2020 is already being called The Year of IoT. As the number of use cases increased in 2019, so did an understanding of the potential benefits of IoT technology. Companies who have already implemented IoT solutions have since reported achieving positive results in as few as 90 days.
The key to gaining ROI though IoT is to optimize processes. IoT deployments involve strategically placing sensors on assets or in the environment to collect information. This data can be anything from location coordinates to volume levels or sound waves. The data, accumulated over time, is visualized through an IoT platform into a dashboard of charts and measurements. The analytics that drives ROI comes from end-users who study the data and use it to make informed decisions.
IoT devices are designed with low-cost components, LPWAN connectivity, and scalability in mind. Although many devices share common features and hardware, not all device applications are the same. Massive IoT and Critical IoT are two categories of IoT applications that support requirements on extreme ends of the use case spectrum.
Massive IoT refers to monitoring large numbers of devices and sensors for applications linked with commercial activities. These devices, deployed over a large area, are generally battery operated and communicate small data transmissions on an intermittent basis. Applications for Massive IoT include agriculture, transport logistics, and smart cities. Long latency periods are also not an issue with Massive IoT because data transmissions are infrequent and not continuous. In particular, these use cases are suited to cellular-based NB-IoT networks that support ultra-energy-efficient, battery-driven devices.
Massive IoT Device Features:
- Battery Operated
- Energy Efficient
- Small Data Volumes
- Wide Coverage Area
- Infrequent Data Transmission
Critical IoT applications have a different set of requirements than Massive IoT. The volume of devices is significantly smaller, and the demand for reliability is much higher. The business cases for Critical IoT typically deal with public safety, health monitoring, and other time-sensitive remote operations. While LTE-M will play a part, 5G will be the essential enabler of Critical IoT use cases like autonomous cars and robotic surgery, which require precise controls and dynamic responses. Applications such as these require dense coverage, ultra-low latency, and high data throughput. These features are foundational to many Critical IoT cases and will be best served with 5G connectivity.
Critical IoT Device Features:
- Low Latency
- Small Coverage Area
- High Energy Consumption
- Constant Data Transmission
Waiting for 5G? Don’t.
Because of their highly useful nature, the number of IoT devices is expected to outpace mobile phones in terms of connected devices. Additionally, many well-known reports continue to publish forecasts of IoT deployments in the billions. The current density for 4G is at 2,000 connected devices per .38 square miles, while 4G LPWANs can support as many as 60,680 devices. When it comes to 5G networks, service density is expected to reach at least 1 million devices per kilometer—but don’t get nervous yet, current projections expect a full roll-out of 5G will take at least ten years to complete.
While it is possible to wait for 5G, there are plenty of low-risk ways to implement IoT without building new infrastructure or disrupting system-wide operations. Somewhere between Massive IoT and Critical IoT are the enterprise applications easily served with a few thousand devices and moderate amounts of data. Enterprise IoT is growing with industries who see the value in increasing their bottom line through increased oversight and accountability. When it comes to IoT, there’s no reason to leave ROI on the table. Taking advantage of this new technology can bring cost savings, process optimization, revenue generation, and enhanced customer experiences to just about any business model.