Tapping into the low power consumption of cellular LPWAN technologies (NB-IoT and LTE-M)

September 16, 2020

On our quest to map and understand the power profiles of LPWA technologies for the Internet of Things (IoT), we teamed up with our customer Thales, for a deep dive into the cellular alternatives, NB-IoT and LTE-M (Cat-M). Thales was generous with their tech and time to help us unravel the technologies and the power saving modes that make the technologies a strong option for IoT deployment, both for stationary and mobile use cases.

If you are interested in understanding the essence of the cellular LPWAN, the power saving modes, we have gathered here a few things for you as an IoT developer to consider.

Will cellular LPWAN work for you?

The first step is understanding how these technologies fit with your application and use case. Are they supporting your use case, from usability, cost and of course power consumption aspect? The video below gives an introduction to the technologies and the low power mindset, as well as an intro to how to get started working with cellular IoT from the use case perspective.

You can also check in with Thales here on why to choose cellular IoT.

Understanding the power saving modes

It is important to understand the power saving modes as defined in 3GPP, and what can be done for both active and sleep time of the IoT device. Furthemore, how does the energy profile look like when these are applied in practice?

How to set the modes and what is the power consumption of NB-IoT?

And finally the hands-on deep dive into how to work with Power Saving Mode (PSM) and Extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) timers for NB-IoT and LTE-M (CatM). We dig into the commands to be used and how to calculate the timers. Furthermore, we showcase the effect these power saving modes will have on the current consumption. Curious about the sleep mode? Have a look below!

In this technical endeavor, we used Thales Cinterion IoT modules and our Otii Arc as a power analyzer. If you are looking for a developer starter kit to kick off your exploration and measurement of low power cellular IoT we have teamed up Thales to curate such for you. 5G NB-IoT devKit + Otii Arc + all the relevant accessories can be found at Digikey.

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