If you’ve been plugged into the explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the last decade, you’ve likely heard the striking prediction that by the year 2020, more than 50 billion smart objects are expected to be deployed in the field. Many of these devices and systems are designed to connect wirelessly to private networks and/or private and public cloud systems via 4G cellular data links. But there’s a problem: Getting products approved to join 4G networks from carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint is hard. Really hard.
You can expect to pay upward of $50,000 and wait anywhere from three to six months to have a custom device tested and certified with a 4G carrier or certification service. Each unique 4G-enabled system design must pass testing with the PTCRB, which governs wireless signal performance and behavior, specific carrier organizations like the Verizon Open Development group and other groups like the Global Certification Forum (GCF). The upshot is that it can be prohibitively expensive (and time consuming) for IoT innovators to certify their devices with internal 4G modems.
There are other options. One is to purchase external, USB-connected 4G modems for wireless connectivity. These modems are affordable, certified and require little design effort to work with existing custom devices – provided those devices can host USB peripherals. The drawbacks? External dongles add to physical footprint and heighten the risk of failure. That’s a real concern in rugged and remote environments, where external peripherals and connectors are subject to constant stress and may be difficult to service in the field. External modems can also be subject to theft, tampering and loss, especially where a lot of people are moving about, be it factory floors or shopping malls.
A second option is to purchase 4G-equipped industrial PCs (IPC) that have been certified for carrier networks. The problem here is that the selection of systems has been limited, due in part to the high cost of certification. And that makes it tough to find an IPC with just the mix of features and price point for a specific application.
There is a third option. Logic Supply has worked with major 4G carriers to create pre-certified IPC designs with internal 4G wireless capability. The result: A family of 4G-equipped IPCs – available in hundreds of unique configurations – that are tailored for commercial, industrial and rugged application environments. The PCIe-based 4G modems in the Logic Supply Extrovert line will soon offer a choice between North American or global wireless operation, and are ready to connect to carrier networks on the day of delivery.
Wireless certification has never been easy, but the Internet of Things has made it an issue (and priority) for a wide range of organizations. As the demand to connect PCs and devices to 4G cellular networks increases, companies must consider every option to reliably enable their connected infrastructure.
Darek is the Communications Manager at OnLogic. His passion for both journalism and technology has led him from the newsrooms of local papers to the manufacturing floor of IBM. His background in news gathering has him always on the lookout for the latest in emerging tech and the best ways to share that information with readers. In addition to his affinity for words, Darek is a music lover, juggler and huge fan of terrible jokes.