Mister Beacon Episode #80
LTE BeaconsAugust 30, 2018
Receive new Mr. Beacon episodes right in your inbox
The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery free Bluetooth.
Steve Statler 0:17
Jakub, thanks very much for coming back on the Mr. Beacon podcast, I think this is our third conversation recorded. And we've had a few more that haven't been recorded, which had been pretty cool as well. But this is a special occasion, because this week, you guys have a new product out. And as a solution designer, I am really excited by it, because it just it's like the Swiss Army knife of, of beacon technology. So why don't you tell us a bit about at a high level? What is it that you guys are launching this week?
Jakub Krzych 0:54
Steve Statler 4:08
Yeah, I was just thinking about all of the first that this represents for our ecosystem. And there's, there's quite a few you touched on a few of them. And we should, we should look into this. You've got GPS on the weekend, you've got a essentially a 5g radio. So this can act as a gateway, you've got this level of programmability. And so this is more than just a very simple piece of hardware. I'm sure people are wondering about how much this is going to cost. So tell us how much this costs. And then let's talk about some of the use cases that you've been thinking about and where you think it's going to be applied. So first of all, how much does it cost?
Jakub Krzych 4:57
Yeah, so we will be distributed that that product as development kits, those the same way we used to distribute beacons, so anyone can order few dev kits and start playing, you know, immediately. So one dev kit will have two devices. And it's going to be priced at $129. For two devices. And you know, because this is a cloud device, so it can talk directly to the, to the, to the network. And, you know, we're using number of partners globally. So, you know, in the United States, we're using partners that have already rolled out their 5g Ready narrowband and LTM infrastructure, and in Europe, and Australia, Japan, and so on. So there will be also an addition subscription plan, which will be for that deaf get $2 per month, per device. And within and within that fee, there is there's the data plan, there's their cloud services, you know, everything that people would need to just start quickly prototype. And of course, this is the pricing for the development kits. And you know, depending on on the volume and the use case, we are always more than happy to talk to customers about the projects.
Steve Statler 6:14
Yeah. So this is a one stop shop in terms of the service element, you guys have increasingly you're building out your operating system for the physical world, your your cloud services, but you're also bundling in the connectivity. And I'm assuming that you have to work with you work with different carriers in different parts of the world. How does that work? If I'm, if I'm an organization in Europe, if I'm in Germany, say, and I'm in the US? How does that?
Jakub Krzych 6:46
Steve Statler 11:32
So I think what you were saying is that button is programmable. And so there's a lot of flexibility in terms of what that can be used for. And if I am doing that certain amount of back end and on device programming, then all of that is included in this, the service fee, I don't have to worry about setting up an AWS account or anything like that.
Jakub Krzych 11:55
Absolutely, concepts and simple applications.
Steve Statler 11:59
What about battery life, you've got a lot of variables there, it seems like it's almost impossible to give us a battery life. Because if I write an app that's kind of spinning away, that's gonna use up a lot of battery, if I'm constantly hammering away at the GPS that would use up a lot of battery. What? What's your sense? What are you seeing? What's the kind of range that you expect? Well, what are the key key variables? And what happens when you run out of battery?
Jakub Krzych 12:28
Um, yeah, so So the way we would like, the community to sort of conceptualize the battery usage of this device is that we should think about, like a certain number of like, pings, and the ping can be either like a scan, like a radio scan, or like sending some data, right? And that device, for example, could support like 2000 pings, right? So now, it's, it's the developer to decide, do you want to send coordinates of your vehicle, just once a day, because if you do it once a day, then you're going to use 360 pings a year? And that device can last multiple years? Yes. But maybe you want to send those pings every 15 minutes. And of course, then the device will run out of juice. But the good news is there is a USB C slot, so we can charge the device again. So this is this is the difference between the ordinary beacons that you couldn't charge. So so we don't know yet. What will be the applications for this device, we envision some like, you know, asset tracking proof of delivery. You know, we see people using these as beacon gateways, maybe as beacons themselves, but but, you know, we will be supporting our developers with the estimations of how their application will consume the battery, because we have built a very simple battery usage profiler, part of our cloud. So when you are writing your code, you will be able very quickly to sort of estimate and predict if the power consumption is high, or it's low, and, and also, to kind of explain it a little bit more, you know, programming this device to act as a beacon. Well, yeah, that's, that's simple. And it's inexpensive, because the broadcasting the signals, as you guys know, from Wilier, you know, that's the least expensive part of the energy, right? Scanning, you know, scanning for the Bluetooth signal that's a little bit more expensive. Then we have the GPS, you know, processing the GPS satellite data. It's a little bit more expensive than Bluetooth scanning. And finally, we have the LTE connectivity, which is, you know, the most expensive activity of the device, but it's still a fraction of the energy that you need for the classic 3G or LTE, right, because we're talking about completely new protocol, completely new technology that has been rollout in United States, you know, Western Europe and you know, most of our regions that is going to support all of those IoT applications.
Steve Statler 15:16
Can you explain a bit more about those low power wide area network protocols? Because this is this is really interesting. What What Why did you choose the ones that you did? And what do we need to be aware of in terms of the, the benefits and the constraints of those protocols that you've chosen?
Jakub Krzych 15:37
Yes. So you know, five years ago, when we have launched Bluetooth beacons, it wasn't standard Bluetooth, it was Bluetooth low energy, it was a slightly modified version of the Bluetooth that enabled the communication. But also, it was architected to last much longer on, you know, small battery, the way they did that was handling the intervals and the cycle, when the device is talking, you know, the phone to the to the beacon, so it doesn't talk all the time, it doesn't transmit the data all the time, there are specific cycles, this can be done. And for some of the applications like like, you know, indoor positioning or proximity, this was just enough to have very responsive system, at the same time, very scalable system, because if you don't have to power something, well, you can manufacture 10s of 1000s of these, just, you know, distribute them to your locations and just deploy quickly at scale without, you know, installing wires and calibration and so on. So, this Bluetooth low energy to the classical Bluetooth, this is a very similar analogy to the LTE M, and narrowband IoT, these are two different standards to the classical, LTE or 3g. So we're talking about completely new protocols that have been, you know, couple years ago, ratified by a special group that the same way Bluetooth has the mobile and cellular world has, and that in these protocols, they just define how the base station that is not in your neighborhood, can listen and talk to those small devices, and what should be the cycles, which should be the data packets. And again, we're talking about small packets, containing you know, not that much information. And also the packets that that, you know, the the base station and the device, they agree before what would be the cycle of when they communicate. So so it's um, you know, these the two versions of that new technology, the LTE M and narrowband IoT, there are slight differences in the physics and the frequencies of these technologies. But they're kind of high level, LTE M is more designed for the, you know, the wearables and the IoT devices that will move, right, so they can move from one station to another, so one base station, another base station. So this could be attached to a track and that track will change the state change the region, change the district, and the device will hand off will switch to another base station will continue the transmission. And, and again, you know, the devices can last in multiple years on using this technology. And then the narrowband IoT, it is more designed for stationary IoT devices, for example, Park meter, smart water meter, could be a beacon that is installed and doesn't move. So so so that technology is even even, even lower power. And it can, it also does support them more kind of harsh range environment. So for example, if you put this beacon into your basement, where you typically don't have coverage, it's gonna work, right. So underground parking lot, and those type of places would be supported by the narrowband and in in, there are slight differences, different regions, different countries the support, either one it is second, or both those technologies. So we working with the partners to make sure that there's the right coverage for the right application. And so typically is the going to the big wireless carriers that providing these networks and how how mature is the is the coverage? What should we be expecting in terms of coverage? Yeah, so So you remember like five years ago, we asked exactly the same question. We asked a question, you know, how popular phones with Bluetooth low energy, right? And are they already there? Because they created the platform and of course initially, not all of them supported it and we kind of had to wait a little bit. But of course today, nobody asked the question, you know, every phone we expect and every other device to support BLE. So So So, you know, our job at Estimote is to kind of search for those emerging technologies and kind of, you know, you know, integrate them when the time when the time is ripe, and, and we are happy to announce that those LTE M and narrowband technologies, the United States, there's like a 95% of coverage 95%, they almost the entire nation, and most of the Europe is also covered, and countries and regions such as, you know, Japan, and Asia and China and Australia. So, you know, we would expect that within the next 18 months, most of the countries will be covered with either one or the second technology. So we really looking forward to see how these type of products will also accelerate the innovation, the use cases and the demand from the carriers to turn on the new protocol. The good news is that this new LTE M and narrowband protocols, they don't require the infrastructure change. So they don't require the base station to be, you know, replace living new hardware, in most cases, especially LTM. This is a software upgrade. So you know, if those base stations if they have the existing Nokia Ericsson, who away or some other vendors, you know, infrastructure, you know, they push a button, and the base station can be upgraded to support that new type of IoT connectivity.
Steve Statler 21:38
Well, back onto the regular Bluetooth front. What, what's the standard that you're supporting? What kind of signal strength can we get out of the beacon?
Jakub Krzych 21:48
Yeah, so we have decided to put into this new device, the latest one of the best Bluetooth chips. So we are fully support Bluetooth five, with all the features such as mesh networking, you know, long range, high high throughput, low data, so that it does include the Bluetooth mesh networking. That is something in addition to the kind of low power mesh we had at Estimote. And also, we're going to put plus 20 DBM amplifier. So we also expect that the device will be able to either burst the energy to power, you know, for example, with your devices, if that's needed, but also broadcast long range packets for some of the applications as well.
Steve Statler 22:41
That's fantastic. So let's wrap up, but just end with say, what's the top three kind of sweetspot? Use Cases? You've you've referenced a few, but where are you seeing the most interest, the biggest opportunities?
Jakub Krzych 22:57
Um, you know, we we encouraged to do developers to think about as this new device as a sort of prototyping tool for further further, you know, IoT applications, the same way that when we launched these beacons, we knew that the smaller, you know, less expensive beacons, and eventually, you know, passive beacons will come right. And that is the kind of idea behind this this device that whatever the software is that the developers will create for this device, it is going to it is going to work on much smaller versions that will come in the future. And you know, the applications we've seen from the standard asset tracking applications we're excited a lot is the sort of panic button application. So it's an application where, where people can have similar device with them indoors, and whenever they push the button, the device will scan for the nearby beacons will consume and calculate the indoor position, and then using the LTE network will send that interposition to the cloud. So we expect that this will have a lot of applications in hospitality and some other sectors. But as we as we talked before, you know, we're beacons there were some applications we didn't expect. And we've seen everything we've seen beacons attached chickens, and quadcopters precise landing and, you know, beacons and the oil platforms and so on. So we're extremely excited to see what kind of applications developers will will create with this new device.
Steve Statler 24:44
And I think you're gonna see a bunch of it seems like the, and I think it's in your, in your blog post that's coming out around about now, this tracking of very high value assets where you have to have a multimodal situation where you can be switching from tracking it outdoors tracking it indoors seems the ability to be using GPS on the road and then using beacons inside see where that aircraft engine is or some high value item like that. That seems great. I love the fact that this can be a gateway for other tags, seeing it in in vans and trucks and then monitoring what's in the van in the truck and cold chain. I think the possibilities are endless. So it's going to be really exciting to see what people come up with. Jakub thanks so much for sharing this with us. It's great to be the one of the first getting the lowdown on your device. I think it's super exciting. I congratulate you always really enjoyed these conversations.
Jakub Krzych 25:44
Thank you so much and you know looking forward to connect more and and see you know, where the industry is going.
Steve Statler 25:51
Very good. All the best.
Jakub Krzych 25:53
Thank you so much. Take care.