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How the next generation of smart networks and smart devices will improve our lives

One major theme at last week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was IoT – Internet of Things – the growing industry where more and more devices can connect and interact with each other.

This connectivity will help industries become more efficient, help us find a parking spot, steer a drone to make a delivery and monitor any number of things.

The latest smart devices for these use cases will connect through dedicated parts of the cellular network like a mobile phone.

There were two types of networks Tech Guide saw at Mobile World Congress –  Cat-M1 and NB-IoT (also called NB-LTE with NB standing for narrow band).

Telstra revealed it has already deployed a Cat-M1 network and had already begun a pilot program with a remote Tasmanian winery where equipment and sensors could be accessed, controlled and monitored.

Smart meters and sensors that can connect to Huawei's NB-IoT network
Smart meters and sensors that can connect to Huawei’s NB-IoT network

Huawei is the force behind the NB-IoT. While many people see Huawei as a smartphone manufacturer, a much larger part of the company is its network business.

In our homes, our smart devices can all connect to our wireless networks so they can be controlled with our smartphones when we’re home and remotely using the cellular network when we’re out and about.

The next generation of industrial smart devices like smart meters, smart parking sensors, smart drones and smart shelves will be built with processors with built-in to register them on the Cat-M1 or NB-IoT networks.

This way, the devices become part of the network with a stronger connection and access to more bandwidth to relay the information they are gathering or sharing.

In the case of the Telstra pilot, the Pooley Winery now has remote access to live telemetry data including leaf wetness, soil moisture, soil temperature, rainfall, solar radiation, wind speed and direction.

Here are some examples of the way next generation smart devices can and are being used:

SMART PARKING

Knowing when a car pulls into a space and the availability of empty parking spaces is already a reality.

Sensors built into parking lot spaces can tell when cars pull in, when they leave and bill them automatically without a driver having to go anywhere near a parking meter.

The smart parking sensor
The smart parking sensor

At the Shanghai Disneyland, the smart car park can assign the empty parking spaces to the driver as they enter and even guide them to the spot.

We could surely use that at our nearest Westfield on a busy day.

SMART METERS

Smart meters and smart sensors can offer information about an object or a device remotely.

Imagine if a rubbish bin could let you know it’s full and automatically direct trucks to their locations to clear them.

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And the water and gas meters of the future won’t need a person to read them in person.

SMART DRONES

And what about drones. The uses for these unmanned aerial vehicles are still being discovered.

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One of the most logical uses cases for drones is making deliveries. There have already been several attempts but there are limits to the range, restrictions to the routes and difficulty with control.

But with the addition of Huawei’s NB IoT chipset, the drones of the future will always be connected to the network and steered along a clear path to their destination using sensors.

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And when they run low on battery power, the drones can safely land on the rooftop charging stations along the way and continue on their journey.

 

About Stephen Fenech

Stephen is the Tech Guide editor and one of Australia's most respected tech journalists. He is a regular on radio and TV talking about the latest tech news, products and trends.

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