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What is driving IoT investment now?

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Almost everyone has heard the projections about billions of connected devices, but we hear less about the billions of dollars (or even millions of dollars) that companies are investing in the internet of things. When companies do invest, they are often looking at use cases that solve a critical business problem, and one of those is tracking high-value assets.

Mark Bartolomeo, VP of Verizon’s IoT business, said asset tracking is a key driver for companies investing in Verizon’s IoT solutions. Many of those companies are using the carrier’s 3G or 4G LTE network, but Verizon has updated its network to support new LTE standards that have longer range and lower power requirements, opening up IoT use cases for more potential customers.

Companies that make the modem chips for those low power LTE solutions also see asset tracking as a key driver of demand. Sequans, which makes LTE-only chipsets for high bandwidth and low bandwidth applications, recently partnered with STMicroelectronics to add GNSS tracking technology to its chips in order to facilitate location services.

IoT solutions that operate in unlicensed spectrum can also support location services. At Mobile World Congress Americas, low-power wide area network provider Actility demonstrated an asset tracking solution in partnership with Comcast’s machineQ LoRa network in San Francisco. Comcast has been deploying LoRaWAN radios in select cities and has talked about rolling out LoRa technology nationwide. Comcast is in the process of integrating LoRaWAN radios into its gateway hardware, and Actility is integrating LoRa technology into software that is used to power cable boxes. Within homes, it seems more likely that smart home applications would use Wi-Fi rather than LoRa, but by investing in densification of their LoRa networks, Comcast and Actility will boost the value of their asset tracking solutions.

Enterprise customers are investing in wireless asset tracking solutions to monitor high-value cargo and transportation providers. Some companies buy their solutions from service providers and others will go directly to hardware makers. IoT modem maker NimbeLink has sold its solution to a shipper that leases space on trucks and has had a hard time staying in touch with the truckers. Now the shipper’s pallets connect to LTE networks, and the shipper gets location updates automatically.

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