Connecting public transport to the Internet of Things

Matched with contextual traffic data, information about the route and changing traffic conditions can be supplied in real time, so that both passengers and companies improve their planning efficiency.

Offering seamless and highly mobile IoT requires high bandwidth and thus only makes few applications practical.

Real-time location tracking is probably among the most common. Companies already use GPS to track their assets, but the data could also be used to offer riders accurate information about the time to destination, estimated arrival times, or traffic events.

On board entertainment systems offer a more personalized travel experience; location information combined with events information can drive travellers to activities or sites relevant to their itinerary and preferences.

In terms of planning, cameras and sensors installed in public transportation means and in their surrounding premises can collect information to estimate traffic flows and better plan and allocate their resources.

Safety can be improved with live video streaming, allowing a more rapid intervention and enabling the prevention of misconduct.

To make these solutions possible, it is essential to provide high bandwidth connectivity, and that is in itself a challenge. Even with Access Points installed in vehicles, resources from the mobile network still need to be accessed. Technology try-outs in this sense include LTE-A carrier aggregation to increase the bandwidth (as discussed here), MIMO systems to enhance spectral efficiency, or small cell technology to bring the radio cell closer to the device.

Alongside, connectivity on-the-go needs to be managed at carrier level in the sense of providing seamless coverage irrespective of the mobile operator. As this 2014 EU report underlines, ubiquitous connectivity for public transport requires ‘terminals to get connected regardless of the operator exploiting the access network’, and ‘avoid services cut-offs’. Tower infrastructure sharing is the solution adopted today, and it is particularly viable because it also allows to reduce their operating costs and provide additional capacity, reports the GSMA.

Internet of Things applications have already started to enable some of these trends in large metropolitan areas all over the world. Transport companies, mobile operators, and platform providers can leverage IoT solutions for real-time tracking and monitoring, improved efficiency and safety, and a better travel experience.

Predictions about numbers of IoT/M2M connected devices that we’re supposed to be seeing in the very near future are astounding. So we can only imagine what the huge amounts of data collected will lead to once it’s analyzed and turned into ‘actionable’ information.

A snapshot of SS7ware at IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas

SS7ware was at IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas last week – if you haven’t been around to see us, here’s a recap of the most important events.

It was great to see so many companies, including manufacturers, mobile operators, M2M platform companies, developers, service providers, gathered to discuss innovation, management, and security in the M2M and IoT ecosystem.

Through 4 days of keynote presentations, panel discussions, exhibitor booths, live demos, and case studies, we also had a lot on our plates, as you can see in the gallery below.

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CEO Diana Cionoiu was invited to take part in the ‘Carrier Aggregation for Public Transport’ panel which took place Wednesday, discussing the possibilities to create a new experience for public transportation using the bandwidth capabilities in LTE and LTE-Advanced.

SS7ware also made it to the AT&T Fast Pitch finals, where we could talk about our software-defined mobile network solution among a variety of other innovative ideas bringing IoT to both businesses and individuals. Two interviews for the TMC team for their website, and a live SatSite demo were also on our list. Everyone around the Exhibit Hall on Tuesday had the chance to watch devices connected to SatSite work seamlessly. We simply plugged it in to make a GSM phone call between the two registered devices; all in the blink of an eye.

To wrap up, thanks to the TMC team for doing an amazing job organizing the event! Here are some take-aways to keep us focused on IoT/M2M developments in the near future:

  • when it comes to connecting the home, security is of utmost importance
  • connecting ‘everything’ comes with increased responsibility and safety challenges
  • new players like Google, Amazon, or Facebook are reshaping the ecosystem
  • who does what in the new business environment

For more content, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Driving the Internet of Things with carrier aggregation

Internet of Things connectivity must reach a middle ground between coverage and bandwidth to provide for applications with very different requirements.

While it’s true that tracking, measurement, control, or monitoring systems in rural or remote areas have lower traffic and rely on low-bandwidth technologies such as GSM, a different trend is growing. A whole range of M2M and IoT applications using live video, rich media, on-the-go content, multi-user sharing, demand a high network capacity that can be provided today with LTE.

Carrier aggregation (CA), the key concept in LTE-Advanced, allows operators to supply even higher bandwidth than LTE, to support such connected devices. As its name suggests, carrier aggregation combines two or more carriers in order to offer a greater throughput.

Using CA, new transmission channels can be created using the operators’ existing frequency spectrum. It is available in both TDD and FDD systems, and can be achieved by combining carriers from the same frequency band or from different frequency bands, as shown below.

Capacity is essential for IoT, as hundreds of devices are in constant communication with the network. In CA systems, up to 100 MHz bandwidth can be reached, as each component carrier can have a maximum bandwidth of 20 MHz, and a maximum of 5 carriers could be aggregated. In practice though only two carriers have been used so far.

Operators may also opt to combine carriers from different spectrum bands, as some are already reported to be doing, and this can be very practical given that LTE networks are currently being deployed on distinct frequency bands.

For carrier aggregation to work on both ends, devices must be able to detect and read the multiple frequencies sent by the radio network. In theory, a peak speed of 500Mbps for uplink and 1Gbps for downlink could be achieved with carrier aggregation.

In commercial deployments so far, as reported recently by the GSA, a maximum downlink 300Mbps has been achieved on a number of devices including smartphones and mobile hotspots. According to the same report, only 88 commercial implementations of carrier aggregation systems have been launched so far in 45 countries, but others are underway.

Carrier aggregation can be used to offer increased bandwidth for IoT, and it can also improve coverage by combining low frequency carriers with high frequency ones. Trade-offs of this system include battery life, but we’ll talk more about LTE for IoT next week during IoT Evolution Expo.

Meet us at IoT Evolution Expo!

Here’s your chance to meet us – we’ll be at IoT Evolution Expo in Las Vegas, August 17 to 20! We’ll be there throughout the event showcasing a live product demo and we’re participating in the ‘Carrier Aggregation for Public Transport’ panel on Wednesday, August 19, starting at 2:30 pm.

Complete software-defined network for IoT coverage

During the panel, we’ll talk more about SatSite as an IoT solution for public transport. In cities, LTE is an exciting opportunity for connecting new business sectors and new activities. Devices and sensors using real-time data can provide more relevant contextual information to help make faster, better decisions. LTE IoT coverage can reshape the way we think and act towards our homes, healthcare, transportation, or security.

Our solution for connected transportation, LTE SatSite, enables deployments with lower costs, resilient infrastructure, and high capacity.

The lightweight, low-power base station can be easily installed in public access areas (such as buses or crossroads), allowing:

  • seamless 4G customer experience anytime
  • smart traffic and passenger management
  • emergency management and transport security

Join us at IoT Evolution Expo, tune in to our Youtube channel, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. More about the speaker: follow Diana Cionoiu on LinkedIn.

The challenges behind VoLTE

In previous blog posts and demos we showed that a simplified approach is the way to obtain clear results in deploying VoLTE and 2G/4G mixed networks. We performed the industry’s first VoLTE call from a GSM mobile phone to an iPhone 6, through a single unified core network, the YateUCN, and we presented our solution for handling SRVCC (Single Radio Voice Call Continuity) as an inter-MSC (Mobile Switching Center) handover from 4G to 2G in the same YateUCN. Follow our take on why VoLTE hasn’t developed as rapidly as we all expected it would. We’ll give our insight and what we’ve learned from the many discussion we’ve had with mobile operators and smartphone producers alike.

Sure, VoLTE is great! Combining the powers of IMS and LTE, VoLTE offers excellent high-definition voice calls. It also guarantees a Quality of Service component, ensuring that customers get an unprecedented quality of voice services. However, VoLTE depends on far too many aspects to be fully functional and widely deployed, contrary to what optimistic reports have predicted in the past.

volte_issues

One of the main issues operators and customers alike are facing is the fact that there’s still a shortage of VoLTE capable smartphones. By April 2015 Verizon offered around 15 devices supporting VoLTE, while AT&T’s smartphone selection included around 19 devices capable of HD voice, in July 2015, as seen on their online shop. iPhone6 is still the only device capable of supporting VoLTE for all the operators that offer it. What’s more, most of these devices came from about 5 smartphone vendors, giving customers a limited choice when they buy a new phone.

Approximately 97% of VoLTE capable smartphones have their LTE chipset from the same vendor. According to reports from smartphone producers and operators alike, the VoLTE client is not stable enough, this being the reason why some vendors don’t even activate VoLTE in the baseband, and also why operators implement VoLTE in both the smartphones and the IMS network itself differently.

This also leads to the lack of interoperability between mobile carriers. Currently, VoLTE works only between devices belonging to the same network: for example, a T-Mobile customer using a VoLTE capable handset cannot roam in the AT&T VoLTE network of a called party. However, this was one of the main goals when VoLTE specifications were developed and we should still expect it to happen at some point.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, VoLTE deployments are scarce. A GSA report from July 2015 showed that only 25 operators have commercially launched VoLTE networks in 16 countries, while there are around 103 operators in 49 countries who are planning, trialling or deploying VoLTE. Compared with the total of 422 LTE networks commercially launched in 143 countries, VoLTE deployments are dramatically lower. This is the result of mobile carriers having a difficult time planing and building functional LTE and VoLTE networks, while also developing the essential Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) technology in an effective and performable way.

VoLTE still needs to leap over many hurdles until it becomes a technology used world wide. Operators, network equipment vendors, smartphones and chipset producers need to cooperate and jointly find technical solutions that will allow for a more swift VoLTE roll-out in most LTE networks.