Why NB-IoT + LwM2M = Massive IoT

3 Minute Read

The advantages of NB-IoT are seeing the cellular technology emerge as the premier LPWAN technology for connecting smart utility meters and more to the cloud. But it’s not a comprehensive solution for Massive IoT without LwM2M. 

NB-IoT is emerging as one of the finest ways to wirelessly move small but critical pieces of data across long distances from sensors to the Cloud where it can be analyzed and acted upon. This is making cellular IoT a leading technology choice for low power wide area networks (LPWANs) across the globe.

NB-IoT's traction comes in large part from its inherent advantages over proprietary competition, mainly underpinned by its foundation on established, proven, and reliable cellular wireless technology infrastructure. Among those advantages are future proofing, Internet Protocol (IP) interoperability, quality of service, and scalability. 

But more than that, NB-IoT has some key technical advantages that make it particularly well suited to booming massive IoT sectors such as smart utility meters. The technology was primarily designed for energy efficiency with relatively modest but perfectly satisfactory throughput for things like metering applications.

As a narrowband technology, its range is good without the need for power-hungry amplification, and narrowband transmission aids superior penetration in challenging radio environments like parking garages, basements and the sometimes-narrow physical spaces between buildings. And NB-IoT happily coexists with its cellular IoT alternative, LTE-M. 

These technical benefits are driving deployment. There are NB-IoT networks on every continent except Antarctica, and new deployments are planned every day. These networks support a growing number of connections. Telcom giant, Ericsson, reports that there were 500 million cellular IoT (NB-IoT/LTE-M) connections at the end of 2022. The company forecasts that will grow to two billion by 2028.


NB-IoT is not enough to enable massive IoT on its own

Massive IoT is a vision of the future that includes trillions of IoT connected devices underpinning applications that will make the world a safer, better, more resource-efficient, and intelligent place. Such a network will connect a huge volume and density of devices over vast geographical areas. Think: utility meters, smart streetlights, and cargo asset trackers as prime early examples.

To reach its full potential, massive IoT must be based on a networking technology that supports scalability and versatility. Moreover, massive IoT demands bidirectional end-to-end communication with the cloud without the need of a gateway. The solution sounds a lot like NB-IoT. And in part, it is. But there’s something missing.

The biggest challenge for the rapid deployment of massive IoT is not a reliable LPWAN technology—we have that in the shape of cellular IoT—rather it’s easy-to-deploy and easy-to-use IoT device management. We need this to configure, monitor, maintain, secure, and decommission large numbers of IoT devices. While there are some mechanisms within NB-IoT for aiding this process, they demand IoT engineering expertise and even then, are clunky and tedious to use. This is hardly ideal for rapid and massive IoT device deployment and maintenance.


LwM2M: NB-IoT’s missing piece

Lightweight M2M (LwM2M) was designed from the outset to solve this problem. And better yet, being based on proven IP technologies, the IoT device management protocol works seamlessly with NB-IoT. Moreover, LwM2M is designed to minimize the code memory footprint, lower power consumption, and decrease data usage when used for IoT device management. That makes it perfectly matched with the energy-efficient applications for which NB-IoT is designed.

LwM2M is made to be married to resource-constrained IoT end devices. But the protocol is equally capable of supporting more sophisticated IoT devices too. The lightweight stack sits right beside the NB-IoT one ready to service the end-device’s modem.

LwM2M can be thought of as a highly optimized, minimal overhead “service channel” that complements NB-IoT’s communication channel. And is only called upon when device management is necessary. But when it is required, LwM2M provides a comprehensive set of capabilities to address all the maintenance requirements of NB-IoT end devices. 
IoTerop’s world-leading LwM2M products, the IOWA SDK and ALASKA device management platform, make it easy for engineers to build and introduce NB-IoT solutions equipped with LwM2M. And like NB-IoT and LwM2M, IoTerop as a company aims to form the perfect long-term partnership for customers looking to deploy, configure, and manage their massive IoT networks.

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