Nokia adds new connectivity options to IMPACT IoT platform

Nokia has added two of the leading low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies, NB-IoT and LoRa, to its Intelligence Management Platform for all Connected Things (IMPACT), aiming to expand the reach of its IoT application and management platform.

The company is placing a lot of emphasis on the IoT as a growth vehicle over the coming years, seeking to offset the increased competition from Huawei in its core networking business. It has moved into new areas such as healthcare, with the purchase of Withings; acquired Mformation for its device management and IoT security knowledge; and is developing services designed to boost enterprise efficiency,  such as its machine learning-powered Motive Service Management Platform.

IMPACT is central to Nokia’s IoT expansion plans, and was launched in June 2016. It acts as the central platform, to manage data collection and processing, device management, event processing, and the associated applications. With security a strong focal point for the sales team, Nokia is pitching the platform at communications providers, enterprises, and governments.

The connectivity updates expand upon IMPACT’s existing support for Lightweight M2M (LWM2M) and LTE Cat-M1. With the addition of NB-IoT, Impact now features both the IoT-focused LTE standards that were part of the 3GPP’s Release 13 spec.

Adding LoRa provides IMPACT with an LPWAN option that doesn’t require licensed spectrum – a boon to those who are considering an IoT deployment and want to avoid the expense associated with using public cellular networks, namely the margins that the MNOs introduce in order to turn a profit. An inhouse unlicensed network may well have a lower total cost of ownership this way.

With LoRa, it’s good news for Semtech – the owner of the IP behind the LPWAN chips. For the wider LoRa ecosystem, Nokia’s platform could prove a lucrative source of new sales opportunities, for all the associated equipment and services needed. While the likes of Actility and Stream will be wary of Nokia throwing its weight around and treading on their toes, adding LoRa and NB-IoT is necessary for Nokia.

Other updates appear on the applications side of Impact, offering a pre-integrated option that should significantly reduce the deployment times. These include a video analytics option, powered by Nokia’s Bell Labs machine learning algorithms. Initially pitched at smart city applications such as traffic management and security, the system aims to spot anomalies in video streams, based on historic behavior and pattern analysis.

Smart parking and smart lighting are also being added, again aimed at cities, but wider fleet management tools are also being pushed for automakers or businesses with large fleets of vehicles than would benefit from predictive maintenance and supply chain optimization. Nokia notes that this data can be pulled from a connected head unit in the vehicle, or from an OBD-II port dongle/adapter.

An early potential customer for this new auto-focused offering is the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), whose CIO Scott Fairholm said that “the Nokia video analytics tech addresses a real industry challenge around real time anomaly detection. PTC considers the Nokia approach unique, and is looking forward to testing it out in the field.”

As for IMPACT’s current successes, there haven’t been many announcements. Nokia does note that its device management solution can provide lifecycle management for more than 80,000 types of devices (broadband, home, and IoT – the same number as it claimed at launch, when it also claimed to have connected more than 1.5bn devices total, although that includes smartphones and home gateways, so we’ve no idea how many of that 1.5bn figure are pure-IoT). It notes that over 15,000 devices have been certified for IMPACT, and that Tier 1 North American customers have deployed it – but isn’t publicly disclosing who they might be.