IoT Roaming Links Fruit Crates and Water Meters Globally

17.01.2022 by Ümit Günes
Orange in front of a Hidroconta water flow meter

It takes effective IoT roaming to get global IoT projects really up and running, and that requires reliable networks and international partnerships.

Winter is the time for oranges, harvested in southern Europe mainly from November to March. In 2020, according to the Federal Statistical Office, Germany imported half a million tons of the popular, vitamin-rich citrus fruit, three quarters of the total from Spain. Oranges are not only healthy; they are also easily perishable – produce that requires end-to-end checks from the tree to the supermarket shelf.

In practice this means, for example, that before a truck with a cargo of oranges sets out from the growing area around Valencia to the German distribution center in Frankfurt, the exporter equips the reefer container with an IoT tracker to monitor the merchandise. The tracker, with its sensors and wireless module, measures the temperature of the freight continuously and relays this data and the vehicle’s position continuously to the Cloud at regular intervals via the cellular network. Sender and recipient are always up to date and can make timely new arrangements if the cold chain is interrupted or the truck is stuck in a tailback.

IoT-Roaming for End-To-End Merchandise Monitoring

The wireless module relies on roaming to ensure reliable continuous overland connectivity across international borders. The technology ensures that the SIM card in the IoT tracker logs into the French network after crossing the border near Le Perthus and then, after crossing the Rhine, logs into the German network automatically. That is the only way in which the position and condition of goods in transit can be monitored continuously.


 

„Most IoT projects now have international requirements.“

– Fredrik Stalbrand, Analyst at Berg Insight, quoted in „Handelsblatt



More and more international cellular operators are concluding reciprocal roaming agreements that enable their customers to enjoy an end-to-end surfing experience across Europe or to maintain an uninterrupted IoT connection.

Worldwide Roaming at Telekom

Deutsche Telekom offers enterprises global connectivity for their IoT projects – with a single partner, one contract and one platform. The Bonn-based provider operates mobile communications networks not only in Germany and eleven other European countries but also in the United States (including the largest 5G network) and is the only operator with networks of its own on both sides of the Atlantic. Over 600 selected roaming partners enable Telekom customers to benefit from international coverage with worldwide access to data connections, including around 200 based on LTE technology.

Mobile roaming for IoT applications is based mainly on two scenarios:

  • IoT devices such as tracking modules being attached to containers, pallets or packages in trucks or trains cross borders and
  • Manufacturers equipping devices with SIM cards and marketing them internationally.

That leaves the choice of the right wireless technology, which usually breaks down into one question: How much data is to be transmitted how frequently?

LTE-M for a Transparent Supply Chain

Take, for example, tracking goods in transit. Goods can be tracked throughout Europe by GPS. Modules can contain different kinds of sensor. A shock sensor registers, say, a pallet falling off a forklift truck. A temperature sensor measures whether merchandise in transit leaves its optimal temperature range because the cooling system has broken down. Even if this collected information is only relayed to the logistics operator one a day a certain amount of data mounts up. LTE-M is best suited for the transmission of tracking data. A relatively new cellular standard, it provides sufficient bandwidth for medium-sized amounts of data, inexpensive hardware for mass use, and enough battery life for long transportation routes. Thanks to roaming, LTE-M can already be used across borders and thereby ensures full mobility, which is especially important for logistics enterprises.

NB-IoT for Smallest Data Packets

Take, for example, water consumption measurement by meter, for which NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) is the technology of choice. NB-IoT, another recent standard, is precisely reduced in its functionality to transmitting small amounts of data at relatively long intervals. That is why NB-IoT modules, relatively simple in composition, are so energy saving that they can run for years on a standard battery. That in turn means the wireless module does not need an external power supply. And thanks to roaming the modules can be used internationally.

Hidroconta: Using Intelligent Networking to Save Resources

The Spanish company Hidroconta, for example, a specialist in metering water consumption, sells its networked devices in Europe, North Africa, Central and South America. A built-in NB-IoT communication module with an embedded Telekom SIM makes the company’s flow meters smart water meters. The module sends the meter readings to the Cloud, where they are processed to show up transparently for the user on a Web platform or an app. Hidroconta customers can analyze the data and manage water – a valuable resource – more efficiently. That, for instance, is important for the orange plantations in Murcia province, Spain’s largest organic growing region. Agricultural enterprises can set individual watering times and regulate irrigation remotely, saving time and labor. And thanks to Telekom’s worldwide IoT roaming network Hidroconta can deploy its devices irrespective of location.

The Right Tariffs for IoT Roaming

In Deutsche Telekom’s IoT tariffs customers have a home zone consisting of 28 countries with a focus on the EU region and can book additional groups of countries. Using the Best Coverage option IoT devices also log worldwide and at any location into the network with the best availability that is operated by a roaming partner. Even in countries where permanent data roaming is not feasible local connectivity solutions and eSIM cards that load adapted profiles automatically make IoT roaming possible. For time-critical global IoT solutions such as autonomous driving so-called regional packet gateways facilitate lowest latencies around the world.


 

Pininfarina: IoT in the Overtaking Lane

IoT roaming is of course available in 4G and 5G networks for Telekom customers such as for the Battista. Made in Italy, the Munich automaker Automobili Pininfarina’s luxury sports car is the new reference model for EV hypercars. 1,900 hp, from 0 to 100 km/h in less than two seconds and a top speed of 350 km/h are impressive performance indicators. The car’s connectivity is no less impressive. It is fully networked. The Battista is connected to the Internet in over 50 countries worldwide by a roaming-enabled, embedded Telekom eSIM. Automobili Pininfarina manages the connections for vehicles around the world via a central Telekom IoT portal. Via the Battista’s Internet access the manufacturer can retrieve and evaluate extensive vehicle and telemetry data in real time, diagnose defects remotely and download software updates to the car over the air. Reliable connectivity facilitates infotainment offerings such as route planning in real time, including details of free charging points.


 

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Ümit Günes
Ümit Günes

Marketing Manager IoT

Ümit has been working at T-Systems since 2015 and knows a great deal about many facets of the Internet of Things. He is particularly interested in topics related to the digitalization of the business world. For the blog, he reports on new developments and trends in the IoT world that offer real added value for customers.