Why IoT projects need certified hardware

15.06.2020 by Ümit Günes
Automatic close-range sensor scanning the motor housing in an assembly line

When companies don’t use certified hardware for their IoT solutions, it can have serious consequences. Learn why certification is important and which benefits it provides.

Starting in January 2020, there has been a smart meter requirement in Germany: Private households with an annual electricity consumption of more than 6,000 kilowatt hours must install an intelligent electricity metering system. In a large city, that can quickly mean several hundred thousand of these devices all connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). Such smart meters can transmit their readings via the NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) wireless standard, which enables reliable reception even in basements and cellars. The devices themselves also have to be dependable: Faulty firmware could theoretically cause all the smart meters in the system to send data at the same time – potentially overloading the NB-IoT network.

Signaling Storms and Overloaded Wireless Networks

Occasionally, mobile networks are exposed to so-called signaling storms, which are started by malware or badly programmed applications. They can overload the capacity of the wireless cell, backend, core network or cloud server – while simultaneously exhausting the battery power of mobile devices. And it’s not just smartphones: With an increasing number of IoT devices used for IIoT, smart city or smart home applications – there are currently more than 30 billion active worldwide – the number of potential vulnerabilities is steadily rising. Moreover, the operating system of a smartphone determines which interfaces an app may use. But for IoT devices, there is currently no operating system as widespread as Android or iOS to protect an object before activation.

According to network equipment provider Ericsson, as many as 500 incorrectly configured devices can generate a signaling storm strong enough to paralyze a local network. This also affects other users of the network. And if a company has non-certified hardware deployed, the network operator is almost helpless: They have no access to the devices and cannot assess the hardware or software errors – meaning they cannot fix them. Moreover, malfunctioning components in the field aren’t easily reached, leaving customers to fend for themselves.

Why IoT Hardware Certification Is Important

Companies have to be able to expect the digital hardware they select for an IoT project will operate in a network-compliant manner. But network operators can make sure their trust isn’t misplaced: At Deutsche Telekom, for example, customers can choose from a constantly growing catalog of pre-certified hardware. Deutsche Telekom’s experts examine the entire value chain of sensors, actuators, gateways and routers, as well as components like chipsets and modules. Every stage in the IoT hardware lifecycle – from product development, introduction and operation to maintenance and service – is closely monitored.

The technicians don’t just check whether an IoT device and its technology supports all features of a Telekom mobile network. For example, it also has to be compatible with energy-saving functions or special data transmission features. Above all, a strict “no harm to network” policy applies: the networked hardware must not pose any danger to the network itself. This is important, if only because IoT devices – unlike laptops and smartphones – have to function independently. They switch themselves on and send data without a user having direct control. So any device hast to be able to work safely as soon as it leaves the factory.

What certified IoT hardware components does Telekom offer?

  • Gateways: Connect a variety of networked devices to Telekom cloud platforms and ensure the correct translation of different supported protocols.
  • Routers: Collect data from connected sensors or networked devices and forward it securely to Telekom cloud platforms.
  • Trackers: Locate your devices, vehicles and goods worldwide via networking using positioning technologies such as GPS, GLONASS or Cell ID.
  • Developer kits: Developer boards integrated in the Cloud of Things for rapid prototyping purposes.
    Wireless modules: With certified modules from our market-leading industrial partners, your vehicles or machines are always linked to the Internet of Things via 2G, 3G, 4G (and soon also 5G), NB-IoT oder LTE-M.
  • Chipsets: Enable shorter times to market, increased flexibility in product development and lower costs for product validation.

The IoT department also tests routers, gateways, trackers and other modules on Deutsche Telekom’s IoT platforms, such as the Cloud of Things. All devices must be able to communicate automatically and securely with various interfaces. IoT standards and protocols like Lightweight M2M (LwM2M) are also taken into account. The experts pay attention to performance parameters including power consumption, data throughput and latency. Components for field use such as trackers, sensors and actuators are tested for their resistance to moisture, dust, shocks and vibrations. A device has to successfully pass all these tests in order to ensure service level agreements (SLAs) are upheld.

Radio Policy Manager

When manufacturers want to have a module or chipset certified by Telekom, it’s necessary to first implement and activate a radio policy manager (RPM). This feature is part of guidelines from GSMA, the global association of mobile network operators, and aims to monitor the behavior of IoT devices on a wireless network. It helps to protect the network from signal congestion caused by improperly programmed IoT applications and poorly configured hardware. RPM is currently the only industry solution used worldwide to control the communication of IoT devices. Deutsche Telekom is therefore working closely with wireless chipset providers to integrate this functionality into their protocols for NB-IoT and LTE-M devices.

The Benefits of Certified Hardware

Certified hardware provides companies indispensable advantages for IoT projects:
 

  • Every device in Telekom’s portfolio receives technical and regulatory certification.
  • Sensors, gateways and tracking modules: All hardware works seamlessly with the network, cloud and platforms and also has more than sufficient computing power and storage capacity.
  • Firmware or feature updates can be easily applied to all connected devices.
  • Companies don’t need to develop their own firmware or applications: All devices offer plug-and-play functionality, meaning there are no problems with installation and activation.
  • This saves time and helps speed market launches.
  • Companies with international operations, such as transport companies, can rely on their IoT trackers to transmit reliably across borders thanks to roaming options.
  • Customers can obtain everything for their IoT project from a single source at Telekom’s one-stop shop: connectivity solutions, hardware, platform access and cloud services.
  • Network operators have a comprehensive view of each IoT project and can react immediately to irregularities or take proactive action.


There is an ever-growing list of IoT hardware available. Deutsche Telekom now has the world’s largest catalog of NB-IoT certified devices. Customers should be able to choose the safest and most reliable hardware, especially for important IoT applications such as track and trace, logistics, retail and building automation. Telekom is also always on the lookout for new partners who want to have their products certified for use within the Telekom network.


 

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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.