The race to develop, implement and roll out a nationwide Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices network is over, and two countries are laying claim to the “we were first” trophy.
Earlier this week, both South Korea and the Netherlands announced that they had switched on their own respective national IoT networks, which in the case of the Netherlands “reportedly covers the entire country and will be used to connect millions of devices.” (Source: Gizmag, “Netherlands rolls out world-first nationwide Internet of Things network,” by Michael Irving, July 1, 2016). South Korea did the same, launching “its first commercial, low-cost Internet of Things (IoT) network [that will] allow smart devices to talk to each other via the network.” (Source: BBC News, “South Korea launches first Internet of Things network,” July 5, 2016).
According to reports, the South Korea IoT nationwide network will:
- allow smart devices to “talk to each other via the network [using] technology that will allow it to reach 99% of the country’s population.”
- provide services viewed as a way to “ease the cost burden of startups and small and medium enterprises.”
- on the consumer side, “help appliances like fridges or printers tell its owners when it needs to be refilled, help customers locate lost smartphones and even monitor pets.” (Source: Id.)
The South Korean IoT network provider (SK Telecom) is investing “up to 100 billion won by the end of next year to further develop the infrastructure…” (Source: Id.)
In the Netherlands, Dutch telecommunications company KPN technicians “fitted hundreds of existing mobile transmission towers with LoRa (Long Range) gateways and antennas, to create a new public network dedicated to IoT devices. Sections first went online in Rotterdam and The Hague in November 2015, before work ramped up earlier this year in response to customer interest.” (Source: Gizmag).
KPN reportedly has contracts for 1.5 million devices to utilize the network, already. Id. “Baggage handling at Schiphol Airport, depth sounders in the port of Rotterdam and rail switches at Utrecht Central Station are all currently being handled by smart connected devices, with plenty more expected to join the party as KPN continues to optimize and add functionality to the system.” Id.
The United States is a much larger country, of course, than both South Korean and the Netherlands, but even so there does not appear to be any significant movement here in the U.S. to develop and launch a similar IoT network. The most ‘movement’ that can be seen – if you can call it that – is related to legislation, not infrastructure. In April, a Senate committee voted to approve the DIGIT Act, which would “require the Federal Communications Commission to report on the spectrum required to support a network of billions of devices. It would also convene working groups [ ] to advise Congress on Internet of Things-related policy.” (Source: NextGov, “Senate Committee Approves Bill to Create National Internet of Things Strategy, By Mohana Ravindranath, April 27, 2016). Roughly a year earlier, the Senate passed an Internet of Things resolution calling for a “national strategy on the topic.” Id.
So, while we in the U.S. take committee votes and issue calls for strategies and reports, countries elsewhere (including Mexico, now, which is working towards a 2017 nationwide IoT rollout) are forging ahead, launching 21st century infrastructure initiatives designed to empower industry, facilitate commerce and drive economic development and growth. Surely we’ll see a U.S. IoT nationwide network effort at some point; the question is, however, when? And until then, how many more countries will launch their own IoT networks and realize the benefits of connected device systems before we do?