A senior citizen experiences smart fitness devices during the 2017 World Internet of Things Exposition in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. (Photo/China Daily by Gao Erqiang)
New IoT technology set to link up billions of electronic appliances
China's telecom gurus have pledged to uphold the development of the Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT), an emerging but fast-growing technology that enables the connection of billions of electronic appliances, shared bikes and street lamps into the internet and allows for a handy retrieval of the massive trove of data generated.
With the technology projected to support more than half of all IoT connections, China is already at the forefront in terms of network launches, grooming ecosystem developer partners and drawing up industry standards, said Wen Ku, head of the information and communication development department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
"NB-IoT, thanks to its wide-coverage, low-throughput and delay-tolerant nature, is a major source to realize interconnectivity among the likes of metering facilities and parking lots," Wen told a forum during the 2017 World Internet of Things Exposition on Monday in Wuxi, Jiangsu province.
He predicted that application scenarios of NB-IoT could reach hundreds and even thousands in the future, up from only about 30 since China embarked on the technology just two years ago.
China Telecommunications Corp, the country's third largest mobile carrier, has doubled down on the technology via a nationwide rollout of nationwide NB-IoT networks, the first of its kind globally.
The company forecast that 60 percent of all IoT connections will be realized by narrow bandwidth technologies, according to Zhao Jianjun, general-manager of China Telcom's IoT branch.
"Many aren't effectively connected now because they are either too remote, too inaccessible or simply too many of them to make it economically viable to do so," Zhao said.
"NB-IoT is designed for ... devices that generate low data traffic, rely on batteries and typically have a long device life cycle, essentially fueling fresh momentum to the entire IoT industry."
Likewise, China Mobile Communications Corp has started building the NB-IoT networks in 346 cities and vowed to achieve commercial trials in key cities by the end of 2017, said Xiao Qing, a senior director at China Mobile IOT Co Ltd.
Unlike China Telecom, China Mobile is co-developing NB-IoT and eMTC, another key IoT technology that provides wider bandwidth. The company has set a goal of connecting 1.75 billion gadgets by 2020, Xiao said.
China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd has also signed an agreement with the municipal government of Shanghai that includes the deployment of a citywide NB-IoT platform for applications such as intelligent parking and environmental monitoring, in a bid to make the city smarter.
Carriers have all encouraged vendors to move the IoT forward through "Open Lab" initiatives for application developers and device, module and chip manufacturers to test their products.
China's aggressive push to harness the IoT also means the country could play a pivotal role in determining which IoT specifications thrive, said Jiang Wangcheng, president of Huawei's IoT solutions.