By James Conroy; Journalist – former Assistant Psychologist – Contributor at . Inquisitor of user-experience, communities, perception & design.

Speaking during the Internet of Things (IoT) panel discussion at Latitude59 in Estonia, Parag Mittal – Chief Commercial Officer at Soracom – described how he watched for years as people tried to forecast the number of IoT devices there would be in the future. He recalled an Ericson document that predicted 50 billion connected devices by 2015.

In 2016, the number sat at 6.4-6.5 billion devices worldwide – with the figure expected to reach 8.4-8.5 billion by the end of 2017.

It is well known in business that people tend to overestimate the changes that occur in a short period of time and underestimate the changes over longer periods, and Vernon Turnor – Senior Vice President of enterprise systems at the International Data Corporation (IDC) – estimates there will be over 80 billion devices connected to the internet by 2025.

The panel moderated by Aleksander Tonnisson (BuildIT) also included; Markku Patronen (Sigfox), Ivo Remmelg (Nordic Automation Systems), Märt Kroodo (1OT) and Raph Crouan (StartupBootcamp IOT).

Each was asked to give their own insight on the future of IoT and what their companies uniquely offer those interested in the area.

Sigfox

Markku Patronen of Sigfox – the world’s leading provider of connectivity for IoT – said he’s starting to see large-scale deployments happen across different countries and predicts rapid acceleration before 2018.

Newly emerging low-cost technologies are now enabling the deployment of millions of sensors that will finally facilitate such a market. Sigfox is currently partnered with Connected Finland and Connected Baltics having been enticed by the ‘vibrant start-up community in Estonia’ says CEO Markku. Sigfox and their partner’s aim to enable millions of connected smart objects at fraction of the current costs by providing ultra-narrow band, Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) that have a range of 20km.

“Sigfox is ultra-low cost, made for small messages, made for long battery life, it’s an always operating network, so we guarantee the service level wherever the networks are in place. It’s one network. It’s one back-end. It’s one data API globally. I mean it’s completely hassle free, a one stop shop for your IoT solution. Plus it’s extremely global, but, you have to fit your solution within our really kind of narrow specification – 12-byte messages, maximum of 140 times per day”

12 bytes might seem a counterintuitive figure to get excited about until we consider some of Sigfox’s partners and their products. International transport company Seur are using these devices to monitor the temperature of freight shipments, while companies Securitas and Traqueur are using Sigfox powered technologies to detect and track stolen cars using GPS.

Smart cities of the future could benefit greatly from Sigfox powered devices – whether to inform a city council when a battery is running low on a public defibrillator, or even when parking spaces free up.

Applications will continue to diversify as more objects are given a ‘voice’ which will undoubtedly aid in different problem-solving initiatives.

Soracom

Parag Mittal (Soracom) says the biggest challenge seems to be, in simple words, ‘letting IoT happen’. He thinks difficulties will arise by charging royalties and licences upfront. Currently, before a product or device even gets to the end consumer – which is where the service revenue is coming in – many of the companies doing the innovation in the middle are struggling with the high costs of trying to commercialise at a price that the consumer would get. Although he predicts the prices may come down as soon as volumes being to rise, the rise to date has been slower than thought which has stopped the exponential growth.

“We are a universally agnostic technology platform company so we can integrate into any of the networks including satellite. We work with two partners and will even launch the first nanosatellite for a low-powered global area network by the end of this year. From a technology point, each network has their own differences but that’s nothing really about us that’s about the consumer and what use-cases fit you bet. From our side, we focus on delivering the end value which is a secure connection from device to your cloud without ever going through public internet or having your devices on public IP’s. We talked about power-savings, consumption, etc., but we try to build additional services which are unique and different where we are actually able to reduce your data consumption by up to 80% and power consumption of devices by up to 25%, even on cellular. So imagine if we’re talking about 8.4 billion devices by the end of this year, and if 6 or 7 million are cellular, 25% of that would power a decent city.”

Nordic Automation Systems

Ivo Remmelg of NAS was quick to talk about ‘The Lora Alliance’ which is an open source, non-profit association whose members collaborate and share experiences to “drive the success of the LoRa protocol, LoRaWAN™, as the open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWA connectivity”.

Trinity College Dublin became the first Irish University to join the Lora Alliance last year in collaboration with OrbiWise and Davra Networks and will be managed by Trinity’s CONNECT Centre. Speaking to the audience, Ivo stated;

“LoRa is very good for building private networks for the utilities. So they have the data and they have to get the data through. So they can’t rely on the single operator, operating the worldwide network, because they have to have the network where their data is. So if that is the data, and there is no network, they put their bay-station, their private network up into this area and the area is covered, so they get 100% data through for the insurer. So that’s the main selling point of the open systems

1OT

Finally, Märt Kroodo – CEO and co-founder of virtual operator 1OT – discussed why cellular connectivity providers will be key for original equipment manufacturers in the IoT sphere.

“One reason to choose mobile networks is that the infrastructure is already around the world and billions of people are using it already. Every one of you is using the services, and also, maybe a technical side of it is that also they are building low powered network options for the mobile networks also, both narrow band IoT and LTM, of course, there are pro’s and con’s, but other than that it’s able to provide also the connectivity for devices which need to last 5-10 years”

1OT was founded in 2016 and is another example of an Estonian company seeking to integrate functions. The company provides connectivity in over 150 countries and works with over 350 top tier mobile carrier networks worldwide.

The main takeaway from the panel discussion? The Internet of Things is well and truly on its way.


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