With the huge number of IoT solutions being deployed relying on a wired connection, like Ethernet, is a bottleneck for most applications. They all are heavily reliant on the infrastructure; add additional maintenance and operational costs to the mix, and this hinders the product to be completely immovable.

By leveraging this same infrastructure using mobile phones, cellular IoT takes advantage of the broad availability of existing cellular networks. The solution then becomes completely independent of the infrastructure. However, IoT devices have widely varying needs when compared to our phones. With this theme in mind, let’s look at the challenges of using cellular technology in our solutions.

What is cellular IoT?

Cellular IoT is connecting your fleet of devices to the cloud by using the cellular network just like your phone. It uses the same underlying network and technology. The main difference is the way the devices communicate with the cloud.

Your phone needs to always be connected and should always be located near a transmitting source. For instance, when you call someone’s phone, the network looks for the nearest tower to the phone you want to reach and then the tower sends a request for the owner to respond.

This process consumes a lot of bandwidth and power. It is the main reason that we have to charge our phones every day, or every few days.

IoT devices should be maximally optimized for power consumption since many applications need to run for long periods of time on battery without access to external power sources.

So, IoT devices cannot just use cellular technology like smartphones. Instead, as IoT applications grow rapidly we have developed separate cellular technologies for these devices.

How does it work?

2G, 3G, and 4G LTE are the basic generations with which we are familiar.

Every generation essentially focuses on increasing communication speed and reducing latency.

4G LTE CAT0 is the first standard that introduced a power-saving mode and allows for longer battery life while the LTE CAT M and NB-IoT are crucial for IoT solutions since they enable full mobility for in-vehicle handover and greatly improve in-building connectivity as well as improve the battery life.

While 2G/3G protocols are widely used in many IoT applications, modern IoT generally relies on LTE-M or NB-IoT.

These standards were designed from the start for low power consumption, embedded security, and reliability. Combining these technical advantages with existing ubiquitous cellular networks has provided the world with an unparalleled choice for remote IoT connectivity.

Cellular IoT Challenges

  • Deployment technology coverage

The cellular technology that will be used depends on the location for the operation of the devices.

For example, some countries only support LTE-M while others only support NB-IoT. In Italy, for instance, the major telecom operators support only NB-IoT. So, factors like the technology, hardware, and operator services depend on where your devices will be deployed.

gsma zerynth post cellular

GSMA deployment map


  • Security

As soon as you connect any device to a network you put that device at risk of being compromised. Since your devices will always be connected, they are always at risk.

As a product manager, you need to factor in security during the planning of your product deployment.

Choices in hardware, software, and cloud service are very dependent on how secure the product will be.

Starting from your hardware, the device certificates or “ID” should be securely managed, preferably by using a crypto element, for instance. You should also maintain industry standards in using secure OS and secure communication channels with your cloud service.

While this is just an introduction to the security aspects of cellular-connected products, we recommend paying attention to device security during the initial phases of prototyping because, as deployment starts, the cost of fixing one of these issues becomes very expensive if not impossible to get right.

Zerynth Platform

There are many platforms that enable the development of IoT products. It is no longer the question of how you can do it, but how much time and resources it will take.

We designed our platform to provide the easiest and most efficient development platform.

For cellular IoT products, we designed our hardware and our embedded SIM card and network to work seamlessly with the cloud. You can connect your industrial machines and send sensor data securely in minutes thanks to the optimized software and seamless cloud connection.

Users and developers can rest assured that while the development process is easy thanks to our Python-enabled real-time OS, It is also Ultra-secure thanks to the Industry-leading security standards used.

4zerobox mobile Zerynth cellular IoT

4ZeroBox Mobile

Our cloud enables users to provision, control, and monitor their fleets of devices from a single interface.

Thanks to the dashboarding service, we enable users to create cross-platform dashboards that visualize the data in a clear way and drive data-driven decisions.

While there are many areas in cellular technology that are still weak for the IoT domain, we continue to move forward to find optimal solutions to current problems. Latency issues, remote sensing, and integrated network security are vulnerabilities that keep us forging ahead. To learn more about how we can help you enter the world of Industrial IoT, request a demo with one of our experts.

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About the Author: Karim Hamdy

Karim is graduated with a degree in Electronics Design and Digital Communication Systems, with interests ranging from autonomous robots to baremetal programming. He now spends most of his time coding and eating pasta.

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