Narrowband IoT: Advantages and use cases

Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) Networks, in particular the mobile radio standard Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT for short), are becoming increasingly important, also in enabling the implementation of completely new IoT use cases. This is because Narrowband IoT combines numerous properties such as low costs, high scalability and good building penetration, which make the standard the ideal technology for a wide range of application fields. In the joint whitepaper, Device Insight and grandcentrix show how companies can benefit from NB-IoT. Here we provide a compact overview of the standard, its advantages and use cases.

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Whitepaper "Narrowband IoT for smart products""
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Narrowband IoT use cases

What exactly is Narrowband IoT?

Narrowband IoT is a mobile communications standard that is already widespread in Asia and the USA and is now increasingly finding its way into Europe. NB-IoT is an extension of the LTE standard and uses existing mobile communications infrastructure, i.e., antenna locations, as well as previously unused frequency bands. This is what makes this offering so efficient for wireless carriers, resulting in low prices for users.

Unlike 5G or LTE, with its low bandwidths, Narrowband IoT is specifically designed for low data volumes, i.e., the transmission of telemetry data and control information. In addition, Narrowband IoT offers optimized, low energy consumption and, by operating at low frequencies, particularly good building penetration. Narrowband IoT therefore also paves the way for applications where IoT deployment previously failed due to economic viability or was not technically possible.

The advantages of Narrowband IoT at a glance

Low Cost

Low Complexity

High Scalability

Strong Coverage

Security and Reliability

Low Cost:
Narrowband IoT works with very small amounts of data, resulting in low energy consumption. Devices only require power when data is being sent or received and remain in a power-saving mode most of the time. As a result, battery sleep times of more than ten years can be achieved.

Low Complexity:
With pre-installed SIM cards, Narrowband IoT enables plug-and-play applications, requiring significantly less complexity in commissioning than, for example, LTE, WLAN or Bluetooth applications. Further reducing costs, making it quick and easy to get started with the technology.

High Scalability:
A low cost per networked device coupled with reduced complexity provide perfect conditions for high scalability. Since the standard is now internationally widespread, devices can also be networked and operated across the globe via Narrowband IoT.

Strong Coverage:
High building penetration makes Narrowband IoT the ideal transmission standard for use cases inside buildings, especially if existing internal network infrastructure cannot be accessed. The signal is also able to penetrate through thick walls and into basement rooms – a huge advantage for smart metering, for example, intelligent electricity, water, or gas meters.

Security and Reliability:
Unlike other LPWA networks such as LoRaWAN, Narrowband IoT is a licensed cellular standard featuring all security and privacy features of cellular networks. Including data integrity, confidentiality, or secure authentication. Moreover, with NB-IoT, the provider is able to guarantee good transmission quality.

Use cases: Narrowband IoT in practice

These advantages enable the use of Narrowband IoT in numerous areas, ranging from Smart Metering to Smart City and intelligent control of building infrastructure to Smart Farming – in short, wherever things need to be connected.

One of the most popular use cases is Smart Metering. Networking of electricity, water or gas meters is an application area that is virtually predestined for the use of Narrowband IoT. To make a meter IoT-capable, you do not need large amounts of data. In addition, NB-IoT‘s strong coverage is perfectly designed to transmit signals from smart meters, which are typically located in basements.

The topic of Smart City also offers a whole range of use cases that lend themselves to the deployment of NB-IoT. Example: finding a parking space: German drivers spend 560 million hours a year looking for parking spaces in city centers. It doesn‘t have to be that way. By equipping parking spaces with ground sensors, it is possible to determine at any time whether and where a parking space is currently free. Similarly, simple but enormously effective NB-IoT application examples include smart waste management or smart street lighting control.

Narrowband IoT use cases
Whether it’s intelligent parking space search or efficient building management – Narrowband IoT provides the basis for implementing these use cases quickly and cost-effectively.

Another application area that is perfectly suited for the use of Narrowband IoT is Smart Building, i.e. intelligent networking and automation in buildings such as shopping malls, hospitals or office buildings. With the help of Smart Building, doors, lifts, blinds, heating, ventilation or lighting, for example, can be controlled centrally – depending on how many people are on site at any given time. Building and energy management thus becomes much more efficient and transparent. The comfort and safety of the people on site is increased. This is an aspect that has become even more important, especially as a result of the Corona pandemic.

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More insights into specific NB-IoT use cases?

Read our whitepaper to find out how Stiegelmeyer, a manufacturer of hospital and care beds, developed a smart out-of-bed system based on Narrowband IoT.

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