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That’s how reliable the communication networks in Europe are

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01/28/2022 – Category: IT

In a study conducted across Europe, Fraunhofer IML, Dachser and EPAL examined the reliability of LPWAN and other communication technologies in logistics.

Fast and secure data transmission is becoming increasingly important in digitized logistics. An existing communication infrastructure is the basic requirement for this. In order to investigate how reliable the existing communication networks such as LPWAN are, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML together with Dachser and the European Pallet Association eV (EPAL) conducted a study. To do this, they equipped 50 EPAL Euro pallets with trackers and sent them on their way across Europe.

LPWAN: network coverage of the various technologies

More than 148,000 kilometers covered in one month: That is the result of the study carried out by researchers at Fraunhofer IML and their partners. They used it to examine the network coverage of various technologies such as LPWAN along the routes travelled. Comprehensive availability is important, for example, for IoT devices (Internet of Things) that communicate regularly updated sensor data. In the study, the participants each attached five trackers with five different communication technologies to a total of 50 EPAL Euro pallets. They then sent these to 24 EU countries via the Dachser logistics center in Dortmund.

The trackers each use different communication networks. Among them are radio technologies such as LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network), of which the technologies NB-IoT, LTE-M and Sigfox were considered. NB-IoT and LTE-M transmit on a 5G-compatible, licensed cellular frequency spectrum, while Sigfox transmits in the license-free spectrum. In addition, the researchers examined the classic mobile phone networks of the second and third generation (2G/3G). The individual technologies differ in terms of data rate, frequency range, energy consumption and range, among other things.

2G and 3G mobile networks with maximum availability

After a month, the pallets were returned to Fraunhofer IML and the researchers were able to evaluate the technologies used based on over two million data transmissions. β€œThe study shows that the classic mobile networks 2G and 3G still have the highest availability in Europe. However, the disadvantage of these networks is that they are partially switched off. In addition, allow fewer accesses per radio cell and have higher energy consumption, so that the trackers don’t last as long,” explains Patrick Becker, research associate at Fraunhofer IML.

LPWAN is the future of IoT connectivity

Networks with LPWAN are therefore more suitable for modern logistics applications with large amounts of sensor data in small transmission packets. These are still constantly being expanded, but some of them already offer area-wide network availability. For logistical IoT applications that require Europe-wide continuous reception, the researchers at Fraunhofer IML therefore recommend a network of LPWAN with the technologies NB-IoT, LTE-M, Sigfox and classic mobile communications (2G to 4G). This is the only way to guarantee Europe-wide data transmission at this point in time. However, the future of connectivity for IoT devices clearly lies with LPWAN technology. (sg)

Also read: Logistics: Five important trends for 2022


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