Special | Report
Manufacturing Use Cases in IoT Era heading
Component Makers Tap LPWA for Network-Enabled Devices
The popularity of LPWA as wireless transmission technology is increasing because of its long-range transfer capability, minimal power use, and low cost.
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evelopment and commercialization of low power wide area (LPWA) communications modules have been accelerating. The adoption of LPWA communications modules has been advancing in internet of things (IoT) and other devices that require low power consumption, and long communications distance. At CEATEC 2019, which was held in Oct. 2019 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, component manufacturers, including Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. and Kyocera Corporation actively introduced new products and products under development as LPWA solutions that accelerate their IoT businesses.

Long-Range Communications at Low Cost
LPWA networks feature communications speed of several kilobits per second to several hundred kilobits per second. Although the data transfer rate is lower than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (BLE) wireless communications, they consume low power and operate on general batteries that can last for several years to several decades. They also feature long-range communication that extends to several kilometers to several tens of kilometers, and allow low cost operation with inexpensive communication fees. For this reason, LPWA networks have been introduced in a wide range of fields, including in the automatic meter reading of gas and water; management and status monitoring of facilities and equipment; monitoring services; environment monitoring; position management of delivery articles and equipment; and smart agriculture, as wireless communication effective for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M).

Murata’s LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular LPWA
Photo 1: Murata’s LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular LPWA communication modules

Targeting these various applications, manufacturers adopt LTE-M (Cat•M1) and NB-IoT standards for cellular public networks, which easily connect to the cloud using cellular networks operated by mobile carriers, or LoRaWAN and Sigfox standards for non-cellular private networks, with which network services are provided by using infrastructure constructed by installing original base stations, to meet market needs.

Anticipates Use Expansion
Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. places importance to area cover ratio and long-distance, high-speed communication through high transmission power, and has been advancing the development and commercialization of small products, focusing on LTE-M and NB-IoT standards.

At CEATEC 2019, Murata put strength into the introduction of small LTE-M and NB-IoT modules, anticipating that cellular LPWA services will spread on full scale and be used widely in various fields. The company started mass production of 1WG LTE-M/NB-IoT module for the Japanese market as it emphasizes on throughput, in Q3 of 2019. It is set to commence mass production of 1SS for the global markets in Q4 of 2019. The 1WG LTE-M/NB-IoT module has achieved transmission power of 23dBm, data rate of 375kbps, and communication distance of 10km or longer. It is tailored for wearable devices, such as smartwatches and medical monitoring.

Meanwhile, the 1SS NB-IoT module, which has been mass produced since Q3 of 2019 for water and gas meters, adopts Cortex-M4 microcontroller unit (MCU) and MediaTek’s MT2625 chipset. It features transmission power of 23dBm, data rate of up to 63kbps, high speed, and long-distance communication of 10km or longer. With LoRa standard products, Murata also showcased ABZ LoRa/Sigfox module being mass produced for shipments. It features transmission power of 20dBm (United States), 14dBm (Europe/Asia), data rate of up to 10kbps, and communication distance of 10km or longer. The company proposed edge node application for IoT and M2M devices, and other applications.

Kyocera exhibited NB-IoT cellular LPWA core device
Photo 2: Kyocera exhibited NB-IoT cellular LPWA core device at CEATEC 2019 as a reference product.

Built up Infrastructure
Kyocera showcased an LTE-M (Cat•M1) cellular LPWA module equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and Cortex-A7 MCU, and has achieved data rate of up to 375kbps, as a reference product. As an NB-IoT module, the company premiered an NB-IoT core device, which is among the smallest-class devices with short side length of 10.5mm or shorter and enhanced affinity with AAA dry batteries. The company proposed various applications, ranging from embedding in devices, speed measurement and theft prevention of bicycles through linkage with the company’s antenna, data collection of healthcare products, detection of vibrations and bites of fishing rods, to position measurement.

Kyocera has constructed Sigfox infrastructure across the nation as a sole Sigfox operator in Japan. Sigfox network services cover 65 countries worldwide. KYOCERA Communication Systems Co., Ltd. has been working to expand its usable area. At CEATEC, the company introduced its domestic coverage surpassing 95 percent of the population, individual coverage through the use of rental base stations, and satellite connectivity, for which test service started in 2019, and commercial service is planned to start in the second half of 2020. The company has been going all out to spread Sigfox in Japan.