Swedish networking and telecommunications firm Ericsson has laid out its vision for cellular internet of things (IoT), taking a cue from the developments around emerging 5G networks.
Cellular IoT, according to Marie Hogan, Head of Broadband and IoT at Ericsson, means end-to-end wireless connectivity of things, not smartphones or laptops or pocket routers, but other things.
“Today, there are over a billion cellular IoT connections and we predict that by 2024, that will have risen to 4.2 billion connections,” she said in a YouTube broadcast of the launch of the roadmap in the company’s headquarters in Sweden.
“That's a lot of connected things. So we thought it would be very good to layout an evolution path for how we get to the long-term future when we start from today and 4G with the cellular IoT things that are connected using super devices to the more advanced devices that we will have when moving from 4G to 5G,” she added.
Ericsson’s evolution concept describes how cellular IoT can move from the more basic use cases of Massive IoT such as asset tracking and smart metering to increasingly sophisticated use cases enabled by Broadband IoT (such as infotainment in cars, AR/VR, drones and advanced wearables), and then by Critical IoT (such as autonomous vehicles), and Industrial Automation IoT (such as collaborative robotics in manufacturing).
“As 4G was the era of the smartphone so we expect 5G to be the era of IoT. We have already seen extraordinary growth in Vodafone’s IoT technology capability in recent years with the introduction of network technologies like NB-IoT and C-V2X,” said Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group Head of Technology R&D.
From early adoption to global roll out, cellular internet of things (IoT) continues to evolve.
According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, the number of cellular IoT connections is expected to reach 4.1 billion in 2024, increasing with an annual growth rate of 27 percent.
Basic use cases — Massive IoT
Hogan said that Massive IoT is already in use in today’s 4G networks. Use cases include simple devices requiring low data rates, and pose not too high latency demands in the network.
These include sensor devices to monitor the environment such as smart water monitors or smart environment meters that can monitor temperature or pollution levels.
“These simple devices can send quick information in small number of kilobytes back to the environmental center. And you may have seen these types of monitoring devices, for example, in smart city applications such as parking meters, electricity meters; or in your car, you may have sensors to monitor temperature,” she said.
Jon Gamble, field marketing business consultant at Ericsson Studio, said that another use case of Massive IoT is monitoring an area for an actual disaster like a landslide with sensors buried in an area that can send out an alert to everybody in the area and to first responders.
“Cars today are more like computers on four wheels, so an example of Massive IoT information sent to and from this car could be tire pressure, slippery road detection,” he added.
Next step: Broadband IoT
Hogan said that the next step for Massive IoT is what it calls Broadband IoT, which can address more complicated use cases such as handling of drones or augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
These include AR and VR goggles that can give a lot of information about the environment for first responders, or drones that can be sent to a remote location to hover the disaster area and take live video footage. These require high data rates but the drones can send very valuable information back to the headquarters, according to Hogan.
Broadband IoT is also projected to have many use cases in the automotive sector, including fitting the car with high-speed internet connection for entertainment or downloading maps while on the go.
Hogan said Ericsson expects a lot of use cases towards the end of this year, especially as the company start adding functionality for drone management.
In a 5G world: Critical IoT and Industrial automation IoT
But in the 5G era, IoT is really advancing to more complicated use cases.
Critical IoT is that stage, according to Hogan, where robots are coming to life and these collaborative robots have to be connected in real time. requires extremely low latency and high bandwidth.
“This we feel is really the start of the 5G evolution and that would address much more complicated use cases including high data as well,” she said.
The next step, for example, in the automotive sector for this type of IoT, according to Gamble, is a car in an environment where it knows the environment and it shares the environment and those kinds of services are extremely reliable and extremely low latency.
“If the car is to be completely autonomous in an environment which might be or might not be autonomous, it needs to be very smart and the 4G and 5G networks will enable that to happen,” he said.
The final step is Industrial automation IoT, which both Hogan and Gamble describe as the most challenging as this is specific to industrial automation in manufacturing settings and industrial campuses.
Hogan cited things like deterministic networking, industrial protocols running over ethernet natively and ultra-precise precisioning applicable to the automotive industry until it gets to the level of the smart factory.