Mbed OS enables NarrowBand-IoT network deployment and product development


Arm Mbed OS continues to enable a variety of IoT products and support growth across the IoT community. This blog highlights how we are enabling NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) deployment and developing an ecosystem to support product development.

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Mbed OS strives to simplify Internet of Things (IoT) product development with a complete set of software development tools, such as an advanced Real-time operating system, integrated connectivity and security stacks along with a huge partner ecosystem. Connectivity is the basic requirement of all IoT devices yet it is often one of the hardest components to crack during product development. Mbed OS provide full support for multiple communication methods, making any IoT project possible.

Cellular connectivity is widely used for connecting IoT devices. It is more prominent in use cases which are designed for mobility, such as smart cars, and devices operating in remote areas, such as oil fields. According to Ericsson, 10% of all IoT devices by 2021 will be connected by cellular connectivity. NB-IoT is one of the low power wide area network (LPWAN) standards specifically developed for IoT use-cases and enables a wide range of devices and services to be connected using cellular telecommunications bands. The Mbed OS team is working with network providers, silicon and module vendors and NB-IoT early adopters to enable network deployment and NB-IoT product development.

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT is a 3GPP cellular connectivity standard specifically designed for IoT and supported by major network providers. It is designed to connect devices easily using existing, wide-spread mobile cellular networks. NB-IoT is suitable for IoT as it reliably handles small amounts data with low power consumption. Some of the key advantages for NB-IoT are:

  • Very low power consumption, ideal for IoT devices
  • Extended range in buildings and even underground locations
  • Easy deployment into existing cellular network architecture
  • Lower component cost as NB-IoT simplifies the cellular modems, resulting in potentially lower costs than for LTE, 3G and even 2G modems

NB-IoT connectivity standard is strongly driven by network providers/operators. Cellular coverage is pervasive, covering most areas in all the countries worldwide. By providing secure, managed networks, cellular operators allow the device and application developers to concentrate on their main interest, the end application. Enterprises and businesses are already accustomed to getting their mobile and internet communications service from the operators, so letting them handle your IoT connectivity re-uses established relationships. The cellular networks and technologies provide different levels of service.

Arm and NB-IoT

The Mbed OS team is currently helping silicon and module vendors to enable their NB-IoT solutions on Mbed OS. We are also actively working with leading network providers/operators from Asia and Europe to test the Mbed enabled NB-IoT solutions. The team has also been developing the NB-IoT networking stack, including NB-IoT modem API, which enables silicon providers to integrate below the IP stack. For application developers, NB-IoT application API provides an easy message interface for applications to utilize NB-IoT as connectivity. For non-IP NB-IoT data, Mbed OS offers a suitable packeting frame for data packets. We are working with NB-IoT module vendors to implement a module-specific adaptation of the networking stack.

Our aim is to have leading NB-IoT modems supported on Mbed OS, so that the developers get the best possible user experience and reduce their time to market. The NB-IoT technology is still developing fast, and the improvements of the standards are being taken to use in steps. Our aim is to provide unified API and interfaces that hide the silicon and module specific implementation differences. NB-IoT networks are rolling out as we speak.

Some example of operators currently deploying include China Telecom, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile in the US. Several module vendors are also currently launching NB-IoT enabled modules.

Now is the time to start developing NB-IoT applications, even if you still don’t have an NB-IoT network, as the piloting can be done with normal cellular modems then subsequentlyswitching to NB-IoT for the actual deployment.

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