Cisco announces worldwide launch of NB-IoT platform

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MWC The NB-IoT (narrowband Internet of Things) market is seeing a significant climb. Last Thursday, the GSMA revealed findings that 23 mobile operators had commercially launched 41 mobile IoT networks worldwide across LTE-M, the machine to machine version of the LTE system, and NB-IoT.

Indeed, you can’t move for companies talking about it or making product announcements about it at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Cisco is indeed one of those companies – but their discussions go beyond the usual realm.

The company has announced global availability of Cisco Jasper Control Center for NB-IoT, having successfully completed NB-IoT trials last year. Cisco is making the announcement supported by China Unicom, which has already seen adoption from businesses across the likes of smart metering, parking, and street lighting.

China Unicom is expecting in excess of 100 million devices through this in the coming few years, as Sanjay Khatri, Cisco global head of platform marketing explained. “A lot of that goes into smart city, to white goods, appliances, smart agriculture and so on,” he says. “So this is going to be a huge opportunity for our partners, and in turn for us as well.”

The key advantage of NB-IoT lies in its ability to make devices more accessible and affordable. Control Center for NB-IoT can help organisations manage multiple types of connected devices, as well as provide customisable service packages and automation capabilities to make the enterprise device deluge a bit easier to bear.

Referring to the GSMA news, and the various operators rolling out NB-IoT, Robb Henshaw, head of global communications for the IoT cloud and business unit at Cisco, explained: “There’s a difference between being NB-IoT ready and having the network ready to do it and being able to actually provide those services that is actually manageable and feasible to manage hundreds of millions of devices.

“All these people who are starting to roll them out… it’s our job to partner with all those people to make NB-IoT useable and scalable.”

Cisco’s IoT vision in 2018, incorporating Jasper, the company it acquired two years ago, is to take a straightforward-on-the-surface statement – the ability to extract data and make use of it in multiple ways – and break it down into four components. You have the connectivity side, naturally, then the extraction from disparate sources – Khatri notes that even in a single smart city environment, several vendors may have stakes in something such as parking meters – before the compute stage and then finally moving the right data to the right applications at the right time.

The compute aspect is most intriguing – should data be taken all the way back to the cloud, or should it be localised? Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention; for crunching big data and analytics, then it would make much more sense to take it back to the cloud. But what if on the plant floor the data found something was jamming one of the machines? The lower latency needed to send the data over locally could, in the most extreme case, save an employee’s life.

One initiative where lives have been saved is through a project between Cisco and the Tennessee Department of Transportation. On a particularly foggy section of freeway, where cars usually collide heavily due to lack of visibility, real-time alerts have been set up to follow the action of sensors that read weather conditions and density.

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