As you have notice, if you want to have a full E2E IoT solution, you need to integrate a bunch of different elements: sensors, devices, networking, gateways, platforms, applications. For sure you can buy all those elements one by one, get to know them, do the testing, etc. – but what if you don’t have the budget for it, what if you’d just like to focus on application development, what if you’d like to speed things up? For those and many other reasons I find idea of Open IoT Labs, that are used to support development of NB-IoT and LTE-M LPWA solutions, as a positive thing. MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) usually set up Open IoT Labs together with some of the IoT vendors for the interested parties to test prototypes of their devices, tune up their IoT solution or get technical and commercial support before IoT solution deployment. So, who would be those interested parties? There’s a very wide flavor of potential partners: IoT device manufacturers, IoT platform vendors, but I think the most active among the partners will be IoT apps developers and system integrator.
Why are MNOs so helpful? I’d say that it’s pretty simple, IoT has tremendous commercial potential, some of their competitors (LoRA, Sigfox operators) are already taking the market, so they really need a broader ecosystem to accelerate the expansion and get their market share on time. MNOs like Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Orange, TIM are opening their Open IoT Labs all over the world and GSMA has shared public online searchable database to help you find nearest one, find who’s the Lab Owner, what’s the Lab Technology and Lab Type. As you can see for now the closest ones to SEE region are A1 Digital IoT Lab in Vienna and Cisco’s in Vimercate that supports not only NB-IoT, but also LTE-M.
I find TIM’s Open IoT Lab in Turin as one of the most interesting since it has great number of involved partners, so it might be a good place for education, share of knowledge and networking.
Telekom Open IoT Labs (TOIL) is also worth to highlight, this is joint initiative of Fraunhofer IML and Deutsche Telekom and it’s promoting very solid six step partner engagement:
1.Invite client to TOIL to understand and develop specific use case need
2.Design and build necessary NB-IoT hardware within 4-6 weeks
3.Leverage NB-IoT by fully connecting prototyping hardware to the DT live network
4.Conduct real-world field test with clients with up to hundreds of devices
5.Gather feedback and data from testing as early as possible to validate devices and use cases
6.Incorporate feedback and start iterative improvement process at steps 1 and 2
Unfortunately there’s still no Open IoT Lab in SEE region, but you can use remote access to development environment or for getting the technical support, but for real world testing you should connect with some of the local MNOs, since all of them are considering or already testing LPWAN solutions and it’s also in their interest to create market drive.
Other thing that you might find useful is The Things Network communities, for now present in different towns of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, that are organizing meetups, workshops and sharing their knowledge and experience within LoRaWAN environments.
I’ll emphasize once more that I see Open IoT Labs as a positive initiative that will especially help universities, startups and small companies in development of new services and applications. This open approach is a key that will boost the expansion of MIoT (Mobile IoT) market.