Live test: NB-IoT proves indoor effectiveness

18.01.2019 by Daniel Kunz
Smart meter, a power, gas and water meter, connected to the Internet

The wireless standard NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) makes smart metering more efficient. And now a large measurement test has shown that the transmission technology for building is more effective than all previous solutions.

A smart meter – that’s what a power, gas and water meter is called when it’s connected to the Internet and can be read remotely. They’re extremely convenient for consumers, who no longer have to wait around all day for the meter reader to show up. Moreover, they can check their current consumption whenever they like by simply looking at their smartphone. We recently explored the advantages of smart metering for energy conversation in a blog post. The new wireless technology NarrowBand IoT – or NB-IoT for short – has the potential to make remote meter reading much more efficient. And now there are test results showing NB-IoT building penetration in real-life conditions.

Low Cost, Low Energy Usage

Until now, intelligent meters have sent small amounts of data at predetermined intervals – usually every couple of minutes – to a so-called gateway, which, in turn, relays it onward to a server. The meters communicate directly with the cloud via NB-IoT. The whole system is less complex, more affordable and provides greater opportunities to deploy wireless modules than previous solutions. NB-IoT is also very energy efficient. A module can operate for years with a single battery charge – a huge advantage for anyone lacking an electrical outlet near their power, gas or water meter in the basement.

And the amazing building penetration is just one of the many advantages NB-IoT has over traditional wireless (GSM or LTE). The specific characteristics of the technology (see box) enable data transmission even through thick walls. So it’s the best option for reading heating meters deep inside a cellar via the Internet, just to name one example.

Working together with the property service provider ista International, Deutsche Telekom carried out a comprehensive measurement test of its NB-IoT network. ista is one of the world’s leading firms focused on improving building energy efficiency – especially the collection, billing and visualization of consumer data for apartment buildings and commercial property. For the test, ista allowed access to more than 500 measurement points in approximately 60 apartments in Germany’s Cologne/Bonn region.

Reliable Data Transmission - Even in Challenging Environments

The independent measuring firm P3 Communications carried out the testing, for which several devices were deployed: NB-IoT modules placed on different floors of a building sent measurement data from the meter to an outdoor receiver, while a scanner monitored the signal strength of the transmission. The results were convincing: The NB-IoT modules on the ground floor and upper floors were able to connect to the network in 100 percent of all attempts. The modules in the cellar – where consumer meters are often located – achieved a 95-percent connection rate. Once connected, data transmission was successful nearly every time (99.75 percent).

No other wireless technology can provide a similar level of reliability, especially not for underground connections. NarrowBand IoT could therefore soon become the most widely used standard for many building applications – including smart metering, smart homes and property automation.

The results of the test can be found here.

Daniel Kunz
Daniel Kunz

Expert Digital Marketing

Digitization and the Internet of Things are among the favourite topics of Daniel Kunz. He has been with Deutsche Telekom since 2017 and regularly writes about technology trends and many exciting topics, especially for the retail trade and the logistics industry.