Telit tackles power in the cellular Internet of Things

Telit tackles power in the cellular Internet of Things

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty

“Power is a variety of different things – it’s not just what the technology enables, it’s how you use the technology, what you communicate and when you communicate,” said Alon Segal, Senior Vice President, Software and Services at Telit and chief technology officer at Telit Wireless Solutions. This is increasingly important with low power narrowband cellular and LTE Category M chips such as those designed by Telit that use the 4G mobile phone networks to connect industrial systems, meters and asset trackers to the cloud as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Power is indeed a big, big play in these devices but it’s not just about how much energy we consume at 50kbit/s but also when you turn it on and off and what you transmit, as those effect the power significantly and make the difference between a system that can be out there for years,” he said.

Telit has recently launched OneEdge that allows both the radio and the sensors in a cellular IoT edge node to be remotely configured for lowest power, not just at deployment but also over time. The transmit time, even the sensor capture, can be changed to maximise the battery life, before sending the data into a wider cloud-based IoT management system. It also includes edge logic to managed alarms and thresholds, as well as updateable, hardware-based security. All this allows the performance of the node and battery to be monitored and parameters adjusted later on in life, for example to reduce the frequency of data transmissions if the battery is failing to extend thelife of the node.  

“We are not intending to replace the end server, we are not envisioning a separate consumption engine, it’s about delivering the data to wherever you need it,” he said. “It’s not another portal, it’s a data delivery service and device management.”

The new portal is necessary as existing protocols are not very power efficient, he says. “Socket based interfaces, traditionally MQQT or HTTP, are really not the best candidate if you are looking for something that is energy efficient,” he said. “In battery systems we are looking at asymmetric protocols such as eDRX so we need a mailbox or polling technique.”

“Another element is what we monitor. For control systems, we just care about the deltas, leakage, out of temperature range, so we want the paradigm to be much smarter and communicate only when something has changed. Irrespective of the hardware you use, all these things affect power usage at the edge,” he said. “At the end of the day we want to get the data to cloud, and I think there is a huge gap between the traditional cloud SaaS providers and hardware. Device management is very hardware dependent, particularly in cellular.”

“The people deploying these devices are not necessarily cellular experts, setting up retransmits, the correct QoS, they don’t necessary have the skillset to set it up or monitor it to work optimally so the confluence of skillsets to actually maximise the battery life and use the most efficient data delivery requires a lot of knowledge about the actual device. So what we are doing with OneEdge is putting a suite of tools together to manage this.”

Next: tools

“On the device, we have a lightweight M2M URC (Unsolicited Result Code) object model that is extensible, we onboard it into a device management platform for example for narrowband services. We have seen this in the US with network upgrades in Cat1, you need to be able to update the nodes and publish data from the device easily.”

“With the extensible object model I can add the IO, temperature sensing or whatever , and use the same infrastructure that I am using for the meta data using the same constructs for the customer data. This is all managed so it can be all turned off at any point in time, and it is delivered directly to wherever it needs to go without needing an API, to Azure, to Amazon Web Services, wherever. All we are doing is saying where the data is to go.”

All of this will help drive the use of cellular IoT technologies, he says.

“I think there’s a bright future for narrowband and Cat M – it is very much gaining momentum and we see more deployments on a global scale and more differentiated from one that’s depended on the skills sets for maintaining unlicensed deployments. There’s also more elements in private LTE which is also a viable alternative.”

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