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Everything you ever wanted to know about the Internet of Things

Part 3

Scott Petty
Vodafone CTO

6 minute read

23/05/2019

Frequently asked questions

 

If you’ve read parts one and two of this blog, you should now have an idea of what IoT is, and how it can help your business. But it’s a big and complex topic, and I’m sure you have more questions. I hope to address them here – but if I haven’t, head over to our dedicated Internet of Things page for more information.

Are our IoT solutions secure?

If you’re going to connect devices to the internet, you’re right to wonder if they’re secure, or whether you have the protocols in place to prevent a hacker taking them over, for example. As your IoT deployments grow larger, more complex and more business-critical, your internal IT teams may need additional resources or specialist advice on IoT security.

At Vodafone we’ve always taken our customers’ security concerns incredibly seriously – find out more in our Securing the Internet of Things white paper

With everything we do, in IoT and across all our enterprise and consumer services, security is our priority. It’s deeply embedded in all areas of our business. After all, a system is only as strong as its weakest point.

As we own the infrastructure for our connectivity, we benefit from seamless security, supporting multiple layers of data protection across our resilient and secure global networks and data centres.

76% of businesses say that IoT security should be treated as an end-to-end solution, and 91% say it is important for them to work with an end-to-end solution provider for IoT.

Source: Vodafone IoT Barometer

Monitoring is a vital part of the overall IoT environment, improving your ability to spot any problems and take action before damage is done. We’re continually testing for end-to-end security and evolving our technology, process and detection capabilities.

Will IoT affect sustainability?

The short answer is yes. IoT has the power to affect sustainability – for the better. At Vodafone, some of the ways we’re using IoT to improve sustainability include:

  1. Reducing energy usage in our buildings and base stations by sensing occupancy and turning off the heating and lights when no one is around.
  2. Tracking our delivery drivers to make sure that they are driving safely and in a way that protects the environment.
  3. We’re also helping other businesses in a number of sectors to harness IoT for sustainability. For example, in logistics, we work with Microlise’s fleet providing IoT sensors to track vehicle movements. Analysing the data can reveal ways to improve fuel economy, saving money for the firm and reducing carbon emissions.

What is an IoT platform and do I need one?

Think of an IoT platform as the plumbing, connecting the various parts of a system. The system includes hardware (sensors and devices), connectivity (to relay data), software (to analyse the data and drive actions or alerts) and a user interface (like an app or web-based dashboard).

An IoT platform also includes software that provides security and authentication for users and allows data to flow and devices to function.

It’s important to choose your IoT platform wisely. Choose one that:

  1. Offers high-traffic performance and platform availability
  2. Gives security at every level – from devices in the field to movement of data through the network
  3. Makes integration with third-party applications like analytics platforms easy

What’s the difference between IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine)?

M2M connects machines to machines. While M2M and IoT both involve devices communicating with each other, M2M refers to smaller scale, more isolated sensor systems. IoT combines several systems to enable new applications and ways of managing and analysing devices and things at scale in a cost-effective model.

 

What is Narrowband IoT?

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) is a set of protocols that only allows for very small amounts of data – 100s of kilobytes, rather than the gigabytes of data we typically associate with 4G and 5G. However, it makes use of the mobile spectrum more efficiently.

This essentially means that the signal goes further and connects a larger number of devices than you could using low-power WAN tech – either because it was uneconomic to do so or because you just couldn’t get a signal.

NB-IoT is inherently more secure, has faster throughput, higher performance and better penetration of buildings.

Three current Narrowband IoT applications

  1. Fridges: Sensors on fridges in retail environments monitor temperature to ensure a given product is at optimal quality in a retail environment. Sensors can also measure the weight in the fridge and inform suppliers if there’s an opportunity to sell more stock to the retailer.
  2. Vehicles: Vehicles’ sensors track where drivers are and if they’re driving safely. Sensors track goods in transit in real-time and notify owners if they go missing or are stolen, so goods can be retrieved without great expense.
  3. Health and wellbeing: Home sensors gather data about exercise and general patient wellbeing, including vitals such as blood sugar and blood pressure, without needing to intrude in people’s lives. These sensors also ensure all home objects are in their right place and haven’t fallen down - possibly causing injury.

Can IoT work without the internet?

Based on how IoT devices communicate with one another, it’s clear they’ll need to be connected to the internet in some form to work. But that doesn’t mean that they always have to be hooked up to a computer with a big cable.

In fact, IoT devices can connect in a whole variety of means. You can connect over Wi-Fi or the phone network, for example. All of Vodafone’s Smart Solutions have SIMs in-built, so they connect to the internet in the same way your mobile phone connects (which gives connectivity wherever you get a phone signal).

To help our IoT devices get connected in even more places, Vodafone has been pioneering a new technology called Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). This technology helps connect devices deep underground or through thick internal walls. Places where phone signals just couldn’t reach before.

This will mean that even more businesses can benefit from IoT in the near future as the number of places you can get a signal will increase massively.

Why choose Vodafone for IoT?

You could be forgiven for thinking I’m a little bit biased, but I do think Vodafone has a strong case to make for being the best IoT partner.

We’re one of the few providers who operate globally, with a dedicated IoT business and Smart Solutions that you can read about online and buy off-the shelf.

We’re ranked by most industry analysts as the No.1 IoT service provider globally, with AT&T and Horizon as second and third.

We’ve also invested more than any other telco provider in 5G bandwidth. This means when our new 5G-enabled IoT solutions are available to buy, customers can expect the most reliable and far-reaching network in the UK.

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