Shenzhen Water, China Telecom, and Huawei officially announced the launch of a project in Shenzen which leverages the use of NB-IoT technology enabling smart water metre communications. Shenzhen Water deployed around 1,200 NB-IoT enabled smart water metres in Southern Pearl Garden and other residential areas in the Yantian District of Shenzhen. As part of the project, Shenzhen water has now upgraded its water management system thanks to the water service platform based on China Telecom E-Cloud 3.0.
Smart metres provide accurate measurements avoiding the charge loss caused by false or missing reading and the impact of water leaks. The data will help with predictive maintenance and resources optimization as the company will be able to understand consumers’ patterns and generate data to identify network areas in need of repair or maintenance. Shenzen Water is now looking to further investigate the use of IoT in other sectors in what is de facto a first step into further building smart city applications.
The companies want to use this project as a use case to further expand with similar projects in China and across the globe. Developing successful use cases is extremely important and can provide a solid base for further business opportunities and expansion. In a market that is growing, being able to demonstrate winning solutions and tangible benefits is essential to further the role of the companies in more initiatives.
IHS Markit expects more projects leveraging NB-IoT technology to be launched across various applications such as smart metering, smart agriculture, smart parking, and others. The launch of this technology will foster the growth of the surrounding ecosystem from device manufacturers to solution providers.
The recently standardised 3GPP-based LPWAN technologies NB-IoT and Cat-M1 will be deployed by many operators starting from 2017 and going forward. Rather than one specification over the other, since these technologies can target different use cases, we expect them to co-exist. In this sense, it will be a case of which technology is prioritised by the operator rather than which technology is chosen by the company.
NB-IoT is entering the scene with multiple pilot tests and with expected roll outs. In January 2017, Telenor Connexion started a pilot of NB-IoT technology used to enable a smart parking solution in Trondheim (Norway). The project was the result of the cooperation between Telenor, Q-Free (parking sensor provider), Huawei, and u-blox. Another pilot was conducted by Telefónica in Chile in February 2017. There the operator implemented a smart water metering solution. For the project Telefónica partnered with Huawei and with Kamstrup (smart water metre provider).
Besides pilots, full roll outs have started. At the beginning of the year, Vodafone Spain announced the commercial launch of its NB-IoT network. The network was first live in Valencia and Madrid, with plans to further expand it to the rest of the country. Vodafone NB-IoT network is being deployed using the 800MHz band.
Regarding LTE-M, at the end of 2016, AT&T launched LTE-M technology to support a pilot project in San Francisco. This first initiative was followed by plans to expand LTE-M availability across the country during 2017. Partners in the pilot project included Altair, Ericsson, and others. In February 2017, AT&T also announced that it will bring its LTE-M technology across Mexico during 2017.
The path to the creation of a smart city is a path that follows “smart thinking”. In this framework, using or upgrading existing infrastructure and assets is a preferred way as this reduces deployment costs. Hence, with NB-IoT being deployed likely prioritizing those areas with large population and revenue opportunities, cities will be able to count for their projects on an existing and extended connectivity infrastructure well fit to support specific applications such as smart parking and smart water metres.