15-01-2019 | | By Christian Cawley
We've been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) for years, but it's struggled to make the expected impact. This is partly because of how it has been presented, with media coverage often blending IoT with smart home and smart office hardware.
Cisco Systems defined the Internet of Things as "the point in time when more 'things or objects' were connected to the Internet than people" pinpointing that event as around 2008/9.
Ten years later it feels as though the IoT has struggled to make an impact. That could be about to change, however, with the launch of 5G mobile internet.
The potential of 5G has long been touted as a solution for the IoT's slow adoption. Promising superfast internet, ultra-low latency and increased geographic coverage, 5G should revolutionise mobile cellular networks.
After all, expectations have been high for the IoT for years. With connected hardware around offices, businesses, and homes, integration software and management web consoles, there's a chance that interest could stagnate without a serious increase in security and connectivity.
Built-in, pre-configured (or easily set up) 5G networking promises to increase the usability of existing (and compatible) IoT hardware while extending the potential for future devices.
Described as the next generation of connectivity, Cat M1 functions on the 1.4MHz spectrum, with average upload speeds between 200Kbps and 400Kbps. This design can potentially increase battery life by between five and 10 years and is the key technology for new IoT devices with 5G capability.
Security is only one aspect of the new IoT-friendly 5G. Cat M1 also brings coverage and efficiency into the mix, with cheap cellular access and a $10-per-module price tag.
Cat M1 modems should also deliver IoT connectivity via 5G to zones that usually struggle to receive a signal, such as underground transit systems.
Putting all of this together, we should be seeing 5G support for IoT very soon.
But it's not as clear-cut as that.
While the IoT will almost certainly benefit from 5G (if rolled out to the previously defined specification), the LTE + IoT network isn't going to happen overnight.
5G will come first; support for IoT will be added later, but it's not clear what type of support, or when. For example, Narrowband IoT (Cat-NB1) is intended as a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) system that is optimized to process irregular data transfer. Its low-power requirements make it ideal for connecting remote devices requiring only occasional access to the mobile internet.
Many LTE solutions for the Internet of Things continue to be developed. Not all will be initially available, but by the time 5G is fully adopted, the IoT should permeate most aspects of life, from breakfast and commuting to office, manufacturing, and development. Everything from toasters, fridges, cars, to light switches, power tools and even haulage can be brought online and interrogated for data, or programmed to react to conditions.
The term "Internet of Things" was first termed in 1999. Since that time, it has very slowly permeated into the public consciousness. But IoT is desperate to be taken seriously. Hardware, networking, and security issues have conspired to limit its adoption.
5G can change that, finally bringing smart (and some dumb) devices online with better networking, improved battery life, and enhanced security, with potential for more information to be measured and recorded than ever before.
It seems likely that 5G will facilitate the full arrival of the Internet of Things.