IoT modules and modems shorten path to market for developers
Low-power cellular connectivity standards are creating new opportunities for companies that want to connect assets or equipment in a secure and reliable way. But unlike the IoT devices that leverage unlicensed spectrum, those in the licensed bands require carrier certification in order to operate on carrier networks. This is something we don’t usually think about when we buy a smartphone because the manufacturer has, of course, certified the device before bringing it to market. IoT devices have to go through a similar process.
Pre-certified modules and modems expedite this process. Companies that want to develop cellular IoT solutions for a particular market will often choose to develop with an existing module, instead of sourcing each chipset individually and trying to build their own boards. There are a number of companies that make cellular IoT modules, including SIMCom, Gemalto, U-Blox, Telit, Sierra Wireless, Digi, Wistron Neweb, Huawei, Wisol, Fibocom, and Foxconn. These companies can start with a processor or microcontroller and a cellular modem chip, and add hardware and software to support common developer requirements, like graphics processing or support for Java. Different modules target different industries and applications. Modules are often marketed to developers who are trying to create an IoT solution for a specific vertical market.
Even when using a certified module, a developer will still need to certify his or her device on the chosen carrier network, unless he or she uses a pre-certified modem solution. “Out-of-the-box” modem solutions will include RF front end components, and in some cases they will include antennas as well. Makers of pre-certified modem solutions include NimbeLink and Digi International.
The carrier certification process can cost tens of thousands of dol- lars, money that is saved by using a pre-certified modem. However, each modem is likely to cost $50 to $100, so developers who are planning large production volumes may want to invest in the certification process.
“It can cost $50,000 to get through certification and that’s assuming that you get through on the happy path and things go as planned,” said Digi CEO Ron Konezny.
But once a company gets a device certified, it can go into production and scale up without buying a new modem for each new device it produces.
Follow me on Twitter.