Visualising Your IoT Data With Novacene

In this short blog, we will give an overview of the Novacene IoT dashboard and how it can be a useful tool to visualise your IoT data.

What is Novacene?

The Novacene platform is an IoT dashboard system that represents values from your sensors in a graphical way. Moreover, it allows you to digitise the floor plans of your building and place the deployed devices in areas where they are installed. This platform is hosted online and can be accessed from any device by simply visiting the app.novacene.io website.

Once you are logged into the platform you will see a map with all your sites. By going into the site, you can see the floor plan of your building and your sensors.


Accessing Your Data

Depending on the type of floor plan, you can have various zones that represent different floors of that building or different areas at your site. From this overview page, you can filter the view by particular device type. You can also scroll through all the graphs and data of your devices. On the digitised floor plan, you can click on any of the sensors to directly go into its data visualisation or you can also click on the desired zone to see all sensors that are added within that zone.

The Novacene platform allows you to represent data in various graphical ways. You can adjust the style of the graph as per your needs. You can also select what data should be visible on the graph or in the list below the graph. It is also worth mentioning that all the data can be downloaded in .csv format or can be pulled from the platform by using the API.

The Novacene dashboard is fully customisable which means you can adjust everything to suit your use case. To make edits all you need to do is to enter the Creator Mode which unlocks plenty of adjustments starting with the geozones, through adjusting the position of particular devices and finishing with setting up various rules and alerts.


Customising Your Dashboard

Rules and alerts can be created per zone. For example, you can create a rule where you will be notified if the temperature in a particular zone exceeds a certain value and also be notified with another message when the temperature goes below a certain value. Currently, notifications can be sent as emails or text messages (SMS). The content of the message is also fully customisable.


Simplifying Your Data & Technical Tips

The Novacene platform also decodes data from the sensors in the background allowing you to just see the data without worrying about writing a decoder to make that happen. With support for dozens of different devices including the most commonly used manufacturers such as Netvox, Elsys, Milesight and many more. The portfolio of supported devices increases all the time so even if your device is not supported at the moment, it can be supported in the future.

For the technical aspect of the portal, Novacene has an intuitive knowledge base which can be accessed through their website. Here, you can find many ‘how to’ guides showing you for example the way to add a device to the floor plan, how to download data from the platform and more. The knowledge base can be accessed by going to help.novacene.io/knowledge

If you are looking for such a platform and you are interested in what you have seen, feel free to contact us. Our team will be happy to go through more details about the platform as well as the commercials.


Discover More in Our Overview Video

Please find our overview video about the Novacene platform below.

Christmas Opening Times 2023


The festive season is almost upon us! With that in mind, we wanted to share more details about our opening times over Christmas and the New Year. During this period, there will be no courier collections unless specifically requested.

Opening Times

Day Opening Hours
Friday 22nd December 9:00-13:00
Monday 25th December Closed
Tuesday 26th December Closed
Wednesday 27th December 10:00-16:00
Thursday 28th December 10:00-16:00
Friday 29th December 10:00-16:00
Monday 1st January Closed
Tuesday 2nd January Open as Usual

Please be aware, we will be running with a reduced number of staff between Christmas and New Year which may increase wait times.

Delivery Times

Avoid delays; The cut off time for collection on 22nd December is 12:15, orders places after this time will not be collected until 2nd January unless specified otherwise.

There will be no scheduled courier collections between Christmas and New Year. However, if your order is urgent, order collections can be arranged during this period; please speak with a member of our team to discuss your requirements.

On behalf of the whole Alliot Team, we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

An Important Notification: Temporary Service Disruptions

UPDATE: 18/10/23 – 12:53
Our emails are now up and running again and we are starting to receive emails which have been sent during our downtime. Our team are working their way through these and will begin to action/respond accordingly soon.

We are currently experiencing some technical issues within our system which is currently affecting our ability to send and receive emails. Our team are busy working to resolve these issues and are actively addressing the situation to restore normal operations as swiftly as possible.

For now, our friendly team remain available by our main contact number; 01484 599544. If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to call us.

Stay Updated:

To keep you informed and updated about our progress, we will be providing regular updates on this blog post. We encourage you to visit this post for the latest information and developments regarding the system restoration process. Our Sales and Technical Support teams remain available for you to contact by telephone.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The Alliot Team.

How to Configure Eastron Meters

Common Configuration

For both meter types, there are some downlink messages that are common. Those are:
1. Open Configuration downlinks – to open the device to receive any configuration.
2. Set Number of Parameters – to set how many parameters can be transmitted in one uplink message.
3. Time interval – to set how often the device transmits the data.

It’s worth mentioning that all the downlinks need to be queued in order, one at a time and to fport 1.

Open Configuration

There are 3 downlink messages that need to be queued to enable configuration on the device. Once the downlinks are received by the device, there is a 30-minute window where the configuration can be changed. After that time, the downlinks will need to be re-sent.
The downlink messages are always the same and will replicate those listed below.

010300180002440C

01100018000204447A0000C62C

0103000E0002A5C8

Then there is the downlink to set the number of parameters per 1 uplink message.

It’s recommended to set this to 5, but it can be adjusted to suit your needs.

The downlink message that sets the number of parameters to 5 is:

0110FE1200010200057AEE

Time Interval

The time interval downlink message changes how often the device transmits data. It’s recommended to keep this setting to 30 minutes for the most reliable transmission.

It is possible to set this to send data more frequently but with a higher data transmission rate there is a chance that some packets will be missed. This could become a problem, especially in some cases where there are a lot of parameters being measured, hence the 30-minute time interval is a sweet spot.

The Downlink message to set the time interval to 30 minutes is:

0110FE01000102001E3846

A time interval change downlink message can be sent to the device at the initial configuration stage or at a later date. In order to change just the time interval, you will need to send Open Configuration messages first.

SDM-230 example of payload parameters and data structure

The Single-Phase Eastron energy meter can measure a lot of parameters. It is recommended to choose up to 10 parameters based on the list below. Choosing more than 10 may end up in data not being transmitted correctly or in data packet loss.

Parameters SDM-230

Example #01

Let’s say, we are interested in measuring the Voltage, Frequency and Current.

To do so, based on the list of parameters above, we will need to choose 00, 01, 02.

We also need to set the Number of Parameters to 3 in this case.

The downlink message itself for the 3 selected parameters will then look like this:

0110FE02000F1E000102FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF4FA8

Where:
01 – slave address

10 – function code

FE02 – address this setting is being sent to

000F – number of registers, 15

1E – number of bytes, 30 (2 bytes per register)

000102FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF – the 30 bytes of parameters, we have turned on 00, 01 & 02, all others are off (ff)

4FA8 – MODBUS CRC

To send the whole configuration we need to send the Open Configuration downlinks, Number of Parameters downlink, time interval downlink (optional), and the configuration downlink. That will result in 5 (or 6 if we selected time interval change) downlink messages to be sent one by one and one at a time to fport 1.

The downlinks in this particular example will be:
010300180002440C (open config)
01100018000204447A0000C62C (open config)
0103000E0002A5C8 (open config)
0110FE120001020003FAEC (number of parameters set to 3)
0110FE01000102001E3846 (optional 30mins time interval)
0110FE02000F1E000102FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF4FA8 (configuration)

SDM-630 example of payload parameters and data structure

Similarly like in a single-phase meter, the Three-Phase Eastron energy meter can measure a lot of parameters. It is recommended to choose up to 10 parameters based on the list below. Choosing more than 10 may end up in data not being transmitted correctly or in data packet loss. The list of parameters differs from the single-phase one so be sure to select from the correct list when deciding on which parameters you want to select.

General/Total Parameters – SDM-630
L1 Parameters – SDM-630
L2 Parameters – SDM-630
L3 Parameters – SDM-630

Example #02

Let’s say we are interested in measuring Voltage L1-N,L2-N,L3-N, Current L1, L2, L3, Active Power L1, L2, L3
To enable those parameters in configuration we need to select the following: 00 01 02 07 08 09 10 11 12

The downlink message itself for selected 9 parameters will then look like this:

0110FE02000F1E000102070809101112FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFA008

Where:

Where:
01 – slave address

10 – function code

FE02 – address this setting is being sent to

000F – number of registers, 15

1E – number of bytes, 30 (2 bytes per register)

000102070809101112FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF – the 30 bytes of parameters, we have turned on 00, 01, 02, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 all others are off (FF)

A008 – MODBUS CRC

To send the whole configuration we need to send the Open Configuration downlinks, Number of Parameters downlink, time interval downlink (optional), and the configuration downlink. That will result in 5 (or 6 if we selected time interval change) downlink messages to be sent one by one and one at a time to fport 1.

Those downlinks in this particular example will be:

010300180002440C (open config)
01100018000204447A0000C62C (open config)
0103000E0002A5C8 (open config)
0110FE1200010200057AEE (number of parameters set to 5)
0110FE01000102001E3846 (optional 30mins time interval)
0110FE02000F1E000102070809101112FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFA008 (configuration)

You would expect 2 messages with 5 values each (because there are 9 parameters, the second message will contain only 4 valid values.)


Those messages will contain data as follows:
[“L1-N Voltage”,”L2-N Voltage”,”L3-N Voltage”,”L1 Current”,”L2 Current”],
[“L3 Current”,”L1 Active Power”,”L2 Active Power”,”L3 Active Power”,”N/A”]

To find out more about the Eastron Meter or for assistance in configuring your IoT devices, please contact our expert team today.

Need help getting started?
Talk to an expert

Updates to Wattsense’s Intelligent Building Management Devices

You may have noticed some recent updates to the Wattsense range. In this blog, we will cover these changes and what they mean to you. Read on to learn more about what’s new with the Wattsense intelligent buildings management devices.

What’s Changed?

Out with the old, in with the new! The Hub and Box have had a bit of a refresh as has the Wattsense brand. These devices have now been replaced by the Bridge and Tower.

Hub -> Bridge
Box -> Tower

These new devices offer all of the same unique features and functionalities you’ve become accustomed to with Wattsense, with some new, more advanced improvements.

Unlike their predecessors, the Bridge and Tower are now the same device which are then purchased with either a license of subscription depending on whether you’d like a hosted or on-premise solution.

Technological Improvements

With their refresh, Wattsense has also released a number of new features including bulk editing of properties and webhooks.

LoRaWAN® Improvements

In order to help you make the most of what LoRaWAN® has to offer, Wattsense has applied the following changes:

  • Optimal Spreading Factor: Wattsense has adapted the way their server connects to a device to maximise its battery life by using Optimal Spreading Factor (SF). This is achieved by optimising the transmission power of the LoRa sensor.
  • Downlink Management: With a class A sensor, only one downlink per device is buffered before being transmitted to the sensor. With class C devices, there is a first-in-first-out queue per device. Downlinks are transmitted to the equipment as they are received with a 13 second delay.
  • An additional new feature available free of charge on the Wattsense Tower is frame counter. This can be used to ensure the Wattsense Tower receives frames correctly. Simply add this feature to your device through your configurations in the user console.

Bulk Editing of Properties

It is now possible to mass edit the properties of a single device or gateway to activate, deactivate or delete them through a new interface.

Create Webhooks in the Console (Tower Only)

A feature which was only previously available through an API connection. Users of the Wattsense Tower can now retrieve property values or be alerted to an alarm directly in the user console. Through the user console, you can also now create datastreams.

*A datastream us a connection between Wattsense servers and your servers, which can either be by a webhook or a cloud-to-cloud MQTT connection.

Other Enhancements…

  • It is now possible to edit a schedule in BACnet format through a user interface accessible in the live data screen.
  • Download your equipment’s configuration and properties in one click from the ‘Download button’ on the configuration screen.
  • Under the ?? icon, to the right of your device name, you can see the number of properties counted in your subscription.
  • Nearly 100 additional LoRaWAN® devices have been added to the Wattsense catalogue of supported devices.

Our expert team are on hand to help you create an intelligent Building Management System which is retrofit to work alongside existing equipment and protocols. Speak with us today to get started with transforming your BMS system.

Please note: These new features are only available on devices operating on firmware version 5.10.5 and above.

How to Configure the Milesight DS3604

Milesight recently launched the new DS3604 E-ink Display. We have been busy testing this new device, as we do with everything we sell. We’ve compiled a short blog covering everything you can expect from this new device and how you can set it up to work best for your use case.

What is the Milesight DS3604?

The DS3604 is a configurable display device from Milesight. This device can be used when booking your meeting rooms, but it goes a bit beyond that. You can remotely set it to display that it is reserved, display your room names, dates, the period the room is booked for, it is completely customisable! This means when you look at this handy little sign outside the meeting room door, you have all the details you need to know whether it’s worth loitering for that one person who’s always busy or quickly grab a coffee!

The payload

First, let’s go over the different parts of the payload.

Let’s look at the example above from Milesight’s user guide: FB01000474657374FF3D02

We’re going to split this up to make it easier to read:

FB

01

00

04

74657374

FF3D02 

FB is the channel we’re sending to and 01 just says we’re updating text or QR code content. We’re going to focus on the “value” as this is the part we will be changing.

00 04 74657374

As you can see there are 3 parts to the value, we’re going to label them A, B and C 

A:00 B:04 C:74657374

Payload Part A: Using Toolbox

A: 00, this indicates we’re changing template 1, module 1. But We want to change anything or at least know which module 00 is. To do this we can use the Milesight app, Toolbox, to find the module numbers. Toolbox is useful for a variety of Milesight’s products, so if you are using any of their products I recommend checking it out.

You need to scan the device making sure you have NFC turned on, then navigate to “Setting > “E-ink Display Settings” this will display a template for your device. When you select a module, you will see a little red number that tells you what the module number is. The display counts up from 1, where as the payload is from 0, this means the module is whatever the little number is minus 1. In this case to change module 1 we need to set it to 0.

I advise noting down the different parts for your chosen template so you can send downlinks from wherever you want. This is accurate for all module numbers apart from the QR code, to change the QR code you change A to “0A”.

Payload Part B and C: The actual content

B: 04, this is the size of the text you’re sending in hexidecimal. B = 04 because “test” is 4 characters. You have to convert messages that are 10+ characters, symbols or spaces to the correct format, “AllIoT Rules!” for instance would be 0D instead of 13. 

C: 74657374, This is the text you want to display, or the value you want the QR code to show when scanned, to get this value you need to get whatever text you have and convert it from ASCII to hexadecimal. There are plenty of websites which offer this, just go to your search browser and type “Ascii to hex converter”. P.s. To get to “AllIoT Rules!” use 416C6C496F542052756C657321.

The last bit of our payload is FF3D02, this refreshes the screen so you can see your changes, you should leave this as it is.

Once you’ve got everything ready, all you need to do is send it as a payload to your device at port 85. 

And that is it, you can now configure and send your own payloads to change your Milesight DS3604!  

For more technical hints and tips, why not sign up to our mailing list? We frequently share our latest blogs and devices in our monthly newsletter.

Interested in getting started with IoT? Contact us today to discuss your requirements.

IoT For SMB’s; How We Transformed Our Operational Efficiencies

IoT is transforming businesses around the globe but how can it be used in a small business environment? Discover how we have transformed our own operational efficiencies in our IoT for SMBs blog post.

When we think about IoT, we often think about large enterprises who are using the internet of things to optimise their buildings and premises and automate their processes. While this rings true, IoT is not exclusive. In fact, it is very accessible and can offer a whole host of benefits to small businesses.

Here at Alliot, we are a small business with just 16 employees (& a dog!). Our ‘home’ is located in a beautiful renovated 150-year-old mill, in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

We share this space with our sister company, ProVu Communications. Back in December 2022, we decided it was time to create our very own ‘smart office’, here’s an insight into what we have found so far…

Transformation

The beauty of many LoRaWAN® IoT solutions is that they operate on Low Power Wide Area Networks. Just one Kerlink gateway is all that is needed to cover our offices which equates to a floorspace of approximately 783 m2.

With solid stone walls throughout, some technologies such as WiFi, BLE or ZigBee could prove difficult to avoid blackspots. LoRaWAN® however, is capable of penetrating glass, metal and concrete which is a key differentiator in creating IoT for SMBs. Another benefit to mention is that all of the sensors used are wireless which doesn’t only make installation a lot faster, it’s also much simpler!

Thanks to the simple installation requirements, our smart office was up and running in just 2 days.

The Solution Itself

When creating our Smart Office, our first port of call was to consider what data could offer the best returns in a small office environment. There are a huge number of benefits IoT can offer SMBs.

The key areas we decided to start with are:

  • Energy monitoring – this is a big topic for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
  • Monitoring our conditions and CO2 levels.

The key sensors used within our office include:

All of this data is brought together using Novacene‘s intuitive dashboard.

These sensors were placed throughout the building with a temperature sensor in every office/meeting room. We selected the Elsys sensors as they are unobtrusive and offer multiple sensors in one device. The motion sensor was utilised to show us if there was presence within a room.

CO2

The correlation between C02 and productivity has long been associated. As per the WELL guidelines, buildings should be properly ventilated, with Carbon Dioxide levels at an average of 800 ppm or less. Luckily for us, our offices are compliant with these levels.

People Counting

This sensor is located at the entrance to our offices. By counting people in and out of the office, you can see when our busiest days are. As you can see from the screenshot below, Mondays and Fridays are our quietest days.

When looking to reduce operational costs, this kind of information is useful in supporting decisions like what areas of the building we may want to heat or, if we should introduce mandatory work-from-home days. The more information we can gather, the more informed decisions we are able to make.

Lighting – Warehouse

Our warehouse is located in the lower ground floor of our offices. It’s often darker and cooler than other areas of the business. Now we don’t need a sensor to tell us that, but through IoT, we have been able to identify two key things.

  1. The lighting in our warehouse should be improved. According to guidance from the HSE, the recommended LUX for areas where work requiring a perception of detail is being undertaken is 100 LUX minimum/200 LUX average illuminance. The average LUX in our warehouse is approximately 70 LUX over a 24-hour period. This is likely due to the fact that our lighting is on a sensor so will turn off if no motion is detected. Changing the whole lighting set up in our warehouse isn’t necessary and would be costly, but we have installed local lighting to improve conditions above work stations.
  2. Over the period we analysed, the highest average temperature was 13.48°C which is within the recommended guidelines for areas where strenuous work us carried out, but we appreciate it’s still a bit chilly, so have installed more heaters in this area too.

Energy Monitoring

We have a number of quiet rooms in the office, these are areas where staff members can work on projects or hold meetings away from the hustle and bustle of the main office.

The results we found from this were quite astounding. On average our quiet rooms are only in use 70% of the time. When they are used, they are only used for around 76 minutes a day, yet they were being heated all day, every day. From the data, we can see specific times when people are entering one of these spaces and cranking the heating up to max, on occasion these rooms were reaching a tropical temperature of 30 degrees! Given that our energy costs have increased by 189% in the last 12 months, the cost of this is huge.

The Results So Far & Future Development

We are now working on installing MClimate thermostatic radiator valves throughout all of our quiet rooms and meeting rooms. These will enable us to remotely control the radiators in these rooms and for us to set a maximum temperature that the radiators can reach. By maintaining a constant temperature, this will help us to reduce costs and waste.

The second stage will then be to integrate our solution with a meeting booking system. This will enable us to optimise when a room is heated. With some development work we will be able to set the sensor to heat a room before a room is booked for use, again helping us to improve our efficiencies and reduce costs without any manual intervention.

Return on Investment

We’re already starting to see a return on our investment. The shear savings in energy costs alone more than pay for the cost of setting up our smart office. As an SMB, these savings are a clear example of the positive impact IoT can have on a business. To date, we predict our solution will help us to save between £1,800 – £2,000 per year.

Looking to get started on your very own IoT solution? Our expert team are available to discuss your requirements and help you to build the very best solution to deliver the data you require. Get in touch today to discover more about how IoT can transform your SMB.

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The Vodafone NB-IoT Coverage Checker is here

Vodafone UK have added NB-IoT coverage to their online network status checker.

If you want to go straight to it, it is here: https://www.vodafone.co.uk/business/network-coverage-checker

If you want to find out how it works and what it’s for, read on.

What is it for?

Vodafone’s network status checker shows you how Vodafone’s network is performing around the UK. You can search for a postcode (ideally), a town or city, or some other location name in the UK. It’ll show you the coverage in that area of all the supported network types provided by Vodafone, now including NB-IoT! It’ll also show you of any ongoing network outages or issues, you can sign up for alerts too so you get notified on any issues that happen.

Why do I need to know?

If you are going to deploy NB-IoT devices, there needs to be network coverage in the area(s) you intend on placing those devices. Unlike LoRaWAN where you can place gateways to create your own coverage, NB-IoT (and other cellular IoT technologies such as LTE-M) are provided by cellular network carriers in the same way as the phone signal for your mobile phone is. As such, there must be coverage in the area you want to use for an NB-IoT device to work.

This means it is essential that you check network coverage before even thinking about buying and deploying NB-IoT devices or you’ll be wasting a lot of time, effort and money if you install devices only to find they don’t work because there’s no network.

Before this checker was available, this process involved email and manual checks by Vodafone which took some time, now this online checker is available, you can do the checks immediately and even see where coverage is planned in the next 3 months.

How does it work, how do I use it?

Web browse to the online network status checker here: https://www.vodafone.co.uk/business/network-coverage-checker

This is what it looks like:

Simply type the location you want to install your NB-IoT devices into the “enter location” search box. Ideally put in a postcode for the most accurate results.

The result hopefully looks something like this:

The entire map shown is red (as oppose to pink or light pink or white) which means “good” coverage for the whole area. Make sure you have one of the two “NB” options selected in the box on the left side, you can click other ones to check the other network types but if you are interested in NB-IoT coverage, you need to select NB-in or NB-out.

NB-in means likely coverage indoors, inside buildings. NB-out means likely coverage outdoors, on the outside of a building or on the streets. Generally speaking, outdoors coverage will always be slightly better than indoors although NB-IoT is very good at going through walls and structures.

It’s important to note that this coverage is a calculated coverage, Vodafone don’t have millions of people constantly going around the UK checking coverage in every street. This means that this coverage is not guaranteed and there maybe small “dead” areas even within this “good” overall area. But in our experience, that is unlikely for an area with complete “good” coverage.

Here’s a not so good area for comparison:

If you zoom out using the “-” button at the top right of the map you can see a wider area:

So Norwich doesn’t have total coverage at the moment although most of it does now have some coverage.

You can then see what coverage Vodafone have planned for this area within the next 3 months, since they are constantly improving NB-IoT coverage and activating it on more and more mobile towers.

Click the “Planned (3 months)” option at the bottom of the white box to the right and you’ll see what coverage will hopefully be like in the near future:

So that’s much better. Bear in mind, this is just planned coverage, get in touch with us if you are worried and we should be able to get more concrete information from Vodafone as to their network plans for your area.

What next?

Get in touch with us to talk about our cellular IoT offerings, including:

  • Vodafone NB-IoT SIMs, at any scale from projects involving 1000s of SIMs to proof of concept single SIMs. Vodafone NB-IoT SIMs
  • NB-IoT sensors and devices, because the SIM cards are no use without a device to put them in! Cellular IoT devices
  • Symbius IoT cloud middleware. Get your data from your devices into your platform with ease. Symbius
  • Advice, consultancy, help getting started. Talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about

Give us a call on +44 (0)1484599544

Send us an email to contact@alliot.co.uk

Say hello to us using our online chat tool via our website https://alliot.co.uk (chat will be live and popup during UK office hours)

LoRaWAN vs NB-IoT: Competition or Complimentary?

LoRaWAN® vs NB-IoT; both have been growing in the IoT space. With new devices and services being released for each of them. The use cases are growing, but what does this mean going forward; will we need both or will one dominate the other in the market? Read on to find out more about our thoughts around this.

How does NB-IoT work?

NB-IoT Key Features. Source: U-Blox
NB-IoT Key Features. Source: U-Blox

Let’s discuss a bit about how each of these technologies work. Starting with NB-IoT, these devices work on a licensed frequency band with a standard developed by 3GPP, the people that make all the mobile telecommunications standards.

To get a device online and to begin sending data you’re going to need a sim for NB-IoT devices. Vodafone are currently the only NB-IoT connectivity provider in the UK.

You’ve now got your device and a SIM card, you just stick your SIM card in, and it works, right? Well, not quite. Before you get ahead of yourself, you are going to need to forward and decode that data. Without the relevant skills and time this can complex. Thanks to Symbius, our own in-house developed IoT middleware platform, we can simplify this process for you.

With Symbius you can forward your data to decode it and view it in one simple to use web application. It’s not necessarily an in-depth dashboard or meant for data storage, but with access to an API you can forward your decoded data. We even have a Node-Red Node to make getting your data just that bit easier.

The key components for getting started with NB-IoT are:

  • SIM card (one per device)
  • Your chosen sensor(s)
  • Set up forwarding to wherever you plan to decode your data and display it (like Symbius!)

All of which can be provided by us, and yes we can even help you get everything set up and give you technical support.

What about LoRaWAN®?

LoRaWAN network architecture. Source: Semtech
LoRaWAN network architecture. Source: Semtech

Moving onto LoRaWAN®, this is an unlicensed radio spectrum, that means it is cheaper but more likely to deal with interference (although LoRa is very good at dealing with interference). With LoRaWAN®, you also don’t have to worry about whether coverage is available in your area.The architecture that you’re going to be using for this is also specified by the LoRa Alliance who have plenty of resources and information on all things Lora.

To get your device up and running you are going to have some higher upfront costs than your NB-IoT counterpart. Starting off you need your device, no sim required, then you need a gateway. Think of the gateway as your internet router but with a much lower frequency and a much greater range. Depending on placement and the gateway you could get a range of up to 10km! The gateway will only have LoRaWAN® devices connected to it meaning it shouldn’t have any interference from other connected devices. At this point you’ve already bought an extra piece of hardware, and depending on what sort of gateway you’ve bought, and how it is set up, you will need to forward your payloads to a LoRaWAN® network server (LNS).

Now you have your devices connected to your gateway which is forwarding data to your LNS, but it’s likely your LNS isn’t decoding your data, so you are just seeing raw payloads. To make sense of this, you will have to forward the data again to be decoded to your chosen platform or dashboard.

LoRaWAN® has no shortage of different LNS’ and dashboards to choose from. If you are looking to do as little development as possible, from Kerlink’s Wanesy to LORIOT, and dashboards from Novacene to Kheiron, you have plenty of choice and support at every step.

If you are looking to go super cheap you can use The Things Networks (TTN) LNS for free, though you will probably find yourself looking for a bit more from your LNS the more you delve into LoRaWAN®.

To sum up, to get started with LoRaWAN®, you will need:

  • A LoRaWAN® gateway
  • Your selected devices
  • A LoRaWAN® Network Server (LNS)
  • A dashboard to visualise the recorded data

Once this is set up, you will have a network which can be scaled with ease. This is great if you plan to grow your solution, but would be overkill for connecting a single device. To make it even easier, we offer a one-stop shop enabling you to source all of the key components. We supply everything you need to get started and offer a range of services to support you both pre and post deployment. We can even provision your devices so they are ready to plug & play when they arrive on site. Get in touch to discuss your requirements today.

LoRaWAN® vs NB-IoT; Other Differences

So, we’ve discussed setting up an NB-IoT device and a LoRaWAN® device, and I am sure you are already seeing the differences. Let’s go a bit further, we mentioned that NB-IoT is at the mercy of your sims network provider, this can mean you get great, unrestricted coverage without the worry of gateways. That said, if you are unfortunate enough to get bad mobile signal on your device, there isn’t a lot you can do.

LoRaWAN® however, you can do something, for a relatively low cost you can just put up an extra gateway, add it to your network and now you can have even better coverage. As mentioned it’s not a small range these gateways cover.

Also, depending on the frequency of uplinks and the device type, LoRaWAN® devices generally have a slightly better battery life. Both technologies, offer battery lives of 10+ years which is far beyond their competitors.

If you are planning to put a single sensor down or lots of device all over the country and NB-IoT has a device for it, it would make a lot more sense to use NB-IoT.

If you were to try use LoRaWAN® for something like that you’d have to place gateways everywhere you have a sensor making your initial costs much higher. Plus, if it is somewhere without ethernet you’d have to get a sim for your gateway adding an additional recurring cost to your solution.

NB-IoT really does beat LoRaWAN® for individual placements, as long as it has coverage.

LoRaWAN®, however, is meant for those clusters of devices where it would make little sense to use NB-IoT. My advice; If you have to put 50 devices in an apartment block, save yourself the recurring SIM charges and get yourself a gateway.

LoRaWAN - NB-IoT Compaison. Source: ubidots
LoRaWAN – NB-IoT comparison. Source: ubidots

LoRaWAN® vs NB-IoT: The Verdict

NB-IoT and LoRaWAN both have advantages and disadvantages over each other, with LoRaWAN being better for clusters of devices. LoRaWAN® has an easily expandable network, with more services and devices available (for now).

NB-IoT, on the other hand offers a fantastic option for sporadic placements, with less hardware required and no need to maintain your own network.

To answer the question of, will one replace the other? No, I don’t think so. There are plenty of use cases where one is better than the other and these technologies will both grow and complement each other’s weaknesses.

We work with many clients to develop their solutions, contact us today to discuss your project and the best technology to deliver the data you require.

Narrowband IoT – What is it & How to Get Started?

Narrowband IoT coverage is now widely available throughout the UK, but what does it offer to your IoT solutions? Read on to find out what NB-IoT actually is and how we can help you to get started.

What is Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT)?

Narrowband IoT or NB-IoT as it is frequently referred to is a cellular LPWAN technology. Operating on low power wide area networks, it is designed to enable efficient communication across wide areas and busy urban infrastructure.

It works by periodically sending small packets of data from connected sensors via coverage from a mobile network.

Unlike 4G or 5G networks, NB-IoT enables devices to send data where standard mobile network coverage is inaccessible. There are no interferences with other devices, helping to secure reliable data transfers.

NB-IoT devices operate on a simple radio waveform, helping to optimise battery efficiency. Many narrowband IoT devices feature a long battery life of up to 10 years. This significantly reduces the need to replace batteries. Consequently lowering maintenance and operational costs.

Where can NB-IoT be useful?

In short, NB-IoT can be useful wherever devices need to be connected. It can be used in a wide variety of areas ranging from smart cities to smart farming, smart metering or asset tracking – and anything in between! Its suitability for use in inaccessible areas also makes it a good fit for underground modules.

Getting Started with Narrowband IoT

There are a number of components needed to get your NB-IoT solutions off the ground. These include:

  • Connectivity/Access to an NB-IoT network
  • Sensors
  • An IoT Middleware Platform to translate your data
  • A dashboard/Analytics platform to visualise your recorded data

Lucky for you, Alliot can help supply each of these elements, simplifying the delivery of your solutions.

Connectivity

Vodafone are currently the only NB-IoT network provider in the UK. With coverage for around 98% of the UK, they support more than 100 million IoT connections around the world.

As an official Vodafone IoT Business Partner, we offer a range of low-cost data packages. Looking for a full solution? We’ll even offer discounts for bundled packages.

Sensors

When it comes to NB-IoT sensors, there are new developments coming all the time.

Whether you’re looking to track valuable assets, monitor fill levels in tanks or bins, or analyse footfall in retail environments. There’s a sensor to deliver the data you require.

Two particularly popular sensors at the moment are; the Efento temperature and humidity sensor and the IMBuildings NB-IoT people counter.

Efento Temperature & Humidity Sensor

Well suited to areas where you want to monitor atmospheric conditions. The Efento temperature and humidity sensor can be useful to monitor conditions in:

  • Museums to protect delicate, perishable artefacts
  • Office environments to optimise conditions
  • Maintaining optimal conditions in food storage and transit
  • Reducing medicinal waste in healthcare environments

 

IMBuildings People Counter

Utilising horizontal infrared, this smart NB-IoT device counts people crossing a horizontal line.

 

 

Ideal for:

  • Restricting access to busy areas
  • Optimising visitor experiences at attractions
  • Gathering information around the number of people who enter and leave a building

This people counting sensor can be useful to predict information such as: average visitor time, wait times and queue times.

 

Middleware Platform

Cellular IoT operates under a wide variety of formats and protocols. With no standard for how data is sent at application level, adding new devices to your solutions can be difficult. Without a Middleware platform, you will need to add a whole new range of protocols every time you add a new manufacturer to your solution.

Our purpose-built IoT middleware platform, Symbius is designed to simplify your IoT deployments. It sits between your NB-IoT sensors and dashboard or data analysis platform. Symbius will take the data from your sensors and decode it into a common format for you. Making it easy for data to be understood and shared across your applications and business processes.

 

Dashboard

Now you have the items required to collect your data, your final piece to the NB-IoT puzzle is your dashboard. This is where your solution will come to life.

Our team has worked with numerous clients to deliver platforms alongside Daizy.io which present data in a way that is most useful to you. We offer a range of options from ready to use systems, to custom built branded dashboards. Speak to us today to discuss your requirements.

The NB-IoT Buffet

We’re proud to offer a one-stop shop for all your cellular IoT needs and offer discounted pricing for bundled solutions. We have a flexible offering allowing you totake the components you require; take as much or as little as you need.

Looking to find out more about using NB-IoT for your next project? Contact our friendly, expert team for free impartial advice on your next solution.

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