What is narrow band and what does it have to do with IoT?
- Jan 16, 2019
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The advantages of broadband connection you probably already know - this type of connection (either through cable or through a wireless network) allows you to surf the internet at high speed, so you do not waste much time waiting for a video upload to YouTube, for example. It would be understandable, therefore, if one were to ask: what interest can there be in a narrowband connection? At first glance, the concept may even sound like something outdated, but the truth is that it should make important changes happen in the future, especially with regard to the popularization of IoT (internet of things).
IoT is fundamental when thinking of smart cities, for example. Imagine a traffic system where sensors scattered throughout the city indicate in real time where there is a vacant parking space, or show the public transport user the fastest way to get there. Think of the benefits of irrigation systems that take data from soil moisture into account. Or smart grids capable of promoting more efficient energy consumption or monitoring pollution. The possibilities of applying IoT are numerous. Gartner estimates that we will have 14.2 billion objects connected in 2019 - a number that could rise to 25 billion by 2021. But how to connect this huge amount of devices and sensors, responsible for generating and transmitting data, so that this structure is reliable, economically accessible? That's where the narrow band, known as NB-IoT, stands for narrow band Internet of things.
To talk about it, we need to introduce one more acronym: LPWAN, which designates Low Power Wide Area Network ("low-power wide-area networks"). These networks, LPWAN, have been developed precisely to connect millions of "things" in broad areas with devices that need to transmit very specific data in a process that consumes much less battery power.
An LPWAN option is the NB-IoT, which is a variant of the 4G - there are other options, such as SigFox and LoRa (Long Range). The definition of which is the most appropriate will depend on the analysis of several characteristics of each project. Overall, they all significantly reduce the power consumption of the devices, which send small amounts of data - they can last for at least ten years without requiring battery replacement - and allow connections up to 10 kilometers away.
The specifications for NB-IoT technology were finalized in June 2016 by 3GPP - an organization created by five telecommunications companies that sets standards in mobile network technologies.
Since then, NB-IoT has been gradually adopted in projects related to IoT in several countries, including Brazil. In June of this year, TIM activated the NB-IoT functionality in its 4G commercial network in Santa Rita do Sapucaí (MG), with the aim of enabling the offer of services in the IoT area, initially focused on smart cities.
At the same time, SigFox has also been implemented in Brazil and in several countries, as well as LoRa, in initiatives that support the development and implementation of IoT solutions. The more devices are connected, the greater the volume of data obtained - and the analysis of this information can pave the way for innovation in the most diverse sectors. There may be room for coexistence of various types of network, and that in the future, connectivity is also characterized by the appreciation of diversity.