BR ANALYSIS. From home to work, IoT is steadily reshaping society

Aurel Dragan 16/06/2019 | 08:04

The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to be a game-changer in the coming years. However, commentators say it is slowly entering our lives already without our even realizing it, the way the cloud did many years ago.

Cloud as a technology started entering the lexicon a decade ago, sparking fears for the security of personal data.  But the same people were using Gmail and other free email providers long before that without realizing that they were using the cloud to store their data and emails. The same situation we see now for the Internet of Things (IoT). While 5G technology is supposed to raise the levels of IoT devices to tens of billions, we already have and use the technology in our homes.

Smart-metering is a way to keep track of how much energy or other utilities one is using and also to collect data from a distance. Smart meters are devices for measuring the usage of certain utilities and other consumable resources and transfer the data through a wireless connection. Smart meters entered Romania more than a decade ago for the consumption of water and centralized heat and, more recently, for gas and electricity. And it is not at small scale, as there are millions of smart meters across the country.

The Romanian Energy Strategy cites energy efficiency as a main priority and experts say one of the ways this can be done is through the Smart Grid. Romania has set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 19 percent by 2020 which is possible only with a Smart Grid, which means 500,000 smart meters to be installed by Electrica by 2020. Among the suppliers of smart metering and energy efficiency technologies are Energobit, Eaton Group, Adrem Invest, Phoenix Contact Group, Eco Therm Services.

Romania has 9 million electricity customers, of whom 8.38 million are households; 3.03 million natural gas customers, of whom 2.85 million are households; and 1.56 million heat customers. This means a total of 13.6 million consumers that need to be connected to a smart grid using a smart meter, all being IoT devices.

Newcomers to the market

Recently, Sigfox, a global leader in IoT technology, launched its services in Romania through a partner at Simple IoT. Romania joins the 60-country network in which Sigfox is operating.

A French company set up in 2010, it is the world’s largest IoT network in terms of covered markets, its wide range of applicability and its number of dedicated device manufacturers. Across the 60 countries, Sigfox will serve IoT connectivity needs in territories with a population of over 1 billion people.

Nowadays, the company’s ecosystem includes more than 700 devices from over 650 companies, and the number is increasing exponentially. The network operates in the free spectrum made available for use by European regulations, and all operators in the Sigfox network are interconnected in a single network. Among the company’s global investors are top companies such as Samsung, Salesforce, Intel Capital, Total, Engie, Eutelsat, Telefonica and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, while worldwide customers using Sigfox’s connectivity solutions include: Groupe PSA, Michelin, Total, Free, Securitas, Bosch, Louis Vuitton, Nestle and Danone.

“By 2030, we estimate that all objects containing at least one electronic circuit will be connected to the internet in one way or another. These are objects that will be found in every aspect of our everyday lives. We can state that seven out of ten IoT connectivity needs today can be solved using Sigfox. Romania’s potential for this market is very high and we estimate that over the next five to ten years over 20 million devices connected via Sigfox will be adopted,” said Emma Park, VP Europe at Sigfox.

According to company representatives, Simple IoT solutions have a high applicability in various areas such as transport and logistics, utility monitoring through smart metering, smart buildings, retail and cold-chain, insurance and e-health, agriculture and the environment, smart cities, etc. The benefits of using the network include accurate business information and data, increasing business competitiveness, expanding business, improving customer experience, and automating business processes.

“The IoT market is bigger than it seems at first glance. Customers’ needs are very diverse and can be found in a wide range of areas. The first projects launched by Simple IoT in Romania were based on two fundamental customer needs: the first access to information that they could not obtain or which had a very high production cost while the second, with a wider impact, is the efficient use of human resources, especially in the context of the difficulties of finding workforce, in activities relevant to business and the relieving of repetitive and simple activities. The connectivity offered by us is the best solution for situations where the customer needs specific and accurate information from his or her equipment, but also a long battery life with year-round autonomy as well as a cost of ownership and reduced use,” says Dan Vlad, CEO & Founder of Simple IoT. The Simple IoT network currently has coverage in major cities in Romania such as Bucharest, Ploiesti, Constanta, Brasov, Ramnicu Valcea, Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca, Timisoara and Arad, and by the end of the year, the IoT operator expects to cover more than 50 percent of the population.

eMobility and Smart Home

A Vodafone Barometer shows that a third of businesses worldwide are using IoT and 70 percent of these adopters have moved beyond the pilot stage. Also, 95 percent of adopters are seeing the benefits of this technology as it moves into the mainstream. Case studies from different industries, from medical exoskeletons to connected tires, show that IoT can impact businesses regardless of size and sector.

In Romania, the operator has implemented IoT solutions in areas such as retail, energy, utilities, automotive, transport and logistics. Last year it launched NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT), a standard developed to enable a wide range of cellular devices and services. NB-IoT uses a subset of the LTE standard, but limits the bandwidth to a single narrow band of 200kHz. “Since the last IoT Barometer, we’ve seen an increase in IoT adoption in Romania as more and more companies are realising the importance of our cost-effective customizable solutions. Vodafone Romania continues to enrich its IoT solution portfolio in order to efficiently respond to the market’s needs and to improve our customers’ competitiveness and performance,” stated Eduard Cucu, high corporate sales director, Vodafone Romania.

Smart grid, smart metering, smart home, and eMobility are just a few of the applications IoT can provide. And 5G connections will enhance the volume of data supported by the network, increase reliability and offer near-zero latency, say pundits. But people don’t have to wait for 5G in order to develop IoT apps and services. Today, over 6 billion devices are connected through a telecommunication network all over the world and this is only 1 percent of the total devices that could be connected by IoT.

For businesses especially (rather than households) IoT can bring operational efficiency and even predict machine failure before it happens. The technology is still in the early stages and building and maintaining IoT systems remains a challenge. Collecting and analyzing the data from the connected devices is also important, requiring specialized apps. But experts say it is clear that IoT is here to stay and reshaping the way we do business.

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