NB-IoT Applications in Tracking Field

NB-IoT Applications in Tracking Field
NB-IoT Applications in Tracking Field

I. Background

In our previous article (What is NB-IoT), we have introduced in detail what NB-IoT is through different dimensions. The launch of NB-IoT technology has elevated IoT communication to a higher level. And many scenes in life start to apply NB-IoT technology. As NB-IoT technology continues to mature and develop, it is silently bringing convenience to people’s life and work. The whole IoT industry behind it is also undergoing a key change. As an LTE evolutionary technology, NB-IoT, in addition to higher peak rates, means more connections, support for massive M2M connections, and lower latency, which will fuel the rapid spread of applications such as IoT.

IoT applications are highly relevant to location services. Among the various information collected by terminals, location information is one of the most important. The implementation of many applications is based on location information, especially in some high-value applications. For example, track valuable assets for enterprises, record the trajectory of goods for logistics, monitor the location of manhole covers and public facilities to see if they are in the intended location, and livestock farms need to know if horses, cattle, and sheep are missing.

With the booming development of the IoT industry, the demand for positioning in various IoT applications has risen sharply. Traditional positioning solutions are hard to meet the positioning needs of modern scenes. The traditional GPRS+GPS 2G positioning solution has problems such as poor terminal endurance and positioning accuracy affected by climate. Base station positioning is far from enough positioning accuracy. NB-IoT+GNSS positioning solution has a stronger ability in terminal endurance and positioning accuracy.

II. Advantages VS Disadvantages of NB-IoT

In the NB-IoT module, many devices are connected to each other through sensors. These interconnected devices are very close to each other and there are not many other devices interfering with their connection. Therefore, it is more powerful and secure. In addition, people highly appreciate the ability of NB-IoT devices to maintain an uninterrupted connection while saving battery. For many enterprises, cities, and organizations, NB-IoT technology is making life more efficient and practical with its breakthrough technology.

Its advantages are mainly focused on: better signal coverage, lower terminal cost, higher terminal access density, and lower terminal communication function. The disadvantages are low transmission rate, high digital transmission delay, and poor mobile performance.

Its advantages are mainly the following: Better signal coverage, lower terminal costs, higher terminal access density, and lower power consumption for terminal communication. At the same time, its disadvantages are low transmission rate, high data transmission delay, and poor mobile performance.

(NB-IoT advantages vs disadvantages)
NB-IoT advantages vs disadvantages

If your application needs to transmit voice, pictures, or video, and you can’t tolerate the low transmission rate and high data transmission delay, or needs to maintain good communication performance at very high speeds, then NB-IoT technology may not be suitable to apply to your application!

If your application is very sensitive to terminal power consumption (battery-powered), and you can tolerate the low transmission rate and data transmission delay (not high real-time), or the density of terminal deployment is high (hundreds or thousands in a square kilometer), and the terminal movement speed is not high (<40km/h), then NB-IoT may be one of the best technologies for you!

III. Where to Apply NB-IoT?

Since its debut in 2016, NB-IoT devices have been well-received and rapidly implemented. In general, the application of NB-IoT is divided into four areas: public service, personal, industrial manufacturing, and new technology and new business. When broken down, it can be applied to the following scenarios. In general, the application of NB-IoT is divided into 4 areas: public service, personal use, industrial manufacturing, and tracking area. It has the following usage scenarios:

  1. Public Utilities: smart water meter, smart water platform, smart gas meter, smart heat meter.
  2. Smart City: smart parking, smart street light, smart garbage can, smart manhole cover.
  3. Consumer Electronics: independent wearable devices, smart bicycles, chronic disease management systems, elderly and children management.
  4. Equipment Management: equipment status monitoring, white goods management, large public infrastructure, pipe rack safety monitoring.
  5. Intelligent Building: environmental alarm system, central air conditioning supervision, elevator IOT, civil air defense space coverage.
  6. Logistics: cold chain logistics, container tracking, fixed asset tracking, financial asset tracking.
  7. Agriculture and environment: agricultural IoT, livestock breeding, real-time air monitoring, real-time water quality monitoring.
  8. Other Applications: mobile payment, smart community, smart home, heritage protection.

Overall, NB-IoT devices have begun to change the way we think about technology and how it is used in our daily lives. The possibilities for NB-IoT devices are endless, but their best and most influential uses are in the tracking sector. Today we will mainly talk about the use of NB-IoT+GNSS in the tracking market.

IV.NB-IoT VS Traditional Tracking Solutions

NB-IoT VS Traditional Tracking Solutions

A. Problems with Traditional Tracking Solutions

By comparing with 2G positioning through the following examples, we can then understand why the tracking market is now increasingly in need of NB-IoT technology.

1. For the intelligent livestock breeding industry

Herding horses are usually kept in pastures of tens of kilometers for 2 years, and herders need to know the activities of herding horses. If the herders use the traditional 2G positioning solution, its energy consumption is high, the terminal range is poor, and it is difficult to reach a 2-year service life. And it is limited by the climate and cannot be located when the satellite visibility is poor. With the traditional base station positioning solution, the terminal range is solved to a certain extent, but there is the problem of large accuracy error. It is difficult to pinpoint the location of the horse.

2. For municipal intelligent manhole cover management

If the traditional tracking solution is used, all manhole covers under the same base station are positioned at the base station location. It is difficult to show the true distribution of manhole covers in the area. If the manhole cover is stolen and not yet beyond the range of the base station, it cannot be detected and located in time. The 2G positioning solution suffers from terminal endurance problems, while weather and environmental (building) blockage of satellite signals can also seriously affect positioning accuracy.

3. For Logistic tracking

Traditional base station positioning solutions can only see that the fleet location is moving between adjacent base stations. 2G positioning solution, however, will affect the positioning accuracy due to the lack of coverage depth, resulting in the road environment (mountains, forests, and tunnels) blocking the satellite signal.

B. How about NB-IoT?

Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-loT), also known as LTE Cat NB1, is an LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) network technology standard. By using wireless cellular networks, NB-IoT can link various smart devices and sensors. NB-loT provides reliable and secure connectivity for end users. Compared to traditional tracking systems, NB-IoT tracking offers advantages such as cost-effectiveness, security, low power consumption, and elimination of ongoing maintenance.

The most important applications of NB-loT trackers include vehicle tracking, supply chain asset tracking, heavy equipment tracking, healthcare equipment tracking, agricultural equipment tracking, and others. The growing demand for tracking and monitoring of assets and production processes is primarily driving the market.

The demand for wearable trackers is growing rapidly. Wearable devices can be used for exercise activities as well as health monitoring devices to monitor health conditions. Also, it can help in tracking children and elderly people for safety purposes. Growing demand for wearable trackers is driving the NB-loT tracker market. The automotive industry is rapidly turning to NB-IoT trackers to provide convenient, safe, and efficient transportation. NB-IoT vehicle trackers can accurately track vehicles, identify and avoid congestion on highways, and contribute to effective traffic management. Upcoming connected self-driving cars are also expected to help the growth of the NB-loT tracker market during the forecast period. NB-IoT+GNSS positioning solution has a stronger ability in terminal endurance and positioning accuracy.

V. Application of NB-IoT+GNSS Technology

Application of NB-IoT+GNSS Technology

Here we summarize some classic applications of NB-IoT+GNSS and discuss them with you one by one.

A. Wearable Tracker for Children and Elderly

NB-IoT+GNSS is a very good NB-IoT consumer-grade product as an anti-loss accessory applied to the elderly, children, and pets. It can be used to determine the whereabouts of the elderly and children in real time by uploading GPS data through NB-IoT, and can also be used on the collars of pets. GPS can be fixed to open and get the current location at a certain time frequency, and use NB-IoT to report the current location GPS can be fixed at a certain time frequency to turn on and get the current position, then report the current location through NB-IoT. NB-IoT can also combine with the cloud platform to effectively set the security area or electronic fence. When the child or pet with anti-loss accessories leaves the security area, the APP will immediately receive SOS reminders.

B. Vehicle Tracker

The vehicle tracking system consists of the tracker, cloud platform, and user terminal. The electric vehicle tracker is installed concealed inside the vehicle with a built-in GPS/BeiDou chip. The tracker will send the location information to the service platform through the NB-IoT network. Then the users can view the real-time location or driving track through various ways such as APP. The one-button alarm can be activated in case of an emergency. The operator or police can access the terminal platform to manage, monitor, and recover the vehicle.

C. NB-IoT Unattended Pasture Management

Modern animal husbandry can significantly reduce cost loss and improve the efficiency of animal husbandry, especially for large-scale breeding like grassland. The NB-IoT combined with GPS solution has the advantages of accuracy, efficiency, and wide range of use, which will provide more convenience to livestock breeding and breeders while improving economic income.

Unattended pasture management position the grazing pen by the use of a positioning terminal. The positioning terminal is mainly composed of a tracker, pasture pen entrance reader, livestock-wearing tracker, and data forwarding base station. The tracker is composed of a GPS positioning module, NB-IoT communication module, power management module, etc. It is made to be worn on the animal’s neck or leg, and the tracker has the functions of anti-demolition, breakage alarm, etc. Once the tracker has problems, it will upload the alarm to remind the management staff to analyze and deal with it in time.

The herding pen entrance reader is composed of a sensor, GPS positioning module, NB-IOT communication module, power management module, access control system, etc. The reader is used to automatically discriminate and record the time of livestock entering and leaving the pen, while the phenomenon of entering and leaving when non-entry and exit time will trigger alarm information. Herding pen trackers in livestock farm fences around every ten meters will be arranged with an omnidirectional reader (herding pen tracker). The reader will read animal information for location determination and upload data. At the same time, if the livestock gets out of the fence, the tracker will send alerts to the terminal so that managers can deal with it quickly.


NB-IoT+GNSS provides an excellent solution for passive positioning terminals, making long standby positioning services possible. It is believed that in the near future, with the increasing popularity of NB-IoT+GNSS technology, more smart wearable and logistics tracking products will emerge, stimulating richer demand for positioning functions.