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Spark extends Cat-M1 IoT network across New Zealand

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Spark’s Cat-M1 IoT coverage


(Image: Spark)

Spark has extended its Cat-M1 Internet of Things (IoT) network to 98 percent of the New Zealand population.

The Cat-M1 network is deployed across 96 percent of Spark’s 4G sites, with the carrier expecting to add more than 2,000 new IoT devices every week.

“On top of being an IoT network and mobile service provider, Spark will also expand its suite of IoT services, a move that will see us work with best-in-class partners to enable startups to enterprises to solve problems,” Spark’s Digital Services head Michael Stribling added.

Spark said its first major Cat-M1 IoT customer is smart metering provider IntelliHub, which previously had to use 2G networks for its services.

“We are using Spark’s new Cat-M1 network to service our current nationwide deployment as we accelerate the installation of 150,000 smart meters to a large portion of [wholesale internet, gas, and electricity provider] Trustpower’s customer base,” IntelliHub CEO Adrian Clark said.

“This is a business-first technology rollout and we are … starting in Tauranga for Trustpower with the help of Spark.”

Clark said IntelliHub will also use the Spark Cat-M1 network to expand into the IoT services of smart gas metering, solar monitoring, and “demand response applications”.

Spark is expecting its Cat-M1 network to provide for use cases across smart city infrastructure, horticulture machinery tracking, video surveillance, biometrics, outpatient monitoring, telematics, and smart wearables.

The carrier had lit up the network in September last year, saying it would run on the 700MHz and 1800MHz spectrum bands. At the time, the network provided coverage to parts of Auckland, Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch, Tauranga, and Wellington, but it was aiming to cover 95 percent of places in New Zealand within six months.

“M1 is a secure, high-quality network, ideal where sensors and devices are transferring data regularly and near real-time access to that data is critical,” Stribling said last year.

“We’re working with customers on a broad range of use cases for M1, driven by its nationwide coverage and high performance. Great examples include vehicle telematics, smart metering, smart health devices, and smart cities applications such as lighting and environmental monitoring.”

Last March, Spark also launched its LoRaWAN IoT network in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Shannon, Blenheim, Nelson, and Dunedin.

The LoRa IoT network consists of gateways and antennas installed atop Spark’s 4G cell sites, with the telco using Actility’s ThingPark Wireless platform, Kerlink’s gateways, and Kordia to build and maintain the network, which it said could be used for smart cities applications.

“Councils will be able to use the smart lighting technology to manage streetlights remotely, applying bespoke dimming profiles, monitoring maintenance, and turning them on or off as needed,” Spark NZ said.

“This will enable them to respond faster to community requests, events, and changes in daylight to keep streets safer for people, save power and reduce carbon emissions.”

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Both Volkswagen and Tesla are preparing cheaper EVs

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A new report is going around that claims new, more affordable electric vehicles will be coming to market. According to the report, both Tesla and Volkswagen have given new EV programs the green light to create cars selling for between $25,000 and $30,000. That is a price point that will undoubtedly make transitioning to electric vehicles more affordable for people worldwide.

Pricing is one of the main concerns cited by vehicle shoppers for not choosing electric vehicles compared to a traditional car. Many have been waiting for EVs to reach price parity with similarly equipped traditional vehicles. That parity has been achieved in some parts of the luxury segment making EVs more popular in that part of the market.

Advancements in batteries have helped bring the price of electric vehicles down as the battery pack is one of the most expensive parts of the car. More drivers are interested in EVs as driving ranges have increased significantly in recent years. One barrier that remains in the way is the lack of charging infrastructure in many parts of the world.

Many also cite long charge times as a reason they’ve yet to adopt an electric vehicle. With new electric cars in the $25,000-$30,000 price range, one more barrier of entry will be removed. Tesla announced in September that it was planning a smaller long-range electric car using new battery technology that would start at $25,000. Elon Musk also noted that the vehicle will be fully autonomous and revealed a timeframe of about three years from now. The VW car is dubbed the Small Battery Electric Vehicle.

Volkswagen is aiming at a car about the size of its Polo. Volkswagen has offered no indication of when exactly its vehicle might come to market. Reports indicate that the 2024 through 2025 model range is a good guess for when the vehicles might arrive.

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Hyundai and Kia fined $210 million over vehicle recalls due to engine trouble

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced consent orders this week with Hyundai and Kia related to recalls of vehicles equipped with the Theta II engines. The automakers were hit with combined penalties amounting to $210 million. The NHTSA found that Hyundai and Kia conducted untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles that used the Theta II engines.

The NHTSA also found that the automakers reported certain inaccurate information to it during the recalls. The consent orders establish monetary and non-monetary measures that will enhance Kia and Hyundai’s safety practices. Kia will create a new US safety office headed by a Chief Safety Officer. Hyundai will build a US test facility for safety investigations.

Both companies have promised to develop and implement a sophisticated data analytics program to better detect safety concerns. The agreements will also see each company retain an independent, third-party auditor who will directly report to the NHTSA. These auditors will conduct comprehensive reviews of the Safety Act practices and compliance with the consent order.

The NHTSA is also making both companies commit to substantial organizational improvements to enhance their ability to identify and investigate potential safety issues in the US while consistently and transparently communicating with the NHTSA. Hyundai is subject to a total civil penalty of $140 million with a $54 million upfront payment. It’s obligated to spend another $40 million on specified safety performance measures and an additional $46 million deferred penalty that will become payable if specified conditions aren’t satisfied.

Kia is subject to the total civil penalty of $70 million with a $27 million upfront payment. It’s obligated to spend another $16 million on specified safety performance measures with a $27 million deferred penalty payable if certain conditions aren’t satisfied. The consent orders don’t impact other ongoing investigations by the NHTSA regarding allegations of fires not related to crashes in Hyundai and Kia vehicles equipped with the Theta II engines.

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The NHTSA is opening an investigation into the Tesla Model S and Model X

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The NHTSA announced this week that it was opening a preliminary investigation into potential safety concerns raised by owners of Tesla Model S and Model X cars. The agency has received 53 complaints alleging failures of the left or right front suspension fore links. Of those 43 complaints, 11 incidents occurred while driving.

In its statement issued about the investigation, the NHTSA says that the complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend with 34 complaints received in the last two years, with three of them occurring at highway speeds. The agency intends to assess the scope, frequency, and consequences of the alleged fault.

The investigation will cover Tesla Model S cars ranging from 2015 through 2017 model years and Tesla Model X SUVs made from 2016 through 2017. As these vehicles age, they could be prone to defects that didn’t surface when they were newer. As of now, there has been no official statement from Tesla on the investigation.

There is also no indication that a recall has to be issued at this time. Tesla vehicles have had their share of issues with fire potential from battery damage during accidents. Several fatal accidents have also been blamed on inattentive drivers and Tesla Autopilot driver assistance systems not recognizing hazards in the road.

On Wednesday of this week, Tesla announced that it was issuing a recall on over 9000 Model Y and Model X vehicles due to issues with bolts. The Model X also had an issue where roof trim could detach over time, leading to potential accidents or road hazards. Despite the recalls, Tesla shares are booming, having gained more than 600 percent in 2020 despite the pandemic.

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