‘Ericsson, Sprint, LoRa, Zigbee – tell us, what’s your favourite IoT use case?’
Between them, US telecoms operator Sprint and Swedish telecoms vendor Ericsson claim considerable experience in the IoT space. The variety of IoT use cases is vast, and ever-growing, they say. Just look at their websites to see their enterprise IoT stories stacking up. But which are their favourites?
This was the question posed to them during a panel session at IoT Solutions World Congress 2019 in Barcelona last week. Add in the twin alliances for LoRa and Zigbee, covering wide-area and local-area IoT connectivity, and the question should get a varied and interesting answer.
After all, the cellular and non-cellular technologies they represent have propped up the IoT market as we know it – and the M2M market, as we knew it. These companies have just about every use case to choose from. But which are their favourites?
The audience in Barcelona leaned forwards, as one, to hear their answers – about the most valuable, the most unusual, and the most spectacular. And their answers? Here they are, in full, for your own consideration.
Tobin Richardson, president at Zigbee Alliance
“Easily my best use case last year was my lights turning red when the Boston Red Sox won a game. Unfortunately, it isn’t a use case that has come up that much this past season. But the point, again, is the technology is there; it is really about coming up with value now. An for me, that is a fun one; my kids like it, it’s a consumer play – three or four lightbulbs, from Philips Hue and GE, and just play around.
“But on the industrial side, one of the best use cases, historically, which continues to deliver good returns, is smart metering. PG&E, the gas and electric company in California, has a few different use cases that offer value. One is remote measurements, to see the usage is from each meter – so you’re not sending people out, you’re saving on truck-rolls. Just being able to do remote reads offers huge cost savings.
“And that was done on a proprietray sub-Ghz platform, which is probably good for LoRa or 5G as well. We put a Zigbee chip into the meter to allow consumers to get immediate access for demand response programmes, and to live a cleaner, greener life by better understanding some of the ‘vampire’ loads on their homes. It was a really good tool.
“Unfortunately – and this shows not all lessons are good ones, although this was important – PG&E never really dealt very well with managing consumers on a one-to-one relationship. Asking an enterprise customer to turn their power down works, but it doesn’t go down so well in a home, where someone’s having a birthday party.
“And when things go wrong, people call the numbers they have, which means they call the utility, even if it’s a problem with some of these smart things. And you get to a place where a large utility doesn’t really want to take that on. So it was an interesting use case, where there was really good value for system management, a great opportunity for consumer interaction, but PG&E at the time was not ready to take it on.”
Kimberly Green-Kerr, executive vice president, Sprint Business
“We have developed [an innovation hub] with Peachtree Corners, Georgia, [which is] a prime example of public-private partnership (PPP). It’s a 500-acre innovation [zone] right in the heart of the city. There is a one-and-a-half mile autonomous vehicle track – think of it with pedestrians and businesses all around. I took my first autonomous vehicle ride there. It wasn’t scary; it felt safe – maybe because it wasn’t moving so quickly and I felt I could jump out.
“But imagine: you have drones flying in lunch, delivering packages; riderless scooters, autonomous lawnmowers. It’s an incubation just of technology, and the city is benefitting because it’s driving business. And the innovation lab is powered by our 5G. Georgia Power has sensors on the lights, which are interacting with the autonomous vehicles and other road users.
“It will continue to evolve, to roll and deploy these use cases out to other companies. It is a great example of a PPP, just launched in September.”
Bo Ribbing, strategic programme director for IoT at Ericsson
“It’s hard to pick one use case. We are involved in so many – everything from the video analytics we’re doing with Hitachi and Sprint, which has great potential, to really low bandwidth things like millions of meters now being rolled out in Swedish utility networks, which are directly connected with NB-IoT. Those are two extremes.
“But perhaps one high-potential use case is what we are doing in transport with a company called Einride, which is remotely controlling trucks. Which has largely been in a contained environment until now, but they have recently gained concessions to drive a specific route aling the highway as well. So that’s a first step into self-driving vehicles, which is kind of sexy I guess, using 5G.”
Charles Paumelle, co-chair for marketing at the LoRa Alliance
“Perhaps ‘fun’ is the wrong word for it, but we have recently implemented a useful use case, certainly, in a hospital in the north of England, around wheelchair tracking. This is a hopsital; it’s a stressful environment, both for those who work there and those who visit. And just finding a wheelchair is just one of those stresses you can do without.
“But being a hospital, there are x-rays and atomic chemical rooms, and connectivity is really difficult. To give you an idea, this hopsital has 130 Wi-Fi access points, and the signal still doesn’t get through. So we implemented LoRaWAN for the hospital and covered the whole venue with eight gateways, and used Bluetooth to track the devices across the hospital.
“We were able to deploy that entire infrastructure pretty much with zero wiring, completely battery based, without having to ask for authorisation from any of the network guys, which can take six-to-12 months. That was, to me, a real proof of value – of making life easier, less stressful, without a 12 month project.”