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China: NB-IoT set to take off in 2019

“If 2017 is considered the first year of the NB‑IoT era, and 2018 the first year of its commercialization, 2019 will be the first year of boosting NB‑IoT development,” says Feng Dapeng, Director and Assistant of General Manager from Huizhong Instrumentation Co., Ltd.

NB‑IoT, short for Narrowband Internet of Things, is one of two licensed low power wide area (LPWA) technologies that have already begun to usher in a new era of cellular communications, driven by the expected benefits digitization will have across industries. And it is doing so by powering the less glamorous yet vital use cases that will make our cities smart, our supply chains connected, and factories digital.   

We’ve come to expect each new cellular communications technology to deliver data rates that make its predecessors feel sluggish. But like LTE‑M, the other licensed LPWA technology, NB‑IoT is tailored to the needs of applications at the other end of the spectrum: applications that operate on a tight power budget and transfer small amounts of data in infrequent bursts. Like water meters. 

China metering

Based in China, Huizhong Instrumentation Co., Ltd , Huizhong for short, is one the world’s leading water meter producers. It has been involved in the digital revolution since its inception. Now, the company is confidently placing its money on NB‑IoT. And it isn’t going it alone – far from it. The Chinese government wholeheartedly embraced NB‑IoT, and the country’s main telecom providers have catapulted China into the position of a global leader. Every month more and more tech giants and industry leaders are entering the market with NB‑IoT products and services, fueling further growth.

Huizhong’s product portfolio includes heat, water, and flow meters based on ultrasonic sensing. Their NB‑IoT ultrasonic water meter features micropower consumption technology, delivering a full decade of operation on a single battery, saving data every 30 minutes and wirelessly transmitting data once a day. While the “Made in China” label has become cliché, Huizhong has invested heavily in innovation with a customer‑first mindset and a strong focus on excellence in research and development, taking the new slogan of “Created in China” global.

metering_ChinaHuizhong is one of our key customers in APAC, and we contributed to the development of their NB‑IoT water meter, paving the way for a deep collaboration between our two companies, driven by the shared conviction of the role NB‑IoT will play in the smart sensing industry. And the partnership has been mutually beneficial. They say that it takes two to tango. Working with Huizhong, we’ve seen the benefits of pairing up to infuse a well‑established industry with new technologies.

According to Dapeng, Huizhong’s strategy has been to use their expertise to get ahead of market demand to speculate on the functions that need to be embedded into their sensors’ NB‑IoT modules. By providing our engineers at u‑blox with advice on the design and development of NB‑IoT products that better match customer and market demands, Huizhong has been able to accelerate their pace of innovation and shorten the time of product design, development, and marketing. This approach has helped the company maintain its leading position in the industry. And it goes without saying that these insights are invaluable to us at u‑blox.

While Huizhong has been able to easily navigate the regulatory environment at home, the company encountered unprecedented challenges abroad, most notably in Australia. In these situations, we’ve been able to lend our Chinese partners a hand, offering comprehensive consulting services in addition to our products and solutions. “Although the Australian authority's certification system is extremely complex and rigorous, the help from u‑blox has enabled us to deal with the local market and the government certification requirements more easily. We are deeply impressed with the company’s sincerity,” says Dapeng. 

By next year, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom’s NB‑IoT networks, recently commercialized, will be well established, offering virtually nationwide NB‑IoT coverage. The booming Chinese NB‑IoT market will generate considerable demand and offer an effective testbed for the rapidly maturing technology. And by fostering close working relationships between ourselves as technology and solution providers and companies like Huizhong, who have a deep understanding of the industries they serve, we will continue to have a front‑row seat to the ongoing digital revolution.