By Jof Enriquez
China is accelerating the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) through several pilot projects conducted by the country's biggest telecom carriers, as the country aims to become one of the world’s leaders in the IoT revolution.
Encouraged by national industry policies, an expanding electronics manufacturing sector, and growing demand for “smart” devices, China's major wireless companies have launched NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) projects that will create over 1 billion M2M (machine-to-machine) connections by 2020.
NB-IoT is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) radio technology protocol that uses existing mobile networks to connect a wide range of devices. One of many competing but high-profile IoT standards, NB-IoT is being pushed for wider use by the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
“First, the government places great value on strategic IoT initiatives for the nation’s digital transformation, having inked IoT into its 13th Five-Year Plan, which steers China’s economic and social development between 2016 and 2020,” Charlie Dai, principal analyst at consultancy Forrester, told The Nation.
Three major Chinese telecom service providers are currently implementing new mobile services and "smart city" projects using NB-IoT technology.
China Mobile Communications Corp., the biggest telecom carrier by subscribers, is now offering the world’s smallest embedded SIM narrow band IoT module. The provider is conducting field tests on narrow band IoT in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Fuzhou, ahead of commercialization of its IoT network by 2018, according to The Nation.
The company has increased by over 5 million the number of Internet of Things (IoT) cards it has issued in the city of Wuxi – one of China's IoT hotspots – exceeding the quantity of its standard mobile subscribers.
Wuxi, in Jiangsu province, is where a government-backed innovative demonstration area of sensor networks was established in 2009. Business revenue generated from IoT industries there vaulted to more than 200 billion RMB in 2016 and created over 150,000 jobs, reported TASS. Local officials and companies are looking to build on these economic gains as the industry expands into the Yangtze River Delta Region.
Meanwhile, China United Network Communications Group (China Unicom), the country’s second-largest carrier, in partnership with Huawei, is offering a smart parking solution that helps drivers in Shanghai find parking spaces based on information generated by parking ticket machines.
China Telecom, the third-biggest carrier by mobile subscribers, has upgraded 310,000 base stations to help run a commercial narrow band IoT network that it claims to provide the widest coverage in the world, reports The Nation. In a separate project, the company also installed 1,200 narrow band IoT-enabled smart water meters in Shenzen to minimize water loss from pipe leakage.
According to IDC, Chinese IoT manufacturing will grow 14.7 percent on average annually to $127.5 billion by 2020. The country's IoT industry as a whole is projected to surpass 1.5 trillion yuan ($231.4 billion) in value by 2020, up from over 900 billion yuan in 2016, according to the 2016-2017 annual IoT Industry Development Report of China.
"Internet of Things is on the eve of an outbreak," said Li Qiang, Jiangsu Provincial Party Secretary at the 2017 World Internet of Things (WIOT) Exposition being held this week in Wuxi, reported Caixin, via Asia Times. "The growth of Chinese Internet users is slowing, and the eyes of the entire technology industry are increasingly turning onto Internet of Things."