Industry Insights

Where does IoT and 5G come together

2018-12-06  |  6 min read 

The Internet of Things has less to do with 5G than most people think, at least initially.
The vast proliferation of devices by 2020; in some estimates 50 Billion devices, will not wait on the rollout of 5G for that to be realised.
The majority of those connected devices will be what the wider public understand (or think they understand already) in Bluetooth and Wireless LAN.
The humble (and not so humble) versions of wireless LAN will continue to dominate the landscape for close proximity wireless connections through the foreseeable future.
The opportunity comes in how these close proximity technologies are connected themselves to the Wide Area Network.
In an agricultural trial for instance it is not possible, or at least not economically feasible, to link sensors spread over a large area of land  via the same types of technology used in a home or office.
This is where LTE starts to bear fruit with the advent of categories of devices specifically intended to use much lower bandwidth, and therefore require much less power, over a wide area network.
Cat-M and Cat-NB1 are the classes of devices that link the macro LTE cell into the world of LPWAN (low Power Wide Areas Network)
Cat-NB1 in particular will be the link to 5G with its designated bandwidth and intermittent requirements to transmit or receive data.
Using this technology first with 4G will be the supposedly seamless link to 5G as it too is rolled out.
Of course there are other proprietary LPWAN technologies already available eg SigFOX and LoRa and these too will have a role to play in the proliferation of an ‘everything connected’ world.
The advantage of a 3GPP regulated environment (with Cat-NB1) comes in the transformation to 5G.
5G with its guaranteed levels of service; network slicing and network feature virtualisation not only provides the high bandwidth super-highway. It also allows for the existence of the millions of devices that will require extremely intermittent access to the network, use very limited power and consume miniscule amounts of bandwidth while doing so.
However, it is necessary for there to be some form of security of access as well; that when the 15kHz of bandwidth is needed it is readily available; that the devices connected are securely connected to the world and data and information are not unintentionally available to anyone other than those it is meant for.
So, the question is if you are a designer of a device that uses small amounts of power, and bandwidth, is only transmitting data for small amounts of time into the network but data that is vital to the performance of an operation how do you gain confidence in its ability to perform as expected?
If you are the service provider – how do you assure yourself that the device is safe to use, will not affect the network operation by using too much bandwidth. Or is secure to use on the network – that it does not become a back-door route into the network for malicious intent?
The standards set by 3GPP for Cat-NB1 provides answers to most of these questions, with a great deal of thought and consideration given to the needs for a functional, usable, reliable and secure operation – providing the performance needed.
Testing the operation of such devices, or even replicating the environment in which they work is a vital part of that service assurance.
Having a conformance test system which has coverage for the various tests needed is a vital part of this testing.
Having the ability to replicate the RF conditions in which the device is expected to work – with fading and massiveMIMO (mMIMO) antennae  - is just one of many aspects of the testing too.
As for security and authentication having the ability to test and stretch the protocols used is a vital part of the machinery too.
Now if one vendor can provide all these tools – and with the application software to share the information garnered across these same tools – then that would be true value add.
With Keysight and PATHWAVE software the various tools; drive test; conformance test; network emulation security and authentication may all be tested, providing greater assurance of the operation before they are ever put into service
As the milestone of 2020 approaches with the much vaunted  28 billion connected devices – the question arises of how this can be managed in such a way as to ensure the security, the integrity and the promise of a 5G network can be truly realised.
Keysight provides the answers, through solutions linking the various test requirements together, that allow engineers to make critical design decisions.