Nwave: Implementing The IoT

Paul Peck, COO/CFO of the IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity company, Nwave Technologies, reminds us that “at the top of the pyramid” for IoT apps, there has to be a user, someone who says, “I’ll pay for that.”

While issues such as standards and security for the IoT are being debated, Nwave is one of the pioneer companies moving ahead to actually implement IoT applications and solutions. As such, the company interested us because in implementing IoT solutions, it is also addressing what may be the biggest question revolving around the IoT, which is what are the actual use cases, who benefits and who will pay?

Nwave Business Strategy

Nwave provides network elements for IoT and M2M networking, using its low power “ultra narrow-band communications protocol” on sub-1GHz unlicensed ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) spectrum.

It is currently focused on M2M applications that require one-way transmissions, including the following areas: Agriculture, with emphasis on precision irrigation and water conservation; Parking, where the company is offering a solution called Sparkit, which integrates Nwave’s networking capability with sensors; and remote Metering, a solution that integrates existing utility company meters with Nwave modems.

The company does not plan to sell to end users. Peck says they will sell direct to carriers and some equipment makers, but will leave their distribution primarily to channel partners. The company has a number of partners to date. One example, is in the parking app area, where Nwave announced a partnership with enterprise software platform developer, PLAT.ONE. In the agri field, Nwave also has a relationship with farm management software firm KisanHub.

LPWAN Network Elements

Nwave currently makes: Radios (NW 1000); Modems (Nwave UMI – universal modem interface) and Base Station transceivers (Nwave Gateway1000.) Nwave does not make sensors, but its modem and radio modules can be integrated with sensors. Their device can read the sensor and activate the radio to send a message.

Its base stations are described by Peck as basically “ruggedized PCs with RF filters.” The base stations connect to antennas. The secret sauce is in what Peck calls “the best of breed digital algorithms, that can pull the weakest signal and give it the best transmission over the longest distance.”

The system transmits 50 bytes of information from a base station to servers, or the cloud. After allowing for overhead – device ID, base station ID, time stamp, signal strength – the information payload from the sensors is a packet of 20 bytes.

Nwave claims that the system has excellent signal propagation, with ranges of up to 10 kilometers in urban areas and 20-30 km in rural areas. Their devices have long lives, estimated at 5-10 years using conventional cells, e.g., AA batteries. They state that devices cost less than $2 to build. Base stations are available in the $4000-5000 range.

The company sells its hardware and software and may license it. Peck states that they might offer a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as well. The platform ties all of the base stations in a seamless network and identifies which network a given sensor is tied to in order to route the data to the correct user.

Nwave is focused on one-way transmissions. Two-way transmission is possible – Peck mentions situations, for example, where there are threshold settings of a sensor that need to be reconfigured occasionally – however, he points out that even in receive mode, the device will consume power, reducing its field life.

Smart Cities and Other IoT/M2M Use Cases

In recent milestones, Nwave partner Weightless SIG, whose networks run on Nwave technology, announced that its smart city network, Weightless-N, had been deployed in London as well as in Copenhagen and around the port city of Esbjerg, Denmark. Weightless SIG is a group devoted to developing open standards for low power wide area networks (LPWANs) for the IoT. The group is backed by Accenture and ARM, as Promoter Members. Nwave joined and made its technology available to the group in late 2014.

In line with identifying what IoT customers will ultimately be paying for, Peck gives an example of a potential use in Copenhagen, where smart sensors may be attached to trash bins, so that they can indicate when the bin is full. This will enable efficient scheduling of garbage truck runs – in theory saving up to one-third of the runs – thereby saving capital and operating expenses, reducing congestion and reducing carbon footprint.

In another example, the Smart Agriculture area, Nwave’s data modem has been integrated with various moisture sensors. By automating the collection of data from these field sensors, through the Nwave network, not only are data collection costs reduced, the company claims there can be savings of as much as 40% in water consumption and farmers avoid excess watering that can result in fertilizer or pesticide run-off.

Cellular Carriers & LPWANs For IoT

Recently, the GSMA (GSM Association) announced a LPWAN (low power wide area network) initiative aimed at facilitating the IoT, including 26 companies, primarily major cellular carriers globally. This initiative is apparently limited to licensed spectrum and does not include any of the low power pioneers such as Nwave, who operate in unlicensed spectrum.

It will be interesting to see what approaches this group comes up with and what spectrum the carriers might devote to low power implementations. The IoT is a sprawling concept that has been used to embrace everything from personal wearables, to in-home tech, to monitoring of heavy industrial gear, to isolated situations where a tiny low cost sensor could perform useful functions, and more. In this mass of potential apps there is an assortment of potential network requirements. So we would expect Nwave to find numerous opportunities for its approach.

Visit their website: www.nwave.io