Behr Technologies joins crowded low-power wireless market with MIOTY

Behr Technologies (BTI) is the worldwide licensee of Fraunhofer’s MIOTY wireless mesh protocol, and is now hoping to cash in on that arrangement, by announcing a partnership with Advantech, Hitachi Solutions America, and Microsoft. The group plan to pitch MIOTY as the basis for private Industrial IoT (IIoT) networks.

This seems like a good win for Behr, which stands to benefit from the sales channels of its three partners. The Canadian firm announced its licensing agreement with Fraunhofer back in February, with Behr formed that month specifically to become that licensee, by a group of Canadian entrepreneurs that had been working on commercializing MIOTY for a year. Basically, if you want to use MIOTY, you’ve got to go through Behr.

That sales pitch is an easy to deploy system that provides end-to-end wireless connectivity, supported by Advantech’s gateways and Hitachi’s IoT Service Hub, a cloud-based software system built using Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite and core business software.

In theory, this is a pre-integrated system that only needs sensors added to it, boasting excellent indoor coverage and penetration. Vendor and chipset agnostic, the only lock-in a customer has to worry about will be from Behr – which will be looking to assuage such concerns.

The first application from this collaboration is a workforce safety monitoring system, aimed at high-risk environments. A wearable device is used to monitor heart rate, sending data to the Advantech gateway over MIOTY, which is then sent up to the Microsoft cloud, where Hitachi gets to run all manner of analytics.

This system lets the employer check up on workers, spotting stress or medical emergencies as they happen, and then being able to react to them. With enough data, the system might be able to predict when an event might happen too. One of the main selling points is the lack of the monthly fees that would be required if they were to use a public LWPAN network, whether that’s LoRa, Sigfox, or a licensed spectrum option.

“The BTI MIOTY contribution to the overall, end-to-end ecosystem with Microsoft, Hitachi Solutions, and Advantech gives customers an out-of-the-box IIoT solution that provides critical machine data and telemetry in areas they cannot currently access,” said Albert Behr, CEO of Behr Technologies Inc. “BTI MIOTY has been specifically developed for massive and lowest-cost LPWAN communications and is poised to be the commercial standard for wireless IIoT connectivity. The use cases are endless, and it will deliver a wireless IIoT solution that is unparalleled in the market.”

MIOTY is based on ETSI TS 103 357, a recent standard. However, MIOTY needs some extra software and APIs, which Fraunhofer has developed and packaged – hence the licensing agreement with BTI, to cover the software-defined radio and sensor software. Fraunhofer claims that MIOTY sets new performance standards, with a 15km range and a 20-year lifetime – although, how long is a piece of string, in that regard. The performance in urban centers is listed as 5km.

MIOTY uses sub-GHz unlicensed spectrum, 868MHz in Europe and the 915MHz band in North America, and Fraunhofer says that its efficient channel encoding scheme is responsible for the long-range capabilities. The protocol apparently generates little self-interference, and to this end, Fraunhofer says it can support up to a million simultaneous transmitters.

These transmitters, the end-devices, are based on chips available from Chipcon and Silicon Labs. The receivers are complex, but apparently have a flexible design that allows some modification to suit particular applications. Optimization is available for mobile and stationary deployments.

Behr’s description is more marketer-polished. It says that the system provides unprecedented total cost of ownership for LPWAN deployments, supporting 1.5m messages each day. It says that the transmitters will work at up to 80km/h (listed as 120km/h in some places though), which covers most vehicular applications besides highway-speed transport.

A recent announcement from Behr said that MIOTY is the first LPWAN protocol to meet the new ETSI telegram splitting ultra-narrow band (TS-UNB) specification – TS 103 357). This lets the transmitters split messages into smaller ‘subpackets,’ which can then let the overall system reduce overall interference, as the end-device can spend shorter periods transmitting. The shorter on-air times are also conducive to better battery performance, and AES128 encryption is supported

MIOTY’s data sheet provides more details. The data rate is 2.4Kbps, using 154dB of link budget. The size of the telegram that gets split can range between 10 to 245 bytes, meaning that a 245-byte message (1960 bits) is going to take about 0.81 seconds to send in the absolute best case scenario. In the ETSI standards document, the transmission time of a 10 byte message is listed as less than 0.4 seconds, with power consumption as 10 μWh per message.

This is much faster than a Sigfox message, which has a 12-byte payload size and a data rate of around 100 bits per second. LoRa can be much quicker, with a maximum data rate of around 27Kbps, although the way it implements spreading factors and different bandwidths means that it is usually much slower than that – but still always faster than a Sigfox message.

Behr already had a partnership with Microsoft. The pair announced general availability of the MIOTY 1.0 Starter Kit in April, at Hannover Messe, which combined Behr’s software with Azure. Hitachi has evidently seen the opportunity, selling a package of services on top of the architecture. Advantech is an established industrial and enterprise gateway maker, and will be hoping to snap up the bulk of initial MIOTY adoption, until rivals see the opportunity and follow suit.

“Through this collaboration with Microsoft, Hitachi Solutions, and BTI, we are working to deliver an integrated IIoT solution,” said Stephen Huang, associate vice president of Advantech’s Embedded IoT Group. “Our Edge Intelligence Server provides a device-to-cloud solution at the edge. With WISE-PaaS EdgeSense IoT software built into the gateway, we can provide connectivity and manageability at the edge to simplify IIoT applications.”