Standards bodies have “dropped the ball” when it comes to making a unified standard the Internet of Things, leaving NB-IoT dead in the water, an expert claims.
According to Nick Hunn, CTO at WiFore, standards body 3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project), has been too focused on smartphones and tablets to give IoT the attention it needs when it comes to standards.
He said that 3GPP engineers “totally forgot” to design something to replace the old 2G workhorse of GPRS, which is responsible for most of today’s machine to machine communications.
“Instead, they spent all of their time designing high power, high speed, expensive variants of 4G to support an ongoing dynasty of iPhones, Galaxys and Pixels, none of which were any use for the Internet of Things,” said Hunn in a blog post.
This has meant that numerous companies have tried to fill the gap for in the low power WAN market with several competing standards, none of which fully interoperate with each other, if at all.
Too late for NB-IoT
“Whether they believed the LPWAN story, or just hoped it would fill a hole is difficult to ascertain, but no-one can deny that LPWAN is now firmly on the map, in the form of Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu and a raft of others,” said Hunn.
While the GSM Association (GSMA) directed the 3GPP to create the Narrow Band Internet of Things, or NB-IoT, Hunn claims this effort is too late and will fail in the short term. Although he did admit it may be a success in the long term.
He said that despite its problem, 3GPP engineers will eventually get a specification out which meets the industry’s requirements, but not before 2023, which “gives the different LPWAN standards plenty of time to play, and time for the cloud and analytics providers to shake out, settle down and start some serious customer acquisition,” said Hunn.
Resolution of differing standards
In a recent video with Internet of Business, Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG, said the situation of competing proprietary technologies can only be resolved through the wider industry getting together and collectively putting its weight behind a single unlicensed standard.
“The Weightless SIG is providing such a forum and welcomes membership from all those who wish to see this untenable situation resolved quickly in the interests of all who want to see IoT succeed,” he said.
Adam Leach, director of research and development at Nominet said that because the industry is in an early stage, we have a “plethora of standards around IoT. That is because of the early nature of the market.”
“We will see a consolidation of standards as the market opportunity increases,” said Leach.
Seb Chakraborty, CTO at Centrica Hive said that IoT standards are “a mess”. “There are literally hundreds of standards. I think that what you are going to see in the space is almost like a survival of the fittest. Darwin will play out eventually.”
Webb said the industry needs to consolidate down to a small clear focus. “If you look at the world of cellular, it’s got 3GPP and GSMA represents the operators. That’s clear and simple.”
“In the world of IoT, we have a confusion of different bodies that we need to resolve.”