NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When most people think about the Internet of Things (IoT), they conjure up images of connected cars and connected homes. But in rural America, IoT brings up images of connected cows and connected tractors.
“In some countries you have to track a cow from birth to the plate,” says Kevin Kleinsmith, director of engineering at Union Wireless, a telco that delivers wireless and wireline services in Wyoming. “Our owners are also cattle ranchers, and there is a movement to do this here.”
In the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, released last fall, the network vendor estimated that there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020. Ericsson’s connected device estimate is widely cited by wireless operators and others in the mobile industry.
But Kleinsmith, who was attending the Mobile Carriers 2016 show here this week, said that the price of cellular-enabled modules (used in IoT applications today) must decline to $1 per module vs. today’s $10 per module price point. If that doesn’t happen, he believes the connected cow and many other low-cost IoT applications will not happen.
Kleinsmith also says many potential customers are hesitant to deploy IoT because of potential security glitches. “Software developers don’t always think about security.”
Yet another obstacle is the battery life of IoT modules inside devices, says Patrick Kaiser, Huawei’s director of product marketing and business development. “I think the costs of truck rolls also needs to be watched. We have to have a 10-year battery life on these devices.”
IoT is considered a huge growth opportunity for many tech companies. Last February, Cisco purchased IoT startup Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion. Jasper, which offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, said at the time it had more than 3,500 enterprise and 27 service provider customers connecting devices to its cloud platform. Those devices range from cars to jet engines to implanted pacemakers, and they are primarily connected over mobile networks.