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The connected cellular IoT market is poised for exponential growth

October 11, 2016

Max The Magnificent-October 11, 2016

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a collaboration between groups of telecommunications associations. The 3GPP recently launched the latest Cat-M1 (formerly eMTC) and Cat-NB1 (formerly NB-IoT) standards -- narrowband LTE technologies that are intended to address the connected cellular IoT (Internet of Things) market.


Connected cellular for the IoT (Source: CEVA)

The connected cellular IoT market is expected to explode in the coming years, with ABI Research predicting the Cat-NB1 standard will account for more than one third of all cellular IoT shipments -- a value that is greater than legacy M2M or the current Cat-1 standard. In fact, cellular IoT shipments are predicted to grow at a CAGR of 34% to reach 427 million units in 2021 (Source: ABI Research Market Data), and this may well prove to be conservative because these technologies could be applicable to a wide variety of emerging and evolving markets.

End markets and applications where these technologies are certain to be deployed include the smart home, smart utilities, asset tracking, wearables, health, and security; also environmental, industrial, and agricultural monitoring and control. Will Strauss, President of Market Research Firm Forward Concepts, notes that: "The 3GPP's recent launch of the Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 standards paves the way for billions of IoT devices to connect via the cellular networks in the coming years."

All of this will drive the requirement for new processors that can address the stringent power, cost, and performance constraints of this new wave of low data rate devices. One such example is the recently announced CEVA-X1, whose extended instruction set architecture (ISA) combines DSP and CPU processing, thereby eliminating the need for a separate CPU. Of particular interest is the fact that this processor comes equipped with dedicated Cat-NB1 instructions, which dramatically increase performance while reducing power consumption.

Until recently, it was common to talk about the IoT and IIoT (Industrial IoT). Some people also refer to the IoHT (Internet of Heavier Things), which refers to the fact that, in the USA alone, there's around $6.8 trillion of fixed infrastructure and machinery that needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century (see also Introducing the IoHT (Internet of Heavier Things)).

Now, it's becoming increasingly common to talk about the Massive IoT. One thing that really needs to be talked about are the Massive Security Requirements that will need to be addressed with regard to the networks themselves, the devices that are connected to the networks, and the applications that are running on these devices (this topic will be the focus of a future column).

In the meantime, I'm left contemplating how fast things are changing in this area. I remember the days before cell phones and how, when cellular systems were eventually introduced, we foolishly thought of them only in the context of making telephone calls. Now we can envisage a future in which just about every electronic system is connected into "the net," but I'm not sure if we can envisage all of the ramifications associated with this. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this matter.

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