As mentioned in another blog post, the world of IoT is about to truly see the hyper-growth phase that we’ve all been hearing about with the upcoming launch of CAT M.

Ok, you may ask, that is wonderful, but where might we see this growth?  What areas are going to see their adoption rate of cellular data skyrocket?  What new customers may come to the forefront that have skipped previous cellular technologies?  How do I prepare my customers / my business for this game-changing technology?

Well, I really don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have some ideas as to some of those answers…

In order to answer this, you have to look at some of the reasons why companies held back on the use of cellular data in the first place…

Expensive hardware and/or airtime  If you are Chevrolet building a car with a cost of goods in the tens of thousands of dollars, the cost of a cellular module and some airtime was not a prohibiting factor.  However for many lower costs products, it was.  While there will still be customer’s products that cannot justify the cost of CAT M, there will be many more that now can.

Too much power draw  Again, for devices that have consistent, plug in the wall power, the power usage for cellular modules was not much of an issue.  However, for battery-operated solutions, it was.  CAT M has a much lower power draw, so it may not affect the battery draw so much as to make it prohibitive…..are you listening, Apple Watch engineers??

Easier to use short-haul networks  For many companies, the idea of having full control over their short-haul networks – whether WiFi or private radio – is too compelling for change.  However, many customers opted for these networks out of the desire to reduce cost, not for the control aspect.  For these customers, the lower cost of CAT M hardware combined with the expected reduction in data charges will often outweigh the benefits of running your own network.

Four possible areas of growth

1. Large Appliances 
I have written in the past about how companies are adding WiFi to their larger appliances, mainly as a way of doing software updates and gathering information.   However, one of the issues is the fact that the end customers has to spend the time to put the device onto their home network (which many do not like or know how to do) and their ability to communicate with the device requires this device to stay on that Wifi network.  By using cellular data, the manufacturer is free to do over the air updates, gather technical usage data and better reduce issues from escalating.

2. Industrial Equipment 
To date, cellular connectivity is used in a wide variety of industrial equipment, ranging from large medical machines to printing presses to heavy digging equipment.  I see this trend continuing, namely due to two previous barriers to entry.  The first was the cost…sure, on a $300K piece of equipment, the cost was insignificant, but not so on one that sells for $600.  The reduced upfront and on-going costs of CAT M will greatly accelerate this growth.  As well, many of these devices run on battery, so the decreased power needs of CAT M make it more feasible to operate without affecting usage.

3. Personal Health / PERS (Personal Emergency Reporting Systems) 
The growth of wearables, along with personal health devices has been explosive.  For the most part, these devices have chosen to use Bluetooth or WiFi as their main communication methods.  Simply, the cost of traditional cellular and the battery draw was just too much (just look at Apple’s decision to not add cellular to the new Watch).  Sure, some devices that had to have it, such as personal trackers, do have cellular connectivity, but not nearly as many as we expect once we bring down those two barriers.

4. Current Private Short-haul Networks 
One such customer is the power and water utilities. While power companies are large users of cellular data networks, they do much more of their inter-machine communication using Bluetooth, ZigBee and other technologies.  This requires them to manage their own networks, but the decision to do so was made easy by the higher costs of cellular technology.  The introduction of CAT M, and further more with future technologies, will make the decision to stop running their own networks an easy one.  I suspect that this will be the same for municipalities, energy companies and environmental companies.

The Bottom Line

The reality is that many other industries will be quick to jump on-board the CAT M bandwagon when they understand the power and flexibility that it brings.  Our goal at Novotech is to help customers determine their future needs/plans and show them how IoT solutions can improve their business.  Let us know how we can help you!