Getting Started With Cat-M1 and NB-IoT: Business Uses Cases and More

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Getting Started With Cat-M1 and NB-IoT: Business Uses Cases and More

With Cat-M1 and Narrowband IoT set to make waves, let's look at some use cases that cellular IoT technologies are perfect for.

· IoT Zone ·
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Cellular IoT is strengthening ubiquitous connectivity at a rapid pace, with industry experts projecting the number of cellular-connected devices to grow to 1.8 billion by 2023. From a market of 0.5 billion cellular-connected devices in 2017, this growth is primarily fueled by the rise of Category-M1 (Cat-M1) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technologies. 

What Is Cat-M1?

Category M1 (Cat-M1) is one of the newest cellular protocols available for IoT applications. Cat-M1 is an LTE chipset that is designed to integrate with sensors — it consumes less power, comes with an improved battery life, and supports everything from water monitoring systems, to asset trackers, and consumer electronics. Verizon just launched Cat-M1 networks a year ago and IoT platforms like Particle are starting to offer Cat-M1 as a part of their cellular connectivity offerings. Some other key features of Cat-M1 are:

  • Voice functionality via VoLTE
  • Full mobility
  • Low power consumption
  • Improved RF range and penetration

What Is Narrowband IoT?

Narrowband IoT (also known as NB-IoT or LTE-M2) is a proposed Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology that is supposed to work anywhere and connect devices on established mobile networks. Some of the touted benefits of NB-IoT are:

  • Easy Deployment
  • Low-cost, Low power solution
  • Capable of small data transfers
  • Designed to work independently
  • Improved Network Security & Reliability
  • Increased Range and RF (Radio Frequency) Penetration

What Is the Difference Between Cat-M1 and NB-IoT? 

To be honest, Cat-M1 and NB-IoT are pretty similar. They are both developed by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is basically a bunch of large telecom carriers and partners. Both are low-bandwidth, designed for low-power hardware, consume less data, have improved RF range, and have an extended battery life. However, Cat-M1 is designed for mobile applications, while NB-IoT is stationary. They have designed Narrowband IoT so it does not operate in an LTE construct, it can work independently, which means it can be deployed in a number of ways:

  • In-band deployment: NB-IoT can be deployed within the existing LTE spectrum and carriers will be able to update their networks through firmware updates.

  • Guard band deployment: NB-IoT can be deployed within the guard bands of the 3G and LTE spectrum, which reduces interfaces.

  • Independent deployment: NB-IoT can also be used as a standalone deployment within its own dedicated spectrum where deemed necessary.

Potential Cat-M1 and NB-IoT Use Cases

  1. Smart metering (electricity, gas and water): Smart meters are typically deployed in extremely remote, random, and rough environments. Due to Cat-M1 and NB-IoTs improved range, it could help improve coverage.

  2. Smart City Infrastructure: High-traffic parking garages that are deep underground could benefit from Cat-M1's improved RF penetration. It could also be used for Sensors that need to be deployed in underground subway stations to monitor health and environmental conditions.

  3. Security Systems: According to UBlox, security solutions could benefit from NB-IoT's low power wide area benefits. It could connect sensors to monitoring systems, which makes it more difficult for intruders to disable.

  4. Asset Tracking: If you have trucks that are going the distance or any item that could go into extremely remote areas, Cat-M1 and NB-IoT could help with it’s increased range.

  5. Agriculture: Sensors that are deployed in grain storage bins, moving tractors, or monitoring soil humidity would be able to communicate with the cloud and other devices more easily with improved range and RF penetration.

LTE is Here

Despite what you've been hearing for the past couple years, LTE has truly just arrived for IoT. Now that telecom carriers have finally built the infrastructure to support Cat-M1 and NB-IoT networks, IoT providers can now provide LTE offerings for their customers. And as telecom carriers start to phase out 2G and 3G options in the next 1 to 2 years, LTE is the best path to go if you companies want to work undisrupted for the next 10+ years. 

cat-m1, cellular iot, iot, nb-iot, use cases

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