Tuesday, 27 March 2018 00:15

Spark’s IoT network goes commercial for New Zealanders Featured

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New Zealand’s largest telco Spark has switched on its long-range Internet of Things network, making it available for commercial use in 60% of the country.

Michael Stribling, Spark’s general manager IoT Solutions, says the telco’s IoT capability is really gathering pace, “and now we’ve got this critical mass of coverage we’re able to make the network commercially available”.

“This is a real milestone for Spark as we help New Zealand organisations win big in IoT.

“While we currently have 60% of rural and urban New Zealand covered, we’ll be working to extend that to 70% by July this year. We’re also looking to partner with organisations to extend coverage into areas where they need it.”

Spark says businesses and local councils can now use the IoT network to connect to vehicles, waterways, machinery and car parks.

Sensors on these objects are able to send information over the network to the people managing the objects. Commands can also be sent back to sensors, telling them when to kick in or the kind of information to report on - for example, the volume of rubbish in a public bin, or pH in a stream.

Stribling says the network uses LoRaWAN technology, which carries small amounts of data over long distances, using less power than cellular networks.

“This makes it ideal for connecting objects far from power sources. For example, to monitor an outdoor carpark or an employee working in a remote area.

“Compared to cellular connectivity, Spark’s new long-range network is an affordable IoT option. It works with a wide range of low-cost sensor technologies that are significantly cheaper on average than sensors for cellular networks.”

Spark says the cost to use the network is based on the number of sensors connected, and the number of messages those sensors send each month. For example, a dairy farm in the Manawatu wanting an hourly update on the location and body temperature of its cows will pay up to NZ$1.79 per cow each month for connectivity. Designed for scale, the cost per connection decreases as the number of sensors increases.

Spark says it has been testing LoRaWAN technology on trial sites for well over a year, with partners from a range of industries, including agriculture, marine and smart buildings.

And the telco says that now the network has been switched on, councils are looking at how it can enable them to operate and maintain key infrastructure in smarter ways.

“NB Smartcities NZ, a local company offering smart city services, will look to utilise the new network for its smart outdoor lighting technology, amongst other solutions. This technology is now available to towns and cities throughout the country,” the telco says.

“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. 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.”

Claus Oustrup, director, NB Smartcities NZ, said, “The new Spark network offers real options to our council customers to leverage a range of smart city applications in addition to smart light technology. As we continue to develop leading-edge technology in the IoT space we are really excited about the options and solutions we can bring to market through this new Spark network.

“For many councils, having real-time data, asset information and being in control of these devices can increase customer service response times and create real benefits for communities. For example, street lighting can account for as many as 50% of call centre complaints. By having adaptable street lighting managed with real-time systems, these complaints can be quickly addressed, and their volume decreased.

“Previously there’s been no appropriate public network available for this kind of technology. To incorporate smart lighting, councils have seen it necessary to build networks, but this approach can involve ongoing liabilities. Further on, proprietary networks may not enable the full potential lowest cost when it comes to IoT capability and developments."

Stribling said the new network would enable more IoT technologies from overseas, like smart street lighting, to be adopted in New Zealand and it would also give New Zealand developers of IoT technologies the chance to launch their products in the country before taking them overseas.

“We’ve worked with the International LoRa Alliance to agree on Asia-Pacific standards so that products developed on LoRaWAN in New Zealand will work the same way on LoRaWAN networks in other countries.

“It’s Spark’s vision to help New Zealand businesses find their edge here in New Zealand and overseas. Connected technologies play a big role in bridging the geographical barriers we face as a country. It’s critical for us that the networks we provide enable New Zealand businesses to reach the world.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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