The Global View

BT trials new networking tech for ‘internet of things’

Delivering on the potential of the “internet of things” (IoT) means being able to make devices of all kinds — from mobile phones to city lampposts — “talk” to one another easily and efficiently.

However, that’s a challenge in a world where wide bands of the wireless spectrum are allocated to specific users, and where devices are often “buried” inaccessibly deep within buildings or underground.

“The internet of things market has huge potential, but existing short-range and cellular networking technologies are unable to meet the requirements of many applications we see,” said Mark Harrop, director of mobile strategy and lead for the wireless cities program lead at BT Plc. “A networking technology that can provide deep indoor coverage, last for many years from a single battery, is simple to use, and comes at the right price point is essential for realizing the true potential of the IoT.”

Late last year, BT began a small-scale trial with the technology company Neul on M2M (for “machine-to-machine”) communications using “white space”. The tests involve sending traffic information to and from moving vehicles via gaps — or “white spaces” — in the frequencies bands used for digital TV broadcasting.

White space networking could enable up to 50 billion devices to be connected wirelessly to the internet by 2020, according to BT.

BT has now begun trialing a new technology from Neul. The NeulNET system provides two-way, wide-area M2M networking that Neul claims “far out-reaches today’s GPRS, 3G, CDMA and LTE WAN solutions.”

The NeulNET system uses an antenna-equipped base station that can provide wireless coverage in a radius of up to five kilometers, along with terminal modules that can run for up to 15 years on two AA batteries and can communicate from deep within buildings or underground.

The system, delivered by Neul as a cloud-based managed communication service (Neul means “cloud” in Gaelic), can operate in either licensed or unlicensed spectrum, and across a wide range of frequency bands.

Neul adds that it expects to announce further deployments of its NeulNET technology throughout 2014. It says the system could enable smart-city applications ranging from waste-disposal bins that “ask to be emptied” to green-belt areas and farms that are monitored and watered efficiently.