Article by Doug Smith published in The CCA Voice.
Some of the most exciting advancements promised by 5G wireless technology are emerging from the Internet of Things (IoT), with innovations under way that will not only revolutionize the way industries do business but will also change the way people connect with the world around them.
Across a range of diverse industries, IoT applications have the potential to create efficiencies and improve safety in our lives and transform American competitiveness in the global economy. However, to enable the next-generation of IoT applications, wireless networks need to evolve as different characteristics are required depending on the ‘things’ being connected. For example, the network needs for home appliances controlled by smartphone applications are very different than what’s required to link entire smart cities integrated through connected systems. The network considerations that will enable us to track our personal health and wellness programs are very different than those required to provide advanced connectivity for our rail system.
For industries with vital societal impacts, such as national security, public safety, transportation and infrastructure, IoT advancements in these areas are what we call “mission-critical systems,” where communication and connectivity have the greatest potential to improve human lives in meaningful ways. Deploying networks to serve these areas represents an opportunity to improve safety and operations by enhancing the availability, reliability and security of wireless connections.
One way to think about mission-critical IoT applications is to imagine what they support: things that move – including trains, planes and automobiles. These applications provide inherently important functions that require continuity in the communications system that is pervasive, ultra-reliable and highly-secure.
A next-generation hybrid network – connecting people and devices seamlessly by enabling transitions back and forth between mobile satellite and terrestrial systems – can help accelerate the delivery and reliability of these connections.
For example, a hybrid satellite-terrestrial network can significantly improve train operators’ ability to safely and efficiently move passengers and freight by providing incremental satellite coverage and capabilities to the technologies in use today. In addition to enhancing remote monitoring that would enable operators to better “see” hazards, a hybrid network would allow mission-critical data to flow securely and reliably to operators. Ultimately, a next-generation network that integrates connectivity, computing, application development, and data analytics can provide a level of safe and efficient transcontinental rail passage in a way current systems cannot.
Improving train safety is one of many applications that can benefit from a hybrid network that can provide pervasive connectivity with continuous coverage across North America. Since many mission-critical devices are mobile – and move across different landscapes and areas with different population densities – next-generation IoT networks must serve places with limited connectivity all the time.
Additionally, this type of advanced network would be what we call ultra-reliable, meaning it allows constant network communication vital to mission-critical IoT. For example, while consumer applications such as home temperature controls can tolerate buffering and data transmission filtering, law enforcement officials and first responders cannot experience delays in safety and national security applications without critical losses.
Security is also essential, and that is especially true for mission-critical applications where the consequences of system failure could be devastating. A next-generation hybrid network designed to ensure the connections are highly-secure by utilizing hardened technology in the devices and by reducing the risks of breaches by limiting access points to the satellite.
And finally, the peer-to-peer connections enabled by a hybrid network are essential for automated information exchange, enhanced connectivity and mesh network reliability, ensuring constant communications. These applications are vital in public safety and emergency response situations, especially in response to natural disasters where cellular towers may not be operating.
Central to fulfilling this market opportunity is opening up more spectrum to enable the deployment of new types of networks. In particular, opening up licensed, greenfield mid-band spectrum is critical to accelerate the delivery of next-generation IoT services in the mission-critical space.
Next-generation IoT will transform the U.S. economy and society and has the potential to make our communities safer. By working together, we can assure that this next generation of networks becomes a reality and advances U.S. leadership in 5G.