Telit Cinterion Takes Smart Steps to Revitalize LPWA through AI and NTN with Alif, floLIVE, and Skylo

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Jamie Moss | 1Q 2024 | IN-7242

Selectively-enabled Artificial Intelligence (AI) chipsets can provide the power control needed to extend edge computing to Cat-M and Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connections. This will allowing cellular Low-Power Wide Area (LPWA) connectivity to expand its utility and value; in a much-needed reaffirmation, the Vision AppKit connected camera is a first possible Proof of Concept (PoC). Meanwhile, Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs) could take LPWA from the mass market to the most valuable connected assets.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Next-Generation Smart Connectivity


At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2024, cellular Internet of Things (IoT) module specialist Telit Cinterion made two important announcements for developing next-generation smart connectivity. First was a partnership between with Alif Semiconductor to combine Alif’s Ensemble E3 Microcontroller Unit (MCU) with Telit’s ME310 module, to create the Vision AppKit. The Vision AppKit is a connected camera reference design developed for video-based edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, such as face recognition, object detection, and image classification. Telit’s second announcement was a partnership with cellular Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) floLIVE and virtual satellite constellation operator Skylo to provide terrestrial and space-based connectivity, respectively, for Telit’s ME910G1 and ME310G1 OneEdge modules.

Enriching the Sorely Commoditized 


Alif’s Ensemble E3 MCU is designed to operate with minimal power consumption. It contains two cores, one “High-Efficiency” that consumes little power, and one “High-Performance,” but with a greater power drain. The two cores are accompanied by multiple micro–Neural Processing Units (NPUs), hence the product moniker “Ensemble.” Each of these components is selectively enabled depending on the changing Machine Learning (ML) performance requirements of a device by Alif’s proprietary aiPM power management logic. This means that logic circuitry is only active when it needs to be and that power usage becomes dynamic, only being consumed when it needs to be. Greater total performance, with a lower average power is intended to maximally reduce inference time, i.e., how quickly an edge device can autonomously compute a result.

FloLIVE is a relatively new MVNO that launched with the intention of selling private IoT networks to enterprises and virtual global IoT networks to other service providers: domestic Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), and other MVNOs. This was a bold and innovative strategy in a market filled with MVNOs selling Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards and connectivity to companies wanting to roll out networks of connected devices. Lastly, despite only launching commercially in 2021, Skylo has rapidly became a favorite partner for cellular service providers seeking Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs), by aggregating the existing infrastructure of established satellite constellations and combining that with cutting-edge cellular standards to link these once separate domains. NTN was standardized in The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Release 17 in 2022 and is a hot topic, enabling direct-to-satellite communications from ground-based cellular devices.

It is significant that Telit’s new partnerships specifically complement its ME310 and ME910 modules, which are Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) designs with Cat-M and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) connectivity. Both announcements apply to the ME310, which also has 2G fallback, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning, and is a Telit OneEdge product. OneEdge is an embedded IoT connectivity service providing a set number of push or pull communications per month, anywhere in the world, for a guaranteed price. This guarantee is based on each Internet Protocol (IP) message being a set size, resulting in a known amount of data to be transferred, and paid for by Telit to its wholesale partners. Alif, floLIVE, and Skylo’s products and services enrich the sorely commoditized cellular LPWA by making it useful for a greater number of applications that would have otherwise required greater bandwidth and/or more expensive connectivity, but with the same avoidance of bill shock.

High Availability Is Worth a Premium 


One of the first proposed 5G use cases was the value-added layering of video services on top of existing connected devices and IoT services. But this was always considered in a broadband, video-streaming context, and not a situational trigger-based, battery-powered context. Alif’s conscious aim with its Ensemble E3 MCU is to innovatively focus on the lowest possible power consumption, thereby encouraging miniaturization, lower cost, and mass production—in this particular case, of a connected camera. LPWA has never been considered suitable for remote, real-time, wireless video surveillance, as its bandwidth is low, and its battery power would be quickly drained. But on-demand short-term activation of the edge processing required to confirm what data should be sent and when saves that battery and bandwidth, extending its utility. It is interesting and very exciting to see the expansion of cellular LWPA use cases, as well as the confluence of massive IoT and AI, in creating smarter and more feature-rich sensors.

Meanwhile, the guaranteed global connectivity from floLIVE and Skylo is intended to target high-value mobile assets, such as shipping containers, agricultural vehicles, and trucks, so that these assets can be tracked and monitored constantly worldwide. This tantalizingly hints at increasing the value of cellular LPWA, from beyond just the lowest-cost and most mass-market devices, to serving the most valuable individual IoT endpoints, by virtue of the business-critical guarantees of anytime, anywhere location through a combination of minimal power consumption, with maximal service coverage. This has interesting implications for the value-based pricing of end-to-end IoT systems based on LPWA connectivity. Low power enables low cost, but it also enables high availability, which, in turn, can be worth a premium. It is also exciting to see NTN being applied directly to an IoT-specific application, proving that the IoT can be an active driver for NTN service rollouts.

Cellular LPWA needs a pick-me-up and an image boost after its disappointingly slow uptake, despite earnestly enthusiastic network deployments by wireless carriers, and chipset development by semiconductor manufacturers, ever since 2016. LPWA has suffered with the business model questions of how can wireless carriers make meaningful returns from such small amounts of data, and how can module vendors afford to support hardware for the duration of its lifetime if its upfront physical shipment value is necessarily so low. Other module vendors, systems integrators, and embedded systems developers should take note of the complementary nature of LPWA, AI, and NTN, with the next step being for integrating low-power AI chips directly into the module, or maybe even into the System-on-Chip (SoC) with the cellular baseband modem if the appetite for further development exists and if demonstration cases like the Vision AppKit take off and fire the IoT market’s imagination.



Companies Mentioned