Cellular Communications Solutions for IoT: Telit LTE module and AT&T’s IoT/M2M Platform

Introduction:

Most of the wireless connectivity options for IoT are for personal or local area communications.  Those that require longer distances will use some combination of 2G/3G/4G cellular service, with a data plan optimized for machine to machine communications.  Last Thursday at Arrow’s IoT Immersions sponsored conference in Santa Clara, CA, module maker Telit and wireless telco giant AT&T provided details on their respective IoT technologies, markets and applications.

Telit’s LTE- only Module:

Telit Wireless Solutions is an enabler of the global machine-to-machine (m2m) movement. The company talked about long range cellular communications for the IoT and its LTE single mode module for IoT endpoint devices.  

Telit says there are over 7 billion devices connected to cellular networks world-wide. Over 10 billion cellular connected devices was forecast by 2020.  There were 25 million worldwide cellular proucts shipped in 2014.

“Anything that has a battery and electricity could have low cost cellular access with a Telit module.  You don’t need to tether an endpoint to a smartphone to get cellular connectivity.”  

Examples of cellular IoT applications cited were: defibulators to treat patients suffering from cardiac arrest, industrial smart grid, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning), Point of Sale (PoS).   Cellular includes 2G, two different versions of 3G (UMTS/HSPA and CDMA/EVDO) and 4G-LTE.  Verizon was forecast to have 110% U.S. nationwide LTE coverage by the end of this year (2015).

Telit’s LE910-V2 – LTE-only module is an addition to the firm’s xE910 family.  It’s designed to optimize bandwidth and performance, while limiting the cost of transitioning from 2G to 4G. The single-mode LTE module, with no fallback in 3G and 2G networks: it is the perfect optimized solution for regions where the 4G technology already has penetration rates above the 90% level. The LTE 3GPP Release 9 module delivers data rates of 150 Mbps downlink and 50 Mbps uplink.  With no fallback to other cellular modes, this LTE module was said to be less expensive and less power hungry than multi-mode cellular modules.  An example application for this single mode LTE module was said to be a parking meter (although this author doesn’t know why LTE’s speed/low latency would be required in this case).

AT&T’s GSM SIM IoT Management System and IoT Applications:

Randy Amerine of AT&T talked about cellular applications for the Industrial IoT (IIoT) and discussed the carrier’s GSM SIM Management platform that’s use for provisiioning and configuration of IoT endpoints. The telco’s IIoT solutions were said to be scalable, secure and capable of cloud based big data analytics.

IoT applications the telco is interested in include:  home automation (including security systems), connected car, medical electronics, energy industry, manufacturing, heavy industrial equipment, transportation (e.g. fleet management) & logistics, field services and sales force automation.

AT&T claims to have the largest share of the connected device market with 19.8M IoT devices or 47% of the U.S. total IoT market in 2013. There are GSM location tracking capabilities in over 100 countries with roaming access in more than 200 countries.  

AT&T is a founding member of the Industrial Internet Consortium where over 100 companies are now involved. As part of that effort:

  • IBM and AT&T are collorating on IoT solutions for cities, institutions, and enterprises.  
  • GE and AT&T are working on remotely controlled industrial machines.

 

The ability to sense, respond and analyze are critically important IoT capabilities.  Connect, manage and innovate are also important attributes.   Four “quadrants” for IoT adoption were said to be based on individual business case and risk management analysis.  They are:

  1. Prove business case and technology chosen
  2. Production Beta test
  3. Production Phase 1
  4. Full Production

 

AT&T’s Foundry in Plano, TX was identified as the place to engage and partner with AT&T to progress a company’s IoT application(s) using their 3G/4G cellular network.  AT&T is phasing out 2G and converting existing users to 3G.. The AT&T contact there is Aaron Hoffmeister who provided the following links which have “Contact Us” functionality:

AT&T Innovation: http://about.att.com/innovation

AT&T Foundry: http://about.att.com/innovation/foundry


AT&T has provided cellular IIoT solutions for:

  • Global container monitoring
  • Security monitoring and alerting
  • Tractors and other heavy equipment
  • Refrigerators and cooling equipment
  • Cargo tracking and monitoring

 

Industrial shredding/ trash collection was cited as a specific example.  Trash bins are monitored for consistent levels so that pickups/hauling occur as needed.  That improves efficiency and reduces dispatch costs up to 50%.  It took only three weeks for this application to become profitable for the vendor (their cost savings surpassed the IoT capital expense in that short time).

Randy said something most of us are quite familiar with- as 3G/4G wireless capacity grows, so does that aggregate data that actually uses that cellular network.  We thought that was mostly due to consumer video streaming.  But Randy observed that wireless data consumed by IoT devices continues to increase geometrically.  That was a surprise as we thought most IoT applications would be low duty cycle and low bandwidth.

AT&T’s fully integrated IoT solution platform includes:  IoT application services, business rules engine, data model, agents/device protocol adapters, connected products, and management applications.


Mr. Amerine provided the following links via email that may be of interest to readers:

M2M 360  www.att.com/m2m360 

M2M 360 Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoGAqTn_Fk&feature=related 

AT&T Control Center http://www.jasper.com/iot-service-platform/connected-devices 

Approved Modules www.att.com/modules


NY Times Interview with Ralph de la Vega, the head of AT&T’s mobile and business solutions:

In this interview, Mr. de la Vega said:

“When we say Internet of Things we say everything from wearables to light bulbs, but it includes locomotives, jet engines, cargo containers, cars, trucks, trains, automobiles.  I don’t think you’ll see too many things in the future that are not connected. Once you connect those things then it adds huge value for tracking where different pieces of equipment are and their status, so businesses can run more effectively.”

AT&T claims to be a leader in the connected car and Vega had this to say about it:

“We are pioneers in the connected-car space and are ahead of our time in spotting the trend that all cars will have connectivity in the future. Car manufacturers all want connectivity because that’s the easiest and fastest way to update the software. The days of having to take your vehicle to a dealer to update maps are long gone.

Tesla is one of the more aggressive manufacturers when it comes to updating the software in their vehicles over-the-air, which all manufacturers are moving to. When the car breaks down what happens to the car? Did the battery go dead? They can also track the history of what happens to the car for diagnostics.

From the user’s point of view, there isn’t an autonomous driving vehicle that’s not connected that I know of. How you interact with the autonomous driving vehicle is with a smartphone. All cars will have an autonomous driving feature, so you can talk to the car while using your smartphone.

We added 800,000 connected cars in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone. That is pretty significant.”


Closing Comment:

AT&T operates an extensive Wi-Fi network including more than 34,000 AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots at popular restaurants, hotels, bookstores and retailers, and provides access to more than 1 million Hot Spots globally through roaming agreements.   Therefore, it’s quite surprising that the telco hasn’t talked about using WiFi for any of it’s IoT network offerings.  When I asked Randy about WiFi, he said that his IoT involvement was ONLY using the company’s cellular network.

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