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A wireless system that has truly started to unleash the Internet of Things (IoT)

Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Reference Number: TOUK20161114001
Publication Date: 14 November 2016

Summary

An East of England company has developed a wireless system that improves performance measures such as range, reliability and cost. A range of up to 80 km (1 km with the ultra-low power configuration) is achievable with new, often cheaper designs. Millions of devices with long battery life have been sold. Automation, control, metering, warehousing etc. companies seeking to integrate wireless communications into their products are sought for licensing and technical collaboration.

Description

There has been a lot of buzz in the wireless arena over the past 10 or so years. The promise of connecting billions of devices has driven the development of a number of new technologies. From Zigbee to WiFi, from Bluetooth to Whitespace to Wireless M-Bus, new technologies have enabled connecting devices with some success.
Often there is devil in the detail, as most if not all of the existing standards are limited to doing certain jobs in certain locations between certain types of device. In order to unleash the IoT one needs ways to communicate that are useful, useable and affordable.
A renowned East of England-based consultancy has learned from the SWOTs of competing technologies and the real needs of clients and come up with a system to provide improved performance and flexibility to enhance the trade-offs between range, reliability, scalability and cost.
The company has developed a proprietary standard that has a range of up to 80 km. It does it with chips and designs that are similar or cheaper compared to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, Bluetooth and ZigBee. The technology features much more efficient bandwidth usage (to avoid congestion) and a low memory requirement (for low cost and ultra low power). It can be used both indoors and outdoors to achieve an expected coverage rate of 99.9% plus. It works in license-exempt bands available throughout the developed world, and also can be used in certain important licensed bands subject to approvals. It has been updated with security of military grade to avoid any broadcasting of sensitive data.
The applications are many but one proven deployment is to allow electronic shelf-edge retail labels to talk to a server so that they can be updated completely automatically. In this case, the labels achieve battery life of 10 years with frequent updates, and the largest installation so far uses 50,000 devices on one site. One gateway typically supports up to 64,000 devices. The technology has been so successful for this manufacturer that they have now sold millions of products based on it.
Further applications where this technology is highly relevant include:
- Smart metering where one gateway can collect data from tens of thousands of households in a city;
- Smart cities, where large numbers of infrastructure elements and sensors can be connected at low cost, with long battery life;
- Wireless SCADA for remote monitoring, control and automation, including RS-232 serial port interface for easy retrofitting;
- Access control, domotics, building automation, networked white goods;
- Proximity marketing using iBeacons etc.
Broadly speaking, it offers much lower entry barriers compared to existing active RFID indoor applications, and opens up completely new wireless possibilities in outdoor and field telemetry applications.
The technology is primarily intended for customers looking to manufacture or sell 10,000 or more devices per year, but enquiries for lower-volume specialist applications are also welcomed. The 80 km-range is achieved with a high power version, the low power version has a typical range of 1 km.
The company is particularly looking for companies wanting to build products or networks that integrate a proprietary wireless technology. Also, integrators and developers are sought for technical collaborations. The UK company offers the source code under license for long-term support, along with protocol specification, software stack, reference designs and product development services.
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Advantages and Innovations

The low memory and high bandwidth efficiency allow for ultra low power and a long range. Also, the design is no more expensive than existing solutions.
This combination allows for lower entry barriers in indoor applications. Outdoors, this is likely to result in quite new market applications.

Stage Of Development

Already on the market

Requested partner

Type of partner sought: 
Industry
Specific area of activity of the partner:
End users and integrators of networked devices, Internet of Things, remote monitoring and control, smart devices.
Task to be performed:
The company is looking to supply the code and specifications under license with development services or adaptation to specific needs under technical collaboration.

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