Intel takes on IoT complexity with carrier-approved boards

The ready-to-use boards are intended to help vendors and users get IoT up and running quickly

Getting cellular devices certified for carriers’ networks is an expensive, complicated process that’s even harder in the new field of IoT.

Smartphone and tablet makers have been dealing with certification for years, spending as much as US$1 million on the process for just one device, GlobalData analyst Avi Greengart says. It’s gotten harder as carriers add new frequency bands.

But at least phone makers have been through this before. When enterprises have new ideas about how to use the internet of things, and when manufacturers try to turn those ideas into reality, they're new to the process. Certification delays can hold up devices and IoT rollouts.

Pre-certification of cellular components like modems can save some development time. Now, Intel hopes to further help things along with what it calls complete product boards that are pre-certified. The first of these includes a processor, a communications module and sensors.

It will form the basis of a rugged sensor module made by Sonim Technologies, called XPi, for use in shipping, agriculture, transportation and construction on the AT&T LTE network. It’s due to ship by the middle of this year for less than $149. It will be sold through Intel, AT&T and Sonim channels.

20170221 sonim intel iot sensor device Intel

The Sonim XPi is the first IoT device through Intel's LIQD (LTE IoT Quick Deployment) Project.

But more manufacturers, more boards, more carriers, and more types of networks are on the way, says Dipti Vachani, a general manager in Intel’s IoT group. The effort, called the LIQD (LTE IoT Quick Deployment) Program, will continue through Intel’s efforts for 5G connectivity, she said.

The board is intended as a horizontal platform for many developers and vendors to work with. It includes an Intel Quark SE Microcontroller C1000, a Sierra Wireless HL Series connectivity module based on an Intel XMM 7120 modem, firmware, and sensors for temperature, humidity, ambient light, acceleration and movement. There’s also an expansion slot for additional sensors or components.

This first board will use LTE Category 1, a low-power protocol for IoT that’s capped at 10Mbps (bit-per-second) downloads and 5Mbps uploads. Future platforms incorporate other networks, like NB-IoT, Vachani said.

Having the board pre-certified will save time for both Sonim and enterprises that roll out the XPi, Intel said. After about an hour configuring the sensors for its particular needs, a company could start deploying the XPi in the field, Vachani said.

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