The Internet of Things (IoT) – a network of “smart” devices that interact seamlessly over the Internet – is transforming the way we live and work.
On agricultural land, wireless Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can transmit soil moisture and nutrient information to specialists in agriculture across the nation. With their long-lasting batteries, IoT alarm systems provide homeowners with lasting protection. For both humans and animals, wearable fitness devices may track levels of activity as well as give feedback on pulse rate and respiration.
Despite the fact that these applications serve distinct purposes, they all share a common characteristic: dependency on robust connectivity.
NB-IoT promises to transform mobile network connectivity for smart devices.
Defining NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT)
NarrowBand-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) is a low-power wide-area (LPWA) technology developed for a vast array of new IoT devices and services that conform to modern industry standards. NB-IoT enhances IoT energy use, network capacity, and spectrum utilization significantly. A battery life of over 10 years is anticipated, which permits a vast array of applications.
To understand NB-IoT, we must first understand the narrowband and how it works.
Narrowband is a telecommunications technology that transmits audio data over a restricted number of frequency sets. The message size transmitted using a narrowband method uses less bandwidth than the total capacity of the base channel. It is different from broadband, which operates on a different frequency and consumes greater bandwidth.
Interestingly, NB-IoT is incompatible with the conventional LTE spectrum. It is an LPWA system that runs independently in 200-kHz frequencies that were formerly utilized by Global System for Mobile Communications, also known as GSM networks. Its efficiency gains are obvious, as we embark on a new era of mainstream IoT adoption.
How Does NB-IoT Work?
Release 13 of the 3GPP outlined NB-IoT exclusively as a connectivity strategy for stationary devices. NB-IoT’s mobility was enhanced by 3GPP Release 14, but not to the same degree to which alternate wireless technologies are mobile. NB-IoT utilizes a spectrum with a frequency band of 200kHz or less in the low MHz range. This indicates that it offers a greater number of channels than LTE and Wi-Fi.
The system benefits from all mobile network security and privacy features. Examples include assistance with user identity privacy, entity authorization, anonymity, integrity of data, and recognition of mobile equipment.
NB-IoT is optimal for fixed or movable indoor devices that transmit modest quantities of data, no more than a few megabytes per month. On the contrary, its wavelength is longer, allowing it to function in locations where conventional technologies are unable to transmit a signal.
Why Use NB-IoT? 6 Key Reasons
NarrowBand IoT has several advantages when compared to traditional, broadband-based IoT networks. This includes:
1. Massive cost savings
In comparison to 4G LTE components, NB-IoT modules are reasonably priced. The cellular modules that support NB-IoT are easier to manufacture, which makes them less expensive. The fact that transmitting modest quantities of data incurs lower cellular data costs is a further advantage.
2. Far lower energy usage
It is essential for running IoT devices efficiently. Consider: who wants to have the chore – every six months – of replacing the batteries in 10+ billion devices? While almost all Internet of Things (IoT) devices have been engineered to conserve energy when not in use, they do consume power when the modem is active and executing signal processing. NB-IoT uses existing infrastructure – but unused frequency spectrum – to reduce energy consumption to the bare minimum.
3. Better support for indoor use, such as in offices and manufacturing plants
NB-IoT employs a tangible overlay with signals and pathways that allow greater penetration of infrastructure. This satisfies the need for wider coverage in remote regions and indoor environments in which it may be difficult to reach complex devices. NB-IoT is intended to contribute up to 20 dB of transmission power (dB is used to measure the power loss over any transmission medium). This serves to transmit data over vast distances at low bit rates.
4. Long-lasting batteries
Regular 4G LTE wireless networks were created for the transfer of significant quantities of data on mobile devices. This means that these require an enormous amount of battery life, which isn’t something to worry about since it is simple to recharge a mobile device. Changing or replenishing the battery has a significant effect on the overall cost of ownership for Internet of Things devices that don’t use a great deal of data. That is why NB-IoT’s prolonged battery life is a major advantage.
5. Huge potential in terms of market reach
Despite the fact that developed nations have made massive investments (reaching billions) in LTE networks, there remain many locations around the globe with inadequate LTE coverage. There are broader GSM implementations outside the United States wherein you can discover unused frequencies for NB-IoT. NB-IoT might then help IoT innovators in identifying affordable entry points into emerging global markets.
6. Greater scalability in the long term
Low costs for each networked device and reduced complexity are the perfect conditions for attaining high scalability. NarrowBand Internet of Things devices can now be interconnected and managed globally because of the protocol’s worldwide usage and acceptance.
Top NB-IoT Use Cases
NarrowBand IoT technology can be used for:
1. Smart metering in modern buildings
Utilizing NB-IoT technology to link your larger ecosystem – comprising electricity, water, and gas meters – is a fantastic option. This is due to the fact that it does not require significant quantities of data. Further, NB-IoT’s robust coverage will function well with these devices, which usually reside in building basements.
2. Asset tracking within fixed perimeters
NB-IoT technology is an effective tool for asset tracing in cold-store warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and shipping. Since it functions in the licensed cellular spectrum, it provides more dependable and safe connectivity compared to unlicensed options like WiFi and Bluetooth.
3. Clinical data collection
NB-IoT is ideally adapted for healthcare applications due to its ability to send data over longer distances with little power consumption. This makes it excellent for connecting medical devices like implanted sensors along with other similar devices that are hard to reach.
4. Retail warehouse management
NarrowBand IoT can serve an array of functions in warehouses, including inventory tracking and overseeing the movement of products. In addition, it can be used to monitor the ambient temperature of perishable products and optimize warehouse layouts.
5. Smarter agriculture in rural areas
With the assistance of NB-IoT, producers can now use sensor data to arrive at informed decisions on how to best care for their agricultural produce. This is because NB-IoT is suitable for remote locations, even if they do not have LTE coverage.
Are there any Barriers to NB-IoT Implementation?
Before deploying NB-IoT at scale, it is important to factor in the following considerations:
1. Limited mobility of IoT devices
Transfers between cell towers allow mobile devices to maintain connectivity while traveling from one tower to another. The method requires more energy on NB-IoT devices because it triggers the registration procedure to be replicated multiple times. Therefore, Narrowband-IoT cannot be considered as low-power if the device portability is high. This implies that it has restrictions for smartwatches and GPS trackers.
2. Relatively slow data transfers
The average data transfer rate for NB-IoT is about 20 KbPS, which is substantially lower than LTE-M’s 1 Mbps. Neither system is appropriate for video relationships, but LTE-M allows voice transmissions. This renders it ideal for use cases such as in-car communication systems. The sluggish data transit rate makes NB-IoT technology extremely power efficient but restricts its potential uses.
3. Challenges arising from deploying in a depreciating network vs. on LTE
As the vast majority of carriers shift to LTE support, implementation may become a challenge. When NB-IoT is implemented in a sideband, the initial expenses for creating operating software could increase. Lastly, there is the possibility that the biggest names in ISP might raise licensing fees for using even this underutilized spectrum band.
By the close of 2025, low-power wireless networks, such as NB-IoT as well as LTE-M, will be responsible for 52% of cellular IoT connections. Gartner NB-IoT is also an essential component of the LPWA environment. Despite the challenges we mentioned, NarrowBand IoT will prove to be a staple for indoor, long-range IoT networks and one of the most popular Internet of Things protocols for businesses in the years to come.