has contracts inked to connect 1.5 million devices, according to Jacob Groote, the executive in charge of mobile services at KPN. Not all 1.5 million are yet connected, he says, and even when they are, it won’t be enough to have a substantial financial impact on the company, which had annual revenue in 2015 of $7.72 billion (€7 billion).

KPN, says Groote, sees opportunities with a variety of customers: governments, which use sensors to monitor infrastructure, such as whether dikes in remote areas are getting too wet and risk failing; corporations, like Ziut, a specialist in lighting, traffic control, and security, which uses IoT sensors to dynamically control lighting intensity along bike paths in Rotterdam; and consumers, who could attach fobs to a bicycle or pet to monitor its location.

KPN shoulders the cost of building the network, though it won’t say how much it has invested so far. Experts say it’s orders of magnitude cheaper to build an IoT network than the billions of dollars in licensing and hardware costs associated with laying large 4G networks. The IoT network operates on unlicensed frequencies. To recoup its investment, KPN will charge a subscription for each device on the network, currently between about $4.50 and $16.50 per year, depending on data requirements.

“The problem is the revenue will only start when the network is there,” says Pedro de Smit, the managing director of Clickey, a designer of hardware devices for KPN and other IoT networks. Already, says de Smit, Clickey has experienced a noticeable uptick in customer sales since KPN announced nationwide coverage in the Netherlands at the end of June.

For growth to accelerate, says de Smit, a few things are necessary. The first is for the KPN network to enable location-based features, which would, for instance, allow a shipping container to be tracked in transit across the country—something expected to go live before the end of 2016. The second is IoT coverage beyond national borders. Siemens, Shimano, and other large companies are very interested in gaining access to IoT networks, but only when there is enough geographic coverage, says de Smit. That may take a few years.

KPN is not the only company building out the IoT. SigFox, a French startup, claims its competing wireless grid already covers 340 million people in parts of 22 countries. The company raised well over $100 million in investment in 2015 alone, and is using the money to expand as rapidly as possible.

The goal, says Thomas Nicholls, executive vice president of communications at SigFox, is to quickly drive the subscription price for each connected device as low as possible—in order to move early adopters onto the network in high volume and attract new users.

Its largest customers pay subscription fees of $1 per device per year, and make up a substantial proportion of the 7 million registered subscriptions that SigFox has already collected, according to the company. Covering the cost of building a nationwide network in a country like France, Germany, or Spain requires only “a few million” subscriptions, estimates Nicholls.

One early adopter is home security company Securitas Direct, which has a million anti-burglary devices connected to SigFox systems in Spain, and another 200,000 devices on its French network. Other KPN and SigFox customers have connected monitoring devices in cows, shipping containers, and fire hydrants.

But it will take more time, and more networks, before we know whether these IoT devices and others will add up to the 30 to 100 billion connected things analysts predict will come online within a decade.




EIT Digital, Aalto and Ericsson anounce successful implementation of Narrowband Internet-of-Things prototype

Aalto University, in collaboration with Ericsson Research and EIT Digital, has successfully implemented a prototype for Narrowband Internet of Things (Narrowband-IoT) system, that can be deployed in GSM and LTE spectrum and is tailored for increased coverage, long battery life, low module cost, and large number of devices.

The prototype is a narrowband version of LTE system targeting machine-type communications applications with low data rate that requires low module cost, long battery life time and increased coverage.

Researchers from Aalto University and Ericsson have been developing the Narrowband-IoT system in the context of the EIT Digital ACTIVE High Impact Initiative that is being carried out in Stockholm, Helsinki and Milan and is focused on creating advanced connectivity platform to support application developers from different IoT segments.

Researches have been developing software defined radio implementation of the physical layer of the GSM carrier version of Narrowband-IoT. This is among the first Narrowband-IoT standalone mode implementations and has been done at the same phase as the standardization by 3GPP.

The Narrowband-IoT system was tested in Aalto campus area in Finland to transmit temperature, humidity and air pressure sensor information from a sensor node to the base station. Narrowband-IoT can be deployed on re-farmed GSM carriers, guard bands of LTE spectrum or using part of operator’s LTE spectrum. Aalto has tested the prototype on 630 MHz band, but the system can be easily configured to 900 MHz GSM.

“This opens up for a wealth of applications where IoT systems can utilise standardised Narrowband-IoT communication in extant spectrum readily available and we expect a number of cellular operators taking up this opportunity commercially already next year,” says Henrik Abramowicz, EIT Digital Action line leader for Digital Infrastructure “That is in line with objective of the EIT Digital initiative ACTIVE that develops advanced connectivity platform, which be applied and verified in the health sector and in the transport sector (aircraft and railways) to deliver mobile broadband services as well as support the management of transportation vehicles”.


Optimising water consumption with NarrowBand IoT

Aguas de Valencia is a company that manages the complete water cycle with headquarters in the province of Valencia. They manage over 1 million meters, including more than 600,000 automated meter reading devices. Communication is essential, and technology allows them to read meters 24 times a day.

In partnership with Vodafone a trial was conducted using NarrowBand IoT technology. This allowed Aguas de Valencia to implement meter reading solutions without having to install their own communications infrastructure.

Continue reading “Optimising water consumption with NarrowBand IoT”

City of Los Angeles and Philips shine a light on 4G LTE app coverage with Ericsson

Los Angeles is the world’s first city to deploy Philips’ SmartPole street lighting with fully built in 4G LTE wireless technology from Ericsson. The collaboration between Philips and Ericsson delivers on the latest Internet of Things (IoT) innovation and provides a double benefit to LA citizens: high quality, public lighting that is energy efficient, as well as improved network performance in dense urban areas.

“The humble, analog light pole has evolved and we made it happen first, right here in Los Angeles,” said Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles. “LA is a world leader in LEDs street lights and has more street lights and poles than any other city in America, with about 6,500 centerline miles of streets. We are now leveraging that previously untapped real estate to give our streets cleaner visibility, better broadband connectivity, and future-ready infrastructure. This implementation, which we’ve only just started, is a prime example of what a focus on smart infrastructure, and creative public-private partnerships can achieve.”

With cellular data traffic expected to grow 9 times by 2020, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report, and current telecoms infrastructure struggling to respond to this demand, Philips SmartPoles are enabling seamless mobile wireless 4G/LTE connectivity, with the small cell technology from Ericsson housed in the poles to enable increased data capacity in the telecoms network. The poles were specifically designed and tested to accept FCC licensed wireless mobile network operator equipment. This enables an alternative deployment methodology of 4G LTE broadband services.

Arun Bansal, Senior Vice President and Head of Business Unit Radio, Ericsson, said: “LA will be a role model for other smart cities that place sustainability and connectivity high on their agenda. As citizens, businesses and industries transform through mobility, cities have an increasingly important role to play as eco-system partners enabling the next wave of innovations that will bring us to 5G in 2020. Innovative solutions like SmartPole and Ericsson Zero Site that efficiently improve the performance of mobile networks will be necessary to address the growing demand from both smartphone users and the Internet of Things.”

For cellular phone operators, this innovation can offer them new possibilities to find the right site location. It also helps scale mobile wireless 4G/LTE infrastructure deployment beyond traditional sites. As a result operators can improve data coverage and capacity for citizens so there are no more signal dropouts.

Amy Huntington, President of Philips Lighting Americas said: “This SmartPole technology proves its role as the backbone of an outdoor Internet of Things platform capable of delivering new services and value and fully supports Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets program by taking LED street lighting and turning it into a services hub that can adapt to the changing needs of a particular neighborhood over time.”


The World’s First Real Smart Guitar

MIND comes from an idea of Michele Benincaso, an Italian “Maestro” from Cremona’s Antonio Stradivari Luthiery’ School. After working in the guitar world for more than 10 years producing guitars for world-famous guitar players, in April 2013 Michele understood that while the world was changing at a fast pace and musicians’ needs were constantly evolving, guitars and most music instruments were stuck in the ’60s – with artists increasingly resorting to electronic equipment and computers to fill this gap.

Michele decided to do what Stradivari did in the ‘600s and Fender did in the ’60s: use state of the art technology and design to build instruments that satisfy the needs of contemporary musicians, constantly looking for new sound and new ways to express themselves and reach more people. Music players’ needs and habits have changed, and so need to do their instruments.

To accompany him in this mission, he has put together a dream-team of experts in the most diverse fields, from acoustic physics to wireless networks and computer engineering – contemporary versions of the skilled scientists and craftsmen that supported Stradivari in its creations. Among them are Prof. Carlo Fischione, a mathematician and leading scholar in IoT technologies, currently teaching at MIT and Harvard, Luca Turchet, an expert in Electronic Music and Virtual Reality and Stefano Zambon, an audio and embedded systems designer with a broad experience in advanced digital musical instruments.

After two years during which the team worked non-stop in the company’s headquarter – a small basement in the suburbs of Stockholm – MIND is now part of STING, Sweden’s leading startup incubator – and is ready to present to the World its first creation: Sensus, the World’s first REAL smart guitar. Sensus is the natural evolution guitar players have been waiting for for 50 years, and its technology is as diverse as the members of MIND’s team: a unique mix of acoustic tradition and state of the art technology covered by 3 international patents.

Among the people who already believed in MIND’s mission and invested in it are music and technology angel investors Jacob Key – former Vice President of Digital Strategy for Europe at Warner Music Group – and Ludvig Linge – co-founder of TAT, a world leader in mobile user interfaces acquired by RIM in end of 2010. With them are Per Brilioth, CEO at Vostok New Ventures LTD and Marcelo Benitez, founder of Proaltus Capital Partners S.L.

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Free Online Course on The Internet of Things

Learn how IoT works, and how to create a successful product or company using it, with this free online course.

Led by IoT pioneer, Professor Mischa Dohler.

The course is designed for practising engineers, industrialists, researchers and entrepreneurs who are interested in the fundamentals, impact and potentials of the Internet of Things. The course will also be valuable for those with a general interest in the Internet of Things, M2M (Machine to Machine) and Industry 4.0.

You’ll need to have some basic knowledge of technology, wireless communications and how markets function. However, no detailed knowledge is required, as advanced concepts exposed in this course will be explained in sufficient detail.

More info: