Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) as a low power cellular data protocol on the u-blox SARA-N2

In the process of looking at embedded radio components, I came across the u-blox SARA-N2, a low power device designed to provide low bandwidth cellular data coverage for Internet of Things devices - “low power consumption and extended coverage” being the operative buzzwords. Speeds are 227 Kbps down and 21 Kbps up, and it’s claimed to be “low power” though no specific power consumption figures are provided.

It’s built on NB-IoT standards that are standardized in June 2016 by the 3GPP project and which are codified in their Release 13.

The first announcement of use of this system is by Telenor in Norway, using it for a smart parking demonstration application in the city of Trondheim.

The pilot commences in January 2017 and will test out how smart sensors can tell you where there is available parking, and in time make it possible to reserve a parking space on your mobile phone, obtain real-time information on when a space will be free and if necessary be guided to other parking spaces if it is full.

No word yet on availability of dev boards for the SARA-N2. u-blox has been good about getting some of their technologies into the DIY marketplace, with the Particle Electron using their SARA‑G350, SARA‑U260 or SARA‑U270 chips, and the Hologram Dash with the LISA-U200, SARA‑U260 or SARA‑U270 chips. Still, u-blox’s product line is way bigger than the availability of consumer-focused components to try them out.

More NB-IoT news from Huawei (from 2015), Vodafone (indicating commerical rollout in 2017), and GSMA (a vendor forum).