Opinion: Why emerging markets should choose GSM LPWAN for IIoT projects

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OPINION Neil Hamilton, VP of Business Development at Thingstream, explains why businesses in emerging markets should choose GSM-based LPWAN connectivity to realise the full potential of IIoT projects.

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An occasional series of vendor perspectives on the world of connected business – because it’s all about making new connections and starting new conversations.

The rapid adoption of consumer and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications in developed markets, powered by the cloud, has already changed the way in which services are consumed, and their potential is vast. However, the potential for the IIoT in developing markets is also enormous; IDC predicts that projects in Africa and the Middle East alone will grow to a market valuation of $ 7 billion in 2018.

However, fragmented connectivity and infrastructures in these regions are still significant barriers to deploying effective, widespread IIoT systems.

The challenge in emerging markets

Current low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) struggle to provide full coverage outside of major cities and towns even in developed nations, so overcoming fragmented rural connectivity in emerging markets is far from easy.

While cellular data connectivity in most developing markets remains limited, it is still more prevalent than other LPWANs offered by unlicensed providers; these still need to connect to a cellular network to communicate with the IoT ecosystem.

This is why businesses need a cost-effective, reliable, secure, and low-power option that provides ubiquitous connectivity, using the existing infrastructure.

There are many industries in these markets in which cellular or unlicensed technologies severely restrict the deployment of IIoT applications, largely due to a lack of roaming coverage.

For example, an organisation that wishes to track its assets across borders in rural areas will be unable to have full visibility of goods whenever connections are lost. Similarly, for fixed-location services where there is a lack of coverage, regularly sending data to the cloud isn’t always possible. And when a network is available, cellular roaming charges can be prohibitively expensive.

GSM-based low-power connectivity

The most ubiquitous network is the established GSM voice network, which is now available in more than 190 countries and is increasingly reliable, especially when compared with cellular data.

IoT devices can automatically connect wherever GSM connectivity is present, using the strongest network available. This avoids disruption when moving between carriers on a cellular signal, ensuring worldwide connectivity. So it makes sense to leverage this network, as other internet-based options are unable to compete in terms of cost, reliability, and coverage.

One solution is low-bandwidth messaging, achieved through a Message Queue Telemetry Transport for Sensor Networks (MQTT-SN) system. Communicating across a USSD messaging protocol that’s available on the GSM voice network, this lightweight publish/subscribe protocol can send tiny packets of data –160 bytes or less – providing true ubiquitous IoT connectivity.

This is boosted by the inclusion of integrated Quality of Service (QoS), allowing an MQTT-SN protocol to handle the transmission and re-transmission of messages, guaranteeing delivery to the corresponding ‘thing’ or application. The level of QoS is fully customisable for IoT adopters, depending on network security and application logic.

Furthermore, IoT sensors can be programmed to communicate almost any type of information that can be carried across a low-bandwidth signal, avoiding the need to have multiple devices that further clog the network.

The power issue is also circumnavigated, thanks to the way in which the devices can work. By sending data only when needed, a device’s on/off setup enables battery longevity to be maximised, not only for months, but for years, creating a true LPWAN.

This is also advantageous in emerging markets with unreliable power grids, where outages are more commonplace. Instead of sending data at regular intervals, data can be delivered when parameters have changed. For example, this would allow for remote condition monitoring of equipment, allowing for maintenance to be better planned for and more predictable.

Furthermore, data is not communicated using the internet, greatly improving cyber security by having no need to use IP addresses between devices and the connectivity platform, helping to keep connectivity levels high and costs low.

For devices that are remotely connected via the internet, the issue of securely bridging the ‘air gap’ between operational technology and IT systems continues to prove a major challenge for the safe transfer of data, which again favours GSM connectivity.

Choosing the right connectivity for emerging markets

The emergence of LPWANs, such as a GSM voice-based network, has forced businesses in emerging markets to change how they approach IoT deployments. This is because they need to think about what data is actually required from devices and how often that data is needed.

If this can be included in 160 bytes or less, why pay for an energy-sapping internet connection that is costly to implement and run, while also being visible to potential hackers?

An alternative, GSM voice-based network is the strongest and most reliable option that offers true global connectivity for IoT devices to communicate in emerging markets. Using a network with an already-established infrastructure offers huge advantages in scalability, connectivity, security, and cost.

Choosing such a network can enhance efficiencies in a variety of sectors, such as agriculture, logistics, and utilities, all of which are economically crucial in emerging markets. This type of connectivity will enable IIoT projects to be quickly accelerated in developing countries, helping to create a truly global supply chain.

Internet of Business says: This opinion piece has been provided by Thingstream, and not by our independent editorial team.

The post Opinion: Why emerging markets should choose GSM LPWAN for IIoT projects appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Leeds hospitals choose Zebra for smart patient wristbands

Leeds hospitals choose Zebra for smart patient wristbands

Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust (LTHT) is using technology from Zebra Technologies to help it better track patient journeys using wristbands.

Wristbands have long been worn by patients as identification devices, and used to help staff track patients’ needs and their routes around a hospital. But on its own, a wristband can be an imperfect solution.

Zebra Technologies’ Scan4Safety programme uses a special wristband printer, the Zebra HC100 printer, along with Z-Band Ultrasoft wristbands as the core of a system which provides enhanced patient tracking services.

The printer produces a wristband that’s compatible with the Scan4Safety barcode identification programme, which allows a hospital to track a patient all the way through their hospital journey, from admission to discharge. Wristbands are printed for Accident and Emergency admissions, for example, and for newborns.

Speaking to Internet of Business, Zebra’s EMEA healthcare director Wayne Miller explained: “The new wristband enables a digital voice for the patient, taking the patient’s ID data placed into a barcode – name, date of birth and NHS number. This digital voice becomes the password to the patient’s electric file. Scan4Safety records the ‘who, what, when, where’ for patient care, allowing an accurate record for both safety and accountancy.”

Read more: Healthcare applications to drive wearable device boom

Safety at scale

Scanning wristbands at each point of care, the hospital can better ensure patients receive the right treatment, reducing errors and delays. Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust (LTHT) is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe, with more than 17,000 staff across seven hospitals. It uses in excess of 250,000 wristbands per year.

The Scan4Health system uses GS1 global standards for capturing and sharing information. This is the standard that the Department of Health has set as the standard for care in the UK by 2019, so the system is helping Leeds Teaching Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust (LTHT) move towards compliance.

The system has been well-received by clinical staff. The Zebra HC100 printers are small, reliable and easy to use. Wristbands are printed from fast-load cartridges that remove the complexity of media loading associated with traditional barcode printers. Moreover, the wristbands are made of healthcare plastics that support LTHT’s infection control regime.

Other Trusts including Plymouth Hospital NHS Trust, North Tees and Salisbury have either deployed or are trialling the Zebra solution, and early results from six pilot projects suggest that Scan4Safety has the potential to save lives, as well as potentially save the NHS up to £1 billion over seven years.

Miller says that the technology also has applications outside of hospital environments, in other healthcare situations. “Can we extend the use of the digital voice outside the hospital? Yes we can,” he told Internet of Business. “It may not be in the form of a wristband, but we can use other methods, such as ID cards, prescriptions with a barcode and, in the coming years, personal electronic devices such as smartphones with biometric readers.”

Read more: Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to deploy sensors in intensive care units

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