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IoT Smart Cities Scenario

What are the main technologies used in the Brazilian Internet of Things sector, as applied to urban services?
By Poliana Moraes
May 12, 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT) is currently experiencing exponential growth around the world. In Brazil, the new legal framework of science, technology and innovation, instituted in 2018, further favors this scenario. The priority investment areas in the country defined by the National IoT Plan are health, smart cities, agriculture and industries. Smart cities require long-distance communication networks. In the Brazilian market, three technologies have emerged and are undergoing rapid expansion: LoRa, Sigfox and NB-IoT, which are offered by different operators.

LoRa technology was developed in 2009 by the Cycloo startup in France and was later purchased by American company Semtech. In 2015, there was standardization by the LoRa Alliance. This technology operates on an unlicensed frequency with a receiver bank width between 50 and 125 kHz and a maximum data rate of 290 to 50 kbps, with an unlimited number of messages per day. In urban areas, it is possible to transmit data up to 5 kilometers away, and in the countryside up to 20 kilometers. In Brazil, LoRa is available through American Towers and has coverage in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Goiânia, Brasília, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Recife, Porto Alegre, Campinas, Jundiaí, Sorocaba, São José dos Campos and Santos.

Sigfox technology was developed in 2010 by a startup, also from France, with the same name as the technology. It operates on an unlicensed frequency with a receiver bank width of 100 hertz and a maximum data transfer rate of 100 bps, with a limit of 140 messages per day. In urban areas, it is possible to transmit data up to 10 kilometers away, and in the countryside up to 40 kilometers. In Brazil, Sigfox is available through WDN and has coverage in major metropolitan areas as the hub between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and in some reference cities in agribusiness in Mato Grosso.

NB-IoT technology, based on narrowband radio technology, has been standardized by 3GPP. It operates on a licensed frequency with a receiver bank width of 200 kHz and a maximum data transfer rate of 20 kps, with unlimited messages per day. In urban areas, it can transmit data up to 1 kilometer away, and in the countryside up to 10 kilometers.

The operator Claro plans to be 100 percent nationwide by the end of 2019. In addition, TIM finalized its tests in Santa Rita do Sapucaí in December 2018 and is expected to start operations soon. Vivo, meanwhile, will carry out tests in the interior of São Paulo. In this context, NB-IoT is best suited for applications that require high scalability and reliability, but which can absorb the highest cost of technology. On the other hand, LoRa and Sigfox are indicated for applications of lower cost of operation and transmission at greater distances.

Poliana Moraes is an electrical engineer and a consultant in embedded and distributed systems projects. She holds a master's degree in technological innovation at Unifesp.

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