Why companies who “automated” have fared the best in 2020

As an avid follower of the stock market, I am always on the lookout for an early sign of a trend to make money. There have been some great long-term trends over the past few years, ranging from the move for people to eat healthier, the “greening” of the energy market and, of course, the move towards IoT and other disruptive technologies.

 

The onset of the pandemic caused the overall stock market to plunge in a manner that has not happened in our lifetimes. However, the pain was not felt equally by everyone. Many companies saw a spike in their sales (I mean, who thought we would see Chef Boyardee become a big thing again) while others like Disney dropped precipitously due to the closing of their parks and cruises. 

 

Throughout all of this, however, there is an exciting trend among all industries. Those who have implemented different forms of remote working and, primarily, automation have fared better than those who did not. All of the automation in the world might not have helped particular industries during this crisis. You can fully automate a baseball stadium, but if there are bans on large crowds, it wouldn’t matter at all. However, many companies were not quite in that drastic of a situation, yet did not fare that much better.

 

Just look at companies that moved towards automating their warehouse and stores; they had fewer cases of COVID and saw fewer drops in their productivity levels. The same goes for companies that have moved away from having human analysts and now use software-based programs. These include industries such as the financial markets that have seen minimal issues over the past two months. You may say, “Well, my business needs to have face-to-face interaction, so those do not apply to me.” However, there are almost always ways that automation, especially IoT, can help. 

 

Remote sensors can prevent property maintenance teams from having to go on-site as often. At the same time, smart video surveillance systems can allow you to interact with visitors without having to be in front of them. As I have written before, I think that the pandemic will be a wake-up call for many companies who will now explore technology from a completely different angle. 

Previously, it was all about the cost of automation when compared to the cost of an employee or contractor- did it make sense to invest? Now, I think many companies will see technology (remote computing, automation, IoT, etc.) as a way to not only reduce costs but also to ensure they have a better emergency plan for next time.

 

 

Where does the average small business want to look? Here are a few ideas:

  • As you move towards putting things on the cloud (for access from anywhere), all of your key sites will need to have a backup method of accessing the Internet. Think cellular routers here as a low-cost method of protection.
  • Sensor-based solutions are great for letting your team know what is going on from anywhere; ideal when you are trying to social distance
  • Robots may be costly for many businesses, but there is an increasing amount of lower-cost devices on the way. These may be used for greeting customers, working in high-risk areas or even for deliveries. They are also ideal for riskier roles or those that may cause physical injury.
  • As we can gather more information than ever before, software packages are allowing for data to be crunched and actions to be taken in ways that would have been science-fiction a decade ago. There are cloud-based and turn-key services that fit the budget of even the smallest companies.

 

If you are looking at making a move, do remember that there are many emerging cellular technologies out there to allow you to do more than ever before. If your business needs blazing speeds for communication, 5G will be just what the doctor ordered. If you just need reliable connectivity for small bits of data, CAT-M is made for you.  

How IoT optimizes the Construction and Infrastructure Industry  

When one thinks of construction, a lot of things may come to mind: cool pieces of large machinery, very tall cranes and of course, very hard-working men and women. One thing that you might not think of is technology, and that belief is well-founded. The construction and infrastructure industry has been routinely ranked very low in technology use compared to other sectors.

With several large projects likely to take place (thanks to the expected large stimulus packages), I want to cover different ways that IoT is helping maximize the work done while reducing costs and making it safer.

Precision GPS

Most of us think of GPS as something that is reasonably accurate. Your smartphone roughly knows where you are, and this is accurate enough to get you to the closest Starbucks. However, if you are building large-scale projects, you need to have a higher level of accuracy. Precision GPS solutions are being used to ensure that things go where they are supposed to by accuracy down to the inch. Precision GPS is also heavily used in the agriculture space.

Point to Point communication

Imagine a construction site before it starts; do you visualize a high-speed Internet connection? In most cases, construction (both new and upgrades) often takes place in areas that are not covered by traditional landline services. While there are a few ways to solve this issue, one way is using a technology that uses Point to Point communication, which is when you set up two “points” to communicate. This set-up enables you to extend an existing connection from a nearby source.

Technologies (like Free Space Optics) are built to allow for a rugged and easy to set up solution. They are ideal for extending coverage (such as for a new building) and can easily be re-used for the next project when once finished.

GPS Tracking

The construction industry uses some huge (and expensive) “toys” to do their work. 

They are not only expensive to buy/lease but are also costly to operate. These tools need to be up and working at all times to avoid expensive losses of productivity.

GPS Tracking allows you to know where they are and how they are operating at all times. This both reduces the chance of theft and reduces on-going operating costs.

Monitoring of “previously unmonitorable” equipment

In the previous point, we covered how large vehicles are tracked. Due to the costs involved, it was easy to justify the cost of doing so. However, what about things that are not quite as valuable but still vital: think construction fencing, smaller equipment and even the porta-potty?

The lower cost of IoT hardware, as well as the reduced size that has been introduced by technologies such as CAT-M and LoRa, have opened up the ability to monitor equipment more than ever before. This reduces the chance of loss and maximizes your uptime.

Sensors

IoT, as I always say, is about information. With so many things going on at most sites, it is impossible to know everything that is going on, increasing the chance of accidents. 

Sensors can provide valuable information to warn about things before they happen. This may be vibration sensors that can alert to early signs of an earthquake, it can be heated/cold sensors that alert to conditions that may make it unsafe to work, it can be humidity sensors that alert to levels that may damage essential supplies- or it can be motion sensors that alert to an unwanted presence after hours.

On-person biometrics

Sensors help you keep track of the status and condition of critical assets. This also holds true for your most valuable assets: your team members. 

First used by the military for soldiers in combat, biometric sensors in clothing are being used by some companies to alert to issues with key team members, such as those driving the large cranes on sites.

Whether it be from an illness, work accident or environmental issue, you can be alerted when this team member has a problem, even if they are unable to tell you so themselves.

Automation: COVID-19 is removing opposition like never before

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One of the most heated topics in the world of retail used to be, “should you use the automated checkout line?” Many people were adamantly against the use of them as they felt they were putting cashiers out of work. However, I am not sure that this is as much the case anymore.

On my last trip to the grocery store, I noticed that more people (much to my dismay) were using the self-checkout and not going to the cashier to pay for their items. Not surprisingly, the cashier did not seem to mind this as well. It appears that COVID may have introduced a new normal, and that includes the higher use of automation than ever before ... I think this is a trend that may continue or even accelerate.

Here are a few reasons why:

People want to limit face-to-face interaction.

Like the checkout experience, I noticed the same when I went to the bank. There were several seniors in line for the bank machine, and I could hear them talking about how they never use this “thing,” which was apparent by the awkwardness that they showed while using it. The same has been noticed by banks that are seeing an increase in online-based activity in some groups that traditionally had never used it.

I don’t see this as a trend that will slow down anytime soon. Expect things like self-serve terminal as fast-food chains, kiosks where you can renew your driver’s license and automated dispensers for items like refilling of propane tanks to start to become more commonplace. 

This change is occurring as people want to limit their close contact with employees and will just become part of the norm going forward.

Better disaster planning

As a vegetarian, I don’t have to worry about the shortage of meat caused by virus spreads at meat plants affecting my daily diet- I mean, I can’t see there being a run on tofu anytime soon. However, I did take notice of these outages for a different reason; they show a significant gap in disaster planning in the meat processing sector. Without workers, these plants come to a screeching halt.

Automation is one way for vital industries like meat processing, food preparation and food retailing to have a plan in place to prevent widespread shortages. 

Much of the decision to automate before was likely driven by financial reasons (did it make business sense to replace workers with machines and software). Now, many companies will do so to ensure continuity of their operations. 

Reducing out of country outsourcing

Ok, stay with me on this one. One of the reasons why many roles in manufacturing and support were outsourced was it was cheaper to do so. However, one flaw that was exposed in this current pandemic is that when the “chips are down,” you may not be able to rely on foreign suppliers to deliver critical goods, as they will often think about their own needs first.

However, going back to the primary reason for outsourcing, many North American factories cannot compete with ones overseas due to the higher wages paid to North American workers, as well as the cost of higher safety standards. This would mean that a company making masks, as an example, would not be cost-competitive, making them in the US when compared to Vietnam ... unless there were no workers involved. In theory, a factory based on automation may be cost-competitive and be able to compete.

Sure, this is not great for North American workers, who would not see any new roles at these factories, but they were not seeing them anyways. Does it make sense to have a fully automated plant as opposed to outsourcing? I think it does for critical industries, at the very least.

Robots doing high-risk jobs

If you ask the average person what this title means, they may point to the example of a bomb squad robot. Like it happens in the movies, a robot is the one who gets close to the bomb for the first inspection, reducing the chance of a loss of human life. No one ever says, “Hey, why is that robot doing the work of a human?” I think we all accept that it makes sense for this work to be done by machines.

I think this mentality will transfer over to other roles now. I can see your first contact at a hospital ER being done by a robot who takes your temperature. I can also see a robot bringing contagious patients food and medicine in ICU units. In this current environment, I don’t think that many people would complain.

Over time, this will expand as machines become smarter, and the latency of networks drops down to “real-time” ... look for things like remote surgery at disaster sites and drones delivering essential medication to patients at home under quarantine.

The Bottom line

COVID has changed life in ways that most of us could never have imagined. As an example, I was overly excited to finally receive hair clippers from Amazon to cut my hair, something I have not done since I was 5 (and my mom yelled at me for that). I think it is natural that we will accelerate our acceptance of automation in exchange for keeping us safe; however, are we also going to accelerate our move towards training displaced workers?

Cellular vs Landline Explained – An interview with Scott Deyoe

LTE/Cellular vs Landline connectionsHere's a link to the podcast of this article:

https://iotms.podbean.com/e/special-covid-episode-5-the-nerds-take-over/

 

Larry - Scott, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to join us on the podcast. To start, many people listening are experts in using traditional landline-based connectivity for both their in-office workers as well as those working from home.

First Question
Aside from the obvious factor of there being no wires, what are some of the differences they need to know between cellular-based connectivity and landlines?

Scott - Good day Larry, thanks for reaching out. It is always a pleasure to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing our industry. Many times, cellular data sessions within good coverage areas are just as reliable or in many cases, more reliable than wireline connections. Obviously, you are billed for all data used on a cellular connection while most landlines are essentially unlimited. IoT data on a cellular network is considered to have a higher value than consumer data and unlimited plans are unheard-of for high bandwidth IoT applications. Many cellular based systems can allow for remote management of the cellular router and of course, you are able to manage the cellular subscription as well.


Second Question
Larry - Ok, that makes sense. Let’s move on to deployment of cellular gateways. What are some key things that IT teams should know about the setup and deployment of devices, especially during a time when they are not able to set up the devices themselves?

Scott - This is when value added partners can be a great benefit. Many resellers of cellular routers are able to offer a full range of services. This would include cellular service, SIM installation, router configuration, antennas, kitting and logistics for deployment. Of course, if you already have a relationship with a carrier you may provide SIMs for the project. There are also some basic security items to consider just like with the network in your office. Do you want to allow direct login to the cellular router? Have you changed the default password and potentially the username? Do you need to block or allow certain services or ports? I think your listeners get the idea.


Third Question
Larry - We have heard that using a cellular connection for corporate based traffic can be more secure than your employee using their home Internet service. Can you explain why this is?

Scott - Yes, it is quite simple. All cellular data is encrypted. The process of establishing a call or data session is authenticated by the carrier and then the data is encrypted. Adding a VPN is for end to end data security, meaning the end user laptop to your company infrastructure. Additionally, you do not have co-mingling of personal use and company use devices. When you allow a user to connect their work computer to their home network, you are allowing all devices on the home network to at least see the work computer. You can set policies on the work computer, but it is potentially subject to whatever else may be on the home network. If you are concerned about data co-mingling, you could request a private APN from the cellular carrier. This means only your devices can see your devices and they are not visible to other routers on the cellular network. The bottom line is that deploying a cellular router to your work at home staff allows you to keep the personal and work traffic separated and gives you control of the security of both wired and wireless connections.


Fourth Question
Larry - Hmm … I actually understand that answer, maybe I am still a bit nerdy after all … on to the next question. Using cellular data introduces an aspect that was not likely an issue, that being lack of cellular coverage in the homes of many remote workers? What can be done to address this issue?

Scott - While coverage in most areas is not an issue, there may be locations where coverage is not ideal. The advantage of a dedicated cellular router is that you have many antenna options over that of using a worker’s phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Most cellular routers support the use of an external antenna. This antenna may be directly connected to the cellular router or via a long coaxial cable to get the antenna situated in the location for the best cellular reception. Of course, the antenna gain presented to the cellular router must be within the specified limits. If getting the antenna to the best reception location is not possible, there are several options for improving reception. The most advanced of these is a Cel-Fi system from Nextivity. These carrier specific intelligent signal boosters are network safe as opposed to simple broadband linear amplifiers. While not ideal for determining the best location for the antenna, the employee’s cellphone RSSI indicator may be used. Some phone models support a tech mode that provides an actual dB signal level. That would be ideal for determining the best location. There are always high gain directional antennas as well. Again, a good reseller should have a wide selection of antenna and booster options available.


Final Question
Larry - For our final question … What advice would you give to IT teams about the upcoming launch of 5G?

Scott - Plan for it as it will be the next wave of advances in cellular data speeds … reduced latency, an increased density of cellular devices and finally, network flexibility. In the future, a fully deployed 5G IT infrastructure by a business would have automatically had that business prepared for the social distancing/work from home situation we currently find ourselves in. With bandwidths greater than cable in many areas, 5G will enable cloud-based data solutions and applications anywhere 5G coverage is found.

How IoT Is Helping Us Fight COVID-19

IoT is all about information. It provides an excellent way for information that was typically difficult to get (or even impossible) to be retrieved, processed and used to make more informed decisions. IoT allows for better traffic flow in our cities, improved quality and safety in our food systems and weather forecasters to make more accurate forecasts.
Now, IoT is used to help us fight COVID-19. Here are a few ways:

Thermometers

Digital thermometers offer a benefit to the user and possibly to health care professionals on a larger scale. By eliminating the difficulty of having to read the "red line" (which, I have to admit is harder with my ageing eyes), we can be sure that patients, parents and caregivers can read temperatures more accurately. Many of these devices come with applications that allow for historical records that can easily be shared with a doctor or nurse, often via email.

These applications can do more on a much larger scale. Similar to how Google can identify a possible cluster of colds/flu based on the searches in an area, thermometer companies would be able to locate a potential group of COVID-19 based on a spike in temperature in a particular area. It also could provide information to remote health care workers as to which isolated patients may need to care the most.

GPS Helps Keep People Quarantined

This next part has a feel of "big brother," and I cannot imagine that this being tolerated in the Western world during a regular period. However, this is not your average time.

GPS location data were used by many Asian countries to ensure that those exposed to the virus did not break their mandated quarantine. They were required to send a text message (with embedded GPS information), along with a picture of their surroundings on a scheduled (and random) basis. This strict policy is one of the reasons why countries like South Korea were able to stop the spread quickly.

Setting up communications quickly

Many of the locations that the government is using for virus testing (and for quarantines) may not have active Internet access. It makes sense, as some of the sites are abandoned factories, make-shift tents on soccer fields and even closed hotels/dorms. For these locations to function normally, a reliable (and secure) method of Internet access is a must.

Cellular gateways are the ideal method of accessing the Internet in these situations. They can be set up in minutes and provide a fast method of getting access to vital information. In some cases, sensors can be connected to these gateways to provide great real-time information. These sensors can measure the opening of a door (to know if someone is attempting to break quarantine), identifying the storage temperature where essential supplies are kept to turning off lights that are not needed (to reduce power use at a remote site. Sensors are helping provide real-time information for those who need it the most.

Factories and transportation made better

Many essential items need to be manufactured and transported as quickly as possible, ranging from masks to ventilators to eventually, large volumes of vaccines. IoT helps factories operate more efficiently and keep costs down. However, I wanted to talk about the transportation of critical items, specifically how IoT is keeping them secure and safe. The GPS based systems can alert to issues; if a truck were to go off a set path or if needed, allow the driver to alert if they are feeling threatened or unsafe. Getting the truck safely to its destination is only one part of the issue; the products need to get there in proper condition. IoT sensors can be used to ensure that the vehicle was driven in a safe manner (and without breaking key vials) and that the correct temperature/humidity range was adhered to at all times, ensuring the safety of a vaccine or medicine.

IoT is here to help. It is here to help our critical front line workers do more with less and have a better understanding of what is going on at all times. This will help us defeat the world enemy we have faced in our lives. I would love to hear from any health care agencies who are looking for assistance in how to get the most out of IoT!

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5 ways that better cellular signal will help your business ​

Over the past 20 years, the cellular phone has evolved from something we used to “pretend we were in the office” on a Friday afternoon to becoming likely the most essential piece of equipment in our lives.  While it has changed our personal lives, it has had an equally significant impact on the business world.

This means that for your business to function normally, a strong cellular signal is no longer a luxury in your location.  Here are five ways that a stronger mobile signal will change your business for the better:


Your customers expect it

Sure, you may offer free Wi-Fi to your customers, and this helps to attract customers.  However, not everyone feels comfortable giving away personal information to obtain Wi-Fi, while others are nervous about using unknown Wi-Fi networks.  As well, while Instagram may rule the world, people still rely on voice calls or texts during times of emergency.  Don’t be surprised to hear that many people will avoid your location if you have terrible cellular coverage, especially if they may spend a lot of time there (such as at a restaurant).

Your employees will be more productive

Ok, maybe the first point does not apply, as customers do not visit your location.  As well, you may have a strict “no social media” rule at your office.  However, this thinking may be short-sighted.  Much of today’s business happens while people are away from their desk, even while in the office.  As well, many offices are thinking about moving towards 5G for all of their communications, making reliable cell coverage a must.

 In some offices, there may be a restriction towards using Wi-Fi in particular areas, such as in a laboratory.  If your team does rely on cellular data, a stronger signal will ensure faster speeds for them to do their job.


It improves the safety of your location, especially remote sites and mobile

Depending on where you live, your jurisdiction may have a “work alone” policy.  The basic idea is that if you do your job either always or mostly alone, you need to have a non-verbal way of communicating that something is wrong.  Most organizations opt for push-button pendants, often using a smartphone to send the alert.

This means that a reliable and strong cellular signal in all areas of your facility is no longer an option.  This is especially true for a remote, temporary or mobile location, as you will not always know in advance how strong the cellular signal in the area may be.


Your devices will last longer

I remember when I was about 6, I could not figure out why gas mileage was better for cars when they were driving on a highway when compared to driving in the city.  I mean, how can it be more efficient to drive 2x as fast?  The answer, as I was told, was that the starting and stopping created more work for your car, despite the speed differences.  The same holds for your phone; it is much better for your battery life (and the phone in general) to browse quickly while in reliable coverage than to send data slower while in lousy coverage.

While this extra strain affects all aspects of your devices, it is especially true for your battery.  A better cellular signal will allow your devices to last much longer.

Less dropped calls / missed messages

Quick … how many times in the past year have you had voicemail messages show up, and your phone did not ring?  I need to use all of my fingers and toes on this one.  Missed calls are somewhat inevitable when we chose to cut the wire, but the frequency of them does get worse as coverage declines.

Text messages are a bit better, as they don’t need as strong of coverage, but any missed messages hurt your team’s productivity and customer service levels.

To wrap this up, how do you improve your coverage?

I didn’t want to make this into too much of a sales pitch, but the team at Novotech can help you with any low coverage situation.

The first way is to look at cellular enhancement solutions. There are ones that specialize in all sorts of environments, small/medium and large offices, mobile deployments, rugged deployments, outdoor deployments and more.

If your communication is based on a gateway, such as in the case of many IoT solutions, using a more powerful antenna can often help.

Finally, remember what kills cellular signal- metal, concrete, and other materials prevent the signal from getting where it needs to go. In some cases, running a cable to an external antenna can make a ton of difference

 

5 ways that IoT is changing the world of Transportation

Planes, Trains and Automobiles- besides being a great movie from the ’80s, it is one of the biggest vertical markets in the world.  The business of moving people and goods not only has helped create modern life as we know it, but it is also big business.

While this space is far from new to the benefits of using IoT, here are five unique ways that IoT makes the world of transportation better.

Your bus will arrive on time (and if not, you will know about it in advance)

When you think of all of the different variables that can influence the arrival of a bus (weather, traffic, emergencies, etc.), it is somewhat surprising that they ever arrive on-time at all!  IoT first helps by ensuring that significant failures on the vehicles are a thing of the past, thanks to its combination of better maintenance adherence and alarming to potential issues in advance.

However, sometimes, delays are unavoidable.  Many municipalities are using alerts based on the desired bus stop.  If a bus is late, the transit user can be alerted, to allow them not to spend extra time waiting in the cold at the bus stop.

You may have more time to read (or watch Netflix) on your drive to work

Now, I am not encouraging you to do this while driving; I am talking about autonomous vehicles.  Given that most new cars use some semi-autonomous features (think auto-stopping or cross-traffic monitoring) and Tesla’s autopilot is already 6x less likely to be in an accident than the average driver, this is inevitable.

Regardless of your opinion on self-driving vehicles, they do not happen without the incredible volume of IoT-based information, such as that from cameras, sensors and more.

It’s a bird; it’s a plane, it’s Amazon’s new drone delivering your toilet paper

For the first few years of their existence, drones were just an expensive toy for parents/grandparents to entertain their kids for 20-30 minutes at a time.  They have now evolved into serious business tools, being used to examine pipelines and water towers as well as to deliver vital supplies during emergencies.

While I see some severe restrictions to deliveries via drones in most urban areas, one can see drones used for rural areas and the first organ transplant was just delivered using one recently.

You’ll spend a bit less time in traffic

Traffic is a wonderful way to spend time: said by no one.  IoT can’t do everything to prevent gridlock, but it can help to prevent it from being made worse.  Road sensors are used to alert to issues on the road, such as excessive ice, mudslides or an impassable bridge.  As well, many highways use systems to inform to approximate drive times to key landmarks (such as an airport or road) and offer suggested alternatives during busy periods.

Finally, many highways in Europe use the “hourglass” method to increase flow during busy times.  Like an hourglass, traffic is slowed in advance of a bottleneck to allow less traffic to try to force its way through a slow stretch, increasing flow for everyone.  They do this using IoT sensors, often 10-30 km before the issue even occurs!

...and your drive home will be safer as well!

The use of sensors is not new to the world of cars, as we have had them for years (such as the sensor to tell you that you are low on gas).  One example I wanted to point out that is making things safer is the use of onboard sensors on ambulances.

One of the most dangerous types of accidents is the “T-bone collision,” which commonly happens when an ambulance with its emergency lights on goes through a red light at an intersection.  New onboard sensors on the ambulance detect that the vehicle is approaching a red light and will turn the light green in advance, reducing the chance of such an accident.  No, I don’t know how to get one for your car!

Webinar: 6 Benefits Of Asset Management And 8 Industries That Can Benefit From Asset Management

Asset Management is using the power of sensors, connectivity and software to monitor, track, and optimize assets.

Let’s take some time to review 6 benefits of asset management and then 8 industries that can benefit greatly by incorporating asset management into their operations.

Here is a link to the webinar:  www.youtube.com/novotechwebinar

And, if you’d like to  skip ahead to the parts relevant to your business, click on the sections below.

Webinar Overview 02:28
What is Asset Management 03:17
Benefits to all organization 04:25
Food Industry 06:21
Retail 07:38
Construction and Infrastructure 09:18
Agriculture 10:54
Logistics and Transportation 12:17
Property Management 13:32
In the office 15:03
Industrial Applications 16:16
Solutions for all sizes of business 17:43
5 Things to remember 19:06
Contact Novotech 20:10

 Benefits Of Asset Management And 8 Industries That Can Benefit From Asset Management


5 – Overview (02:28)

During this webinar, we are going to cover many things.

First, we will give a brief definition of what Asset Management is

Like many solutions, there are many benefits that virtually all organizations, regardless of what you do or how big you are will see from using an Asset Management solution.

From there, we look at eight different markets to cover some more specific examples of how keeping a closer eye on your valuable assets can improve all aspects of your business.  Don't worry if your organization does not fall under one of these; we will cover the benefits in a way that a few of them will no doubt help your organization as well.

Finally, we recap by giving you five takeaway points about the power of Asset Management that you don't want to miss.

6 - What is Asset Management? (03:17)

Like many things in technology, this explanation can be as elaborate as you want it to be.  I will try to avoid too much industry jargon by saying that it uses the power of 3 separate technologies to bring you the data you need and to do so in a manner that is more useable to you.

The first component is the sensors.  Sensors are good at one thing; they can give you the status of an item or an area. Factors could be temperature, the level of humidity or about 100 other items.

Getting the sensor information to you is the responsibility of the connectivity side of the house.  This includes local area technologies (think Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and long-haul technologies (think cellular connectivity or plugging your office Internet connection).

Finally, without software, the information from sensors may make little sense to you.  The Software side allows you to make sense of it; this is how you see trends in temperature in a graph or get a text to let you know that an important device is down.

When you combine all three of these things, you get the power of asset management.

7 - Benefits to all organizations (04:25)

Now, all companies and organizations are different.  Not only do you do or make different things, but you also have different priorities as to how you wish to operate.

Because of that, each organization may find a different set of benefits from an IoT solution that is unique to them.

However, there are several benefits that every company should not only see but also improve from

One of the most significant sources of lost productivity is duplication, often due to a lack of information sharing across your company.  IoT allows for real-time data that can be shared, allowing your teams to make better decisions and have less downtime.

IoT helps safety in a few ways.  Work alone solutions, while not Asset Management solutions help keep your team safe.  However, Asset Management solutions also warn your team of dangerous situations, allowing them to take necessary precautions.

By sticking to the maintenance schedule better and by warning you when your key devices are not working well, you can extend their life in the field, allowing you to save money and downtime.

How does IoT help you to reduce waste?  Smart cooling solutions allow you to know if the temperature is too high or too low, preventing unwanted spoilage.  On the non-perishable side, it keeps track of all of your inventory and shipments, eliminating the chance of duplication.

Nothing is more frustrating, either for the customer service person or the customer when they cannot give the answers that the customer needs.  IoT allows your team to know what is going on and often make changes over the air to fix issues.

Finally, when you eliminate waste, duplication and ensure that all of your machines are operating at peak condition, you are going to lower down your energy bills!

8 - Food Industry (06:21)

The first industry that we are going to look at is the food industry, which includes restaurants, food merchants, food storage, food processing and more.

One area of food that leads to a lot of waste and extra costs is with refrigeration.  Asset Management solutions often include AI-based software which can help optimize your usage, and even offer excellent marketing information about your customers.

If you want customers to be happy, they need to be comfortable.  Know what the temperature, amount of light and more are for your areas, reducing heating/cooling costs and improving satisfaction.

Did those strawberries get here before that batch?  Considering the amount of food at many restaurants, it is often hard to tell, resulting in a lot of wasted products.  Using RFID tags to let you know when to use food up reduces waste and spoilage.

Finally, every part of the food industry uses some cleaning, chopping, processing or cooking machine.  Keeping these machines running at maximum efficiency lengthens their time in the field, reduces downtime and lower your energy bill.


9 – Retail (07:38)

More than ever, retailers need to cut costs, improve service and find ways to get people to get off their couch, where they can order millions of things from pages like Amazon.

IoT solutions are helping in a few ways: by monitoring key storage areas, retailers can reduce waste, improve security and better keep track of inventory levels.

In most cases, retailers are not too concerned as someone walks around with things in their cart.  However, make it a $10,000 bottle of scotch at a store, and it makes sense that people want to keep an eye on it.  Be notified of any changes to the product, for example, if its container is open or even keep track of it if someone were to leave the store with it.

One does not often think of a retailer as having a lot of critical pieces of equipment.  However, depending on the type of store, it may be a cutting machine, hair dryers or even the HVAC systems.  IoT keeps them all up and running.

How do you know where your shipments are, whether that is when it is on its way to your location, between locations or even if it inside of your massive warehouse?  There are Asset Management solutions to help you with all aspects of a product's journey.

Finally, many retailers are looking to reduce their costs, especially for energy, but they need to do so without sacrificing their customer service.  IoT solutions eliminate unnecessary light use, lower down HVAC costs and can let you know of unauthorized use of key machines.


10 - Construction and Infrastructure (09:18)

When one thinks of Construction, you tend to think of big equipment, hard-working men and women and dangerous work.

The reality is that Construction is quickly adopting many different IoT and Asset Management solutions to help with all aspects of their work.

A construction site is often a place that brings the thrill of playing with toys that many of us used in the sandbox to live.  Unlike the sandbox toys, these machines are not only incredibly expensive, but they also need to keep working to prevent costly unwanted downtime.  Asset Management solutions help to maintain these devices and alert to any imminent failure that may occur.

Even at smaller sites that do not use heavy machinery, there are valuable tools such as hammers, jacks, drills and more that need to be available when needed.  Solutions enable you to locate them quickly and get a notification if someone is trying to steal them.

Construction sites are dangerous places.  One of the ways to keep them safer is to have a better understanding of the work environment.  Ranging from the presence of unwanted water, excessive heat and vibration to humidity levels that can damage the material, sensors allow project managers to keep things running and to reduce costs.

Finally, materials are expensive, ranging from building materials to the diesel used to keep machines running.  Asset Management solutions allow you to keep track of these things, both on and off the job site.


11  - Agriculture (10:54)

The world of agriculture is constantly be expected to do more, produce better quality food while having food spend less time on a truck and to do it all by creating less impact on the environment.  Asset Management solutions help farmers do just that.

One of the most valued commodities in the world is clean water, and much of the water we use is to grow the food we eat.  By having a better understanding of the current status of the crops and the amount of rain that has fallen, farmers can reduce the amount of water that is required to grow the food we need.

Once the food is grown, it has to be stored.  As well, farms use a lot of different liquids, such as fertilizers and fuel. Asset Management solutions improve both the storage of finished goods and to help alert to low levels of key items that are needed to keep things running.

Farmers today use much equipment, ranging from during planting to harvesting.  IoT helps to prevent them from being stolen as well as to alert to any potential issues to avoid costly downtime; this helps to lengthen the life of devices in the field, improving their return on investment.

Finally, ranchers are looking for ways to improve the life and value of their prized herd.  IoT solutions help to keep track of their location, but equally important; they help to keep track of the health of the animal using biometrics, so, yes, like a Fitbit for cattle!


12 - Logistics and Transportation (12:17)

One of the largest vertical markets in the world is the area of moving items around.  Trillions of dollars a year is spent on such services, and Asset Management solutions are a significant part of how they have streamlined operations, reduced costs and improved their bottom line.

Most people understand the value of tracking your vehicles, be it a plane, train or automobile.  By knowing where they are, you can increase employee safety, reduce costs and increase your productivity.

It isn't just your vehicles that can be tracked either, Low-cost solutions allow for monitoring a key item around a facility, a city or around the world.

Sometimes, items need to stay at your warehouse for a while, and many of those items have precise requirements for things like heat, vibration and temperature.  Even if the items are not that sensitive, sensors allow you to know if there is the presence of an intruder, a natural disaster or a flood before it is too late.

Finally, if items can get lost in your garage, imagine at a large warehouse facility.  Keep track of skids, forklifts, emergency equipment and more by using low-cost tracking solutions that can reduce downtime and costs.


13 - Property Management (13:32)

For this slide, we look at Property management based on if you manage a property, regardless of whether you are the owner or not.  So, this would include professional property managers, school boards, recreational property owners and hotel owners, to name a few.

Whether it is your employees, tenants or guests, keeping them comfortable is good for business, but you want to do so in a way that controls your heating/energy costs.  Asset Management solutions let you know if temperature and humidity are too high or too low and give you optimize your HVAC systems.

There is machinery that is involved in the operation of any building, including boilers, furnaces, AC units and more.  Keeping an eye on them maximizes their life, lowers down costs and prevents unwanted downtime.

Lowering downlights and temperature when no one is there is just one of the ways that Asset Management solutions help you reduce costs.  They can also let you know if valuable heat is escaping through an open or drafty window.

Nothing wastes time and money more than having the garbage picked up when it does not need to be. However, you also can't risk your bins running full too often either.  Get notified when containers are ready to be picked up.

Security is a key to any successful building, as you need to keep your team, occupants and guests safe.  There are many solutions, including ones that help to notify of unwanted guests and ones that help keep key areas lit to improve safety.

14 - In the office (15:03)

Even with the boom in working remotely and from home, millions of people still do their work in an office each day.  In addition to the benefits from the previous slide on Property Management, here is how Asset Management solutions can improve life at the office

There are many essential pieces of equipment in the average office, including photocopiers, AV equipment and more.  Asset Management solutions can help keep these available, as well as specialized equipment like exam equipment at a doctor's office.

No one ever seems happy with the temperature at an office.  Localized temperature, humidity and light sensors help keep individual areas at the right levels, increasing your team's productivity.

There are many dangers at an office, not just office politics.  Vibration, water and noise sensors help alert you to things like earthquakes, floods and unfortunately, gun violence to help keep everyone safe.

An essential part of helping your company's bottom line is to keep costs down without sacrificing service.  Things like reducing heating/cooling costs, as well as electricity usage help to do that, and are also good for the environment as well.


15 - Industrial Applications (16:16)

Every day, millions of workers work in some very tough conditions that can be both rewarding and dangerous.

The work they do is vital to our day to day life, so we need to ensure that things keep running smoothly and safely.

Asset Management solutions maximize the uptime of key devices, alert to potential dangers and give workers the information they need to make better decisions.

There are hundreds of different types of Industrial applications, but here are four that offer easy to understand benefits.

Keeping Oil and Gas production up and running is a big business and something vital to the world economy.  IoT helps keep track of all aspects of the production.

Factories are becoming very high tech with the introduction of automation. Asset Management solutions help to further that by keeping key machinery running and alerting to any issues before they cause downtime.

When you think of pipelines, the natural thought is energy being shipped, and that is an integral part of our economy.  However, liquids from water to industrial chemicals also use pipelines. Asset Management solutions alert to any potential failure well before they happen.

Finally, some of the most crucial work done anywhere is in labs.  IoT helps to protect workers as well as to keep the areas optimal to avoid issues or contamination.

16 - Solutions for businesses of all sizes and markets (17:43)

Now, you may say to yourself, this all sounds great, but we're a small company, or we only have one location, I am not sure that these solutions are for us. They seem like they are suitable for only big companies.

Asset Management solutions come in all shapes and sizes, and they can be as technical or advanced as you want them to be.

For the Small business owner, the solutions can be set up in minutes, and you get the alerts that you want. A fridge is not working; a fundamental machine is not turning on or get a notification when your team arrives in the morning.  The solutions are all securely hosted and require nothing more than a smartphone or tablet to get started.

For the Medium business, you may have some more advanced systems to work with, and you may wish to share the data into different departments so, you may want your Finance team to get information on the lifespan of equipment, while you want your Operations team to get notified of outages.  Solutions can allow you to customize as you need and you can use existing systems that your organization is already comfortable using.

For the enterprise world, no two companies ever genuinely do things the same way.  Asset Management solutions are flexible in letting you set them up to the way you want; leave them as standalone systems, integrate into your CRM/ERP system or any combination that meets your needs today and in the future.


17 - 5 things to remember (19:06)

Sometimes when you throw information at someone, it can be overwhelming.  To help, I wanted to do a quick recap of 5 things that you need to remember about Asset Management and how it helps your organization.

Every business has some expensive equipment: cars, HVAC systems, stoves, printers and more can have their lifespan increased by ensuring that they are running at their optimal condition.

When you keep things running optimally, they will also run more efficiently- This lowers down your operating costs, such as utilities and the cost of maintenance and repair.

When your team has better information, they can make better decisions which leads to things running better and being able to fix customers issues faster]. Often before the customer is even aware of a problem!

When your team has access to information, they spend less time on the phone and doing investigations;  this makes them more productive.

Finally, going green is good for your pocketbook and the environment.  Lowering down your energy costs is suitable for both.


18 - Contact us slide (20:10)

Many thanks for taking the time to watch this webinar.  As always, we welcome your feedback on what you liked and how we can do better.

Novotech is here to help you get started on any aspect of your IoT journey, including Asset Management solutions.

We have reselling partners and integrators all over North America, as well as several IoT Sales and Technical professionals who can help you from Business case to deployment.

If you are interested in learning more about IoT, we have hundreds of blogs, white papers and more on our web page.

Finally, we encourage you to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

Thanks again, take care

Podcast: Part 1 of 2 – Choosing an IoT Cellular Network

We’ve covered this content in 3 ways for you to choose from:
Podcast – https://iotms.podbean.com/e/network1/ 
YouTube video –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=re2xehR0p28 


Or Read the blog post below: 

Picking an IoT network 

Here is Novotech's guide to helping you choose the best network to connect your IoT devices to.  This one covers the cellular-based networks, while part 2 covers all of the non-cellular options, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth and two newer wireless entrants, SigFox and LoRa.

To get started, here is a bit about me; I have been in the field of what is now called IoT for about 20 years, working in a variety of areas which has given me a unique level of exposure to assist people in their IoT journey. Novotech has also been in the IoT space for about 20 years and is in an excellent place to help you with any aspect of your IoT journey. 

List of Cellular options 

It used to be that there was always a current latest and greatest network that was set up for smartphones and tablets and IoT devices just piggy-backed on that.  While this is still the case for new networks like 4G and soon, 5G, there are now dedicated IoT networks that are optimized to maximize your experience while lowering down costs. This enables billions of devices to be connected, changing every aspect of our life.  But what is the optimal network for you?  There are a ton of factors: connection speed, latency, and power consumption are three important ones, but local and international coverage and device availability also often need to be taken into account. Let's go through each of these options, point out five key things (some good, some bad) to outline the option, as well as to point out a few typical applications for each. Finally, network availability plays a critical factor in your choice, and this has two similarities to the weather forecast- it tends to be very specific to your area, and it can often change quickly.  You want to ensure coverage in your desired area before purchase.

2G 

Depending on where you live in the world, you may view 2G very differently.  In some parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, 2G may be the network that serves significant parts of where you live.  For most other areas, 2G is starting to see its decline in usage, so you want to be careful in choosing 2G. Be sure that you can get your devices activated. Assuming you can, here are five things to know about it. It is an extremely proven and battle-tested network technology, having been used for over a decade by millions of IoT-devices.  It provides a reliable platform for applications that do not feel the need for speed, more on that in a second.

Virtually the entire world has 2G coverage, although, some areas are starting to deactivate the technology.  As of a few years ago, it was the only technology that you could be assured to have blanketed coverage in most areas. It made its name by its ability to be used for tracking and monitoring.  Tracking involved sending GPS location updates for devices and monitoring involved sending usage and levels from crucial devices in the field.  Those are its strengths.

On the negative side, besides tracking and monitoring, it didn't take much to top out on speed on 2G.  If you recall, the first iPhone was on 2G, and it was not a speedster for web traffic.  It is okay for text and small messages, but forget sending live video feeds without annoyingly long buffer periods.

Finally, in many parts of the world, it is time to say goodbye to the network that helped to fuel a lot of the growth of IoT.  I would not recommend using 2G for any area of North America, and you want to do some significant research for deployments in all other areas.

Assuming you find that coverage is not an issue, it is the only technology that can indeed be considered for truly Worldwide Tracking applications unless you want to go into satellite, which we cover in the 2nd part. A typical application is Security Panels.  Many panels either came with an embedded 2G module or were connected via low cost 2G basic modems. If your device is at least a few years old and has embedded cellular technology, the chances are that it uses 2G technology.  This is common in applications like utility sites and communications closets, as shown here in the picture.

Finally, 2G was great for Basic SCADA applications.  For those of you who are rusty on your IoT acronyms, SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition.  So, to quickly explain, take a parking gate.  The SC part allows you to lift the gate by sending a command and the DA part would let you know how many cars went by

3G 

The next network technology that we are going to talk about is 3G.  This was the network that started the explosive growth of the smartphone and is still running strong in most parts of the world.  Many parts of rural North America still fall back to 3G.  3G offered a big jump over 2G, in terms of speed, and that opened up several important applications.  It also lowered down the latency, making it more applicable for applications that were sensitive to it.  It is not 5G speeds, but it is plenty quick for many applications.

Like 2G, it has a pretty extensive world-wide footprint.  Virtually all industrialized countries are blanketed in 3G coverage, and many 2nd and 3rd world nations have at least urban centers covered with 3G. One exciting new development of 3G was how it introduced MMS, or Multi-media messaging.  So, thank it for the craze of sending YouTube clips to your friends.  While it offers an excellent platform for many IoT platforms, it did use a significant amount more power than 2G devices, meaning that it was not as optimized for battery-based deployments.  It is not a full-blown power hog, but you may wish to consider this if power usage needs to be at a minimum.

Finally, although not as far down the path of leaving as 2G, it is saying goodbye in many areas.  It is challenging to load any net new 3G devices onto carriers in North America, so be sure to do your research before choosing 3G.

Assuming coverage and network availability is not an issue, one application that it was great for was Digital signage.  The nature of a digital sign was that it is mostly a monitoring application, monitoring for things like burnt lightbulbs and only in the off-hours new material be sent.  3G was optimal for this.  If you are in North America, CAT-1 may be a great alternative, which we cover in a few slides. Basic Field Force automation sounds complicated, but it is not.  This combines using GPS tracking to locate your work vehicles, as well as allowing your team to look up work orders, bring down safety documents and blueprints and to alert if there is an issue.  Because of its widespread coverage (and the fact that it could fall back to 2G in most cases), it is still a great choice.

Utility monitoring was often done using 2G, and in many cases, it was sufficient.  However, some of these applications had requirements to send down updates and commands, so 3G's lower latency and Out of Band Management is a very under-utilized application.  Many IT teams want to move the management of their essential routers away from being done locally, in the event of a break-i.  For years, POTS dial-in lines were used, but many replaced those with cellular gateways.  3G offered enough speed to be used both as an out of band option, as well as to provide a viable backup in the event the main line became unavailable. 3G has had a great life but is now starting the gradual slide towards obsolescence in many areas of the world, so be sure to do your homework before choosing it.

4G

The first of the speedster networks, 4G is blazingly fast.  It offers an incredible platform to use for a  variety of applications and is the current fastest network available commercially today. If your deployment is happening in 2019, and you have speed as your determining factor, this is where you need to look.

So, how fast is it?  Just watch all of the kids downloading YouTube videos on the bus to see that it is sufficient to replace a high-speed connection for most applications.
It is excellent at video, such as video conferencing as it had a relatively low level of latency, one that is much better than 3G.  This means a better experience in doing things like video conference calls like Skype.

As it is the network that carriers have pushed for their smartphones for the past few years, there has been much work done to make sure that it works well while mobile.  Its speeds in a mobile environment, as well as its stability,  is very impressive. 4G's performance is one of the reasons why you need to reach for your power cord on your iPhone or Android device more often, as this performance comes at the cost of using more power.  Many IoT applications are more power conscious, making 4G a lousy choice.

The other main issue with 4G is cost.  If you are putting a 4G module into a $1000 smartphone, the cost of the module is not prohibitive.  However, if you are building a tracking device, its cost premium over other technologies was not justified, especially since you could not benefit from its extra speed. In terms of applications, Public Safety loved 4G.  It offered sufficient speed to allow workers to download large documents like mugshots and building blueprints while being able to fall back to 3G in rural areas. Mobile retail is a widespread application.  It may mean merely moving outside into the parking lot, in the case of a store who has seasonal offerings like a nursery, it may be a food truck, or it may be temporary retail at a trade show.  In either case, 4G offered more than enough speed for transactions, inventory look-ups and more. Transit / Trains usage of 4G saw explosive growth.  The available speed offered enough bandwidth to track the buses, process payments as well as to offer Wi-Fi to passengers as a way to attract more people to ride the bus.

Finally, Disaster Recovery applications need speed, but more importantly, need quick setup.  They have been significant users of cellular-based technology.  4G offered enough bandwidth to run an entire command center while falling back to older technologies in more rural areas. 4G is the current speed leader, at least until the next technology makes its long-anticipated debut.  It has a very long life ahead of it and is an excellent choice for those needing speed.  If you feel the need to go supersonic, look at the next choice.

5G 

Welcome to the bullet train of cellular technologies.  There has been talk for a decade about how people would truly cut the cord at home and in the office and opt only for cellular-based communication.  This was tough to do, but 5G can make it a reality for millions.

To start, I am running out of adjectives to describe its speed.  I am calling it stupid fast, but for a reason.  Its initial launch speed is faster than most people have at their home and office, so that makes it appealing.  However, it can grow to hundreds of times faster than 4G. This begs the question, who needs that?  This is why I call it stupid fast, as it is so fast that no one needs that kind of speed.

The other main gain over 4G is its lower latency.  Applications, such as mobile surgery, are a distinct possibility as the latency is as close to real-time as we have seen in cellular technology.  It is so fast that it can eliminate buffering in most video applications.
The final benefit is capacity.  Every cellular technology optimized the use of the radio waves better than its predecessor, allowing for more users to share the same infrastructure.  5G takes that to the next level, allowing up to 1M users per square mile, which is staggering.

Ok, sounds perfect.  Well- not quite.  This performance comes at a cost, as its components are multiple times more than any other network, making it difficult to justify for most IoT applications.  It is also cumbersome in the power usage department, making it the gas guzzler of cellular technologies. Still, smartphone manufacturers are racing to get out 5G phones in 2019, but you should not rush out to buy one.  Most areas will not see optimized 5G coverage in 2019, so if you are buying a 5G phone in 2019, you will spend an awful lot of time on 4G networks in most areas. So, assuming you have coverage and are willing to pay the premium price for it, what application will benefit the most from 5G's incredible capabilities?  The first is Autonomous cars.  The average car will transmit up to 1000x what the average person does each year, and much of this traffic is time-sensitive.  It will use all of the capabilities of 5G wherever it is available.

As mentioned, many expect a lot of consumers and businesses to cut the wireless connection from their home and office.  This means that if you are building Business / Residential landline replacement product, like a gateway, 5G needs to be on your radar.
Ok, I still think I would prefer to have a surgeon look over me when they operate, like in this picture.  However, if you are remote and getting to a hospital is not a viable option, 5G offers a platform to make Mobile Surgery / real-time healthcare a true possibility for the first time.

Finally, 5G will change the Entertainment space dramatically.  Its speeds, capacity, and lower latency will accelerate the growth of technologies like AR/VR and will allow real-time, interactive games like Fortnite to be played in virtually real-time, thanks to its real-time nature.

CAT-1

CAT-1 is the first of the IoT-focused networks that we are going to talk about.  It is the Goldilocks of IoT networks.  It offers a decent level of data speed, enough for not only tracking applications but to transfer a significant amount of data when needed.  However, it offers a low enough level of power consumption to make it a viable option for many mobile based applications.  It is also the "slowest" network that fully supports 2-way voice communications. Still, it doesn't get the respect it deserves as many opt for the speed demons like 4G/5G or the low-power options like CAT-M. This is a consideration that most people should look at. As mentioned, it is ideal for 2-way voice communication, such as in the case of intercoms and alarm systems.

For the vast majority of IoT applications, it offers plenty of throughput speed.  This makes it an ideal balance for those applications that want to maximize battery life, but still, need to push down updates. Unlike 5G, which has little or no coverage, most areas of North America are well covered by CAT-1 networks today, making it an ideal network for most deployments.  It also has an expected long-life ahead of it.

Its flexibility is also one of its main issues, and it is not great at anything.  It is also not bad at anything, but most people tend to flock towards one of the extremes available. They want the speed from 4G / 5G, or they want the extremely long battery life from some of the next two networks. Cat-1 does not excel at either, so it gets put aside many times.

Finally, the explosive growth in 4G means that there is no shortage of hardware choices available.  The same is expected on the low-battery use side with CAT-M as 2019 progresses.  CAT-1 has several options, but if you are looking for a particular choice, the selection may not be as great.

Still, it is ideal for many applications, including Voice-based Mobile Applications.  Many people overlook voice, considering that most people are using text messaging and Instagram more than ever.  However, many applications, including those where we help find our loved ones, benefit from the addition of voice on-board. The next application is Mobile health monitoring, as shown in the picture.  While it could be done using either 4G or even CAT-M, CAT-1's balance of cost vs. Speed make it a better choice for this kind of application.

Similarly, Digital Signage is a perfect application for CAT-1 and should be your choice, assuming that 3G is not a viable option for you.  It provides you with a lower cost hardware option, but one that is capable of downloading your new content fairly quickly.
Finally, there are ATM / Kiosks.  Like Digital Signage, they may be able to work in many cases on a CAT-M network, as they are not that data-heavy applications.  However, these devices need to make quick firmware updates in many cases, so the extra cost for a CAT-1 device over a CAT-M device is pretty easy to justify. CAT-1 may be the Goldilocks of network choices, but it offers a much more flexible platform than most people realize, and it should be on your radar more often than it likely it.

CAT-M 

While 5G has received the most media attention, CAT-M may be the network that is the most anticipated in the world of IoT and for a good reason.  By taking out what you don't need (low latency and high-speed data throughput), it will become the default standard for most IoT applications in 2019 and beyond. By taking out speed and offering a higher latency, this allowed designers to remove a lot of the components that are required.  This offers a few benefits, the first being very low power usage.  When you have a lower usage of power, this allows you to use a smaller battery, lowering cost and the size of the unit.

The second benefit to fewer components is a smaller footprint.  Although some manufacturers may choose to keep the cellular module for CAT-M the same size as other technologies, others will reduce the size, allowing it to fit into smaller designs, maximizing its appeal. I don't want to make it sound like it is only optimal for text-based traffic.  Although I would not recommend watching YouTube over a CAT-M connection, it allows enough bandwidth to upload reports and to send down firmware updates ... just not at 5G speeds. It has two significant issues to it, depending on your needs and timelines.  The first is its extremely high latency or time to send data back and forth.  It would be the ground option if you were to compare it to a courier company.  As long as you are ok with the extra time to send/receive your data, this may not be an issue
The other issue in 2019, especially, may be coverage.  Although cellular carriers are working quickly to deploy the network everywhere, they may not have optimal coverage in all places in 2019, especially in rural areas and in some in-building systems.  However, since it is a relatively easy deployment for the carriers to do, this won't be an issue for too long.

The first kind of application that CAT-M is going to see heavy usage for is in the Wearables / Personal tracker space.  Most people using these devices are not likely to be heavy data users, and most data is not extremely time sensitive.  Even if it is used for a panic alarm, it may cause an extra few seconds delay, which is not a deal-breaker in most cases.  If it is, 4G or 5G may be warranted. The next application is for Heavy equipment monitoring.  While some devices may produce a lot of data, most companies will not feel the need to transmit it wirelessly, but instead will look for updates on key readings and locations. Something that CAT-M is optimized for. The term “environmental systems” is quite broad, as it can refer to monitoring things like the pH level of a river, the light level at a baseball stadium or the level of ice on a roadway.  In any of these cases, plus many more, CAT-M offers the perfect balance.

Finally, most Fleet operators are looking at CAT-M based solutions to replace existing 3G solutions, as it allows for a Lower overall cost and battery usage without sacrificing performance. In short, CAT-M is set to become the dominant North American IoT network in 2019, and if you don't need a lot of speed and are ok with a higher latency than 4G, it should be on your radar.

NB-IoT

The Final cellular network option is one that seems to have a lot of secrecy, as it is availability, so while it should be on your radar, you will need to do a lot of research, and that is NB-IoT or NB1. Once it is available, it has the potential to open up tens of billions of IoT devices and applications that may not have been financially feasible, even using a low-cost technology like CAT-M. 

While CAT-M is low power, NB-IoT looks to be even lower, lengthening the time between the charge for power sensitive applications. While I have not seen pricing yet, the early indications are that modules and gateways will be the lowest cost of any technology- stay tuned. While we will cover Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in Part 2, they have a decent place for many applications that are based at home, in the office, or where the device uses your smartphone for communications.  The low cost of both components and connectivity for NB-IoT means that it becomes a viable alternative for many companies to use cellular technology in many of these applications. No technology is perfect for every application and NB-IoT has its limitations for many.  It is extremely slow, it has even longer latency times than CAT-M, and unlike CAT-M, it is only recommended for use in a fixed environment.

The other drawback is that depending on what part of the world you are in, there may be limited (or no) coverage, so do your research before going too far down this path.
Assuming you have coverage, the first application that screams for NB-IoT is Industrial Machine monitoring.  The lower cost and battery needs will bring down the cost of deployment, opening up the addressable market for IoT by tens of billions of devices that it now makes sense to monitor. Similarly, its low power use makes it ideal for Energy Monitoring applications like remote wells and pipelines.

Many devices that companies want to monitor do not use power, such as fencing at a 
construction site, where a company wants to know if they are moved.  The cost of a battery-operated device in the past using cellular was way too high to make financial sense, but that will change with NB-IoT in most cases

Finally, companies often only wanted to monitor a single variable at a location, such as the temperature of crucial storage space.  Installing a gateway for a single sensor made little sense, but it was required to bring back the information.  NB-IoT allows for the use of standalone sensors, eliminating the gateway, and opening up potentially trillions of sensors to be monitored using cellular-based technology.

Overview 

Here are all of the networks, with their score on four critical categories outlined.
Do remember, the difference between some of these things may be vast on some, and the difference may be less on others.  As an example, the difference in power usage, while it may be huge from 5G to NB-IoT, it is not like you need to build a nuclear power plant to power a 5G connection.  However, it is a factor in your deployment.
The first consideration is Data Speed.  You need to determine what you need for speed, not just for day to day use, but what might you need during a time of heavy use and what flexibility you wish to have for your deployment.  If your plan is to one day do a live streaming video from a site, the choice of CAT-M now will mean that you have to upgrade much sooner than you may wish.

 In terms of network latency, most applications are not that sensitive, meaning that if it takes up to a few seconds to send critical pieces of information, it will not change the performance. However, this is not the case for things like video surveillance, which may see a lot of undesired buffering. Power use often varies by how you are powering the device.  A cellular module may use the majority of power in some mobile devices, but it not even notice if it is used in a high-power device like an HVAC unit.  Generally, devices powered by AC power are not as power conscious, whereas devices powered by battery tend to put more of an emphasis on lower power use.

  Finally, like Power usage, the cost may or may not be an issue, depending on the overall cost of the deployment.  Some devices that use cellular cost 10s of thousands of dollars, and although companies still look for the best deal, the cost of the module is not a massive factor in the overall price of the device.  This is not the case for mobile trackers, where the module may be the single most significant cost.
It is important to remember, before we leave this slide, that you are not limited to using a single technology.  Most companies use multiple technologies, depending on the needs of a particular deployment.  Depending on your hardware choice, the move from one technology to another may be quite seamless as well. 

   As a reminder, these are only half of the choices that you have for connecting to your IoT devices; in part two, we will cover popular network choices like Ethernet, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Lesser known choices like SigFox and Lora and we will also cover Satellite and private radio, which have a long history of use in many industrial and remote applications.  

Webinar: Part 1 of 2 – Choosing an IoT Cellular Network

We get a lot of questions at Novotech about all of the possible cellular networks available today from 2G to 5G, Cat-M vs Cat-1. So, I thought I would break it all down in an informative webinar.

And, if you're looking for more information on non-cellular networks like WiFi, SigFox and Bluetooth, check out our Part 2 blog here 

Here is a link to the webinar: https://www.youtube.com/NovotechKnows/

Here is a short review of all technologies: https://youtu.be/TechnologyReview

Here is the blog post in full: www.novotech.com/webinar

And, if you’d like to skip ahead to the parts relevant to your business, click on the sections below. 

 

1 - Title Slide (00:10) 

2 - About Presenter (00:34)

3 - About Novotech (01:10)

4 - List of Cellular options (01:19)

5 - 2G (02:34) 

6 - 3G (5:27) 

7 - 4G (8:38)

8 - 5G (11:25) 

9 - Cat-1 (14:39)

10 - Cat-M (17:51) 

11 - NB-IoT (21:09) 

12 - Overall chart showing all (24:00) 

13 - Part two (26:13)

14 - Novotech contact slide (26:38)