On land and in space, IoT networks can now cover the planet

Nokia's worldwide IoT grid is a managed service that ties together private and carrier networks with satellites

The whole idea of IoT is to connect more things, including devices far from a company’s data centers or maintenance crews. For enterprises that have things all over the world, vendors and service providers are starting to look at the big picture.

At Mobile World Congress later this month, Nokia will show off what it calls WING (worldwide IoT network grid), a virtual global infrastructure that may include multiple private and carrier networks and satellite systems, depending on what an enterprise needs to connect and how it intends to use the data that’s collected.

“A global enterprise can actually have what they think is their own virtual network of global connectivity for their IoT devices,” said Phil Twist, vice president of mobile networks marketing & communications, in a briefing this week. WING will be commercially available in the second half of this year.

Nokia announced WING on Friday, just days after Inmarsat started talking about its own foray into global IoT. The venerable satellite operator is linking low-power, unlicensed LoRaWAN networks with its worldwide fleet of spacecraft. Real-world use cases for that setup, including cattle-tracking in Australia and water monitoring on a remote plantation in Malaysia, hint at what’s possible with that combination.

WING is a broader vision of a managed service that may include low-power networks, cellular, Wi-Fi and wired infrastructure in addition to satellites. It doesn’t rely on Nokia hardware, so it can run on networks built by competing vendors. Nokia can virtually string together a set of networks for a service provider or for a multinational enterprise.

Companies could use WING to stay connected to networked cars or freight containers as they move around the world, automatically getting handed off from satellite to cellular and other networks as they come into range, Nokia says.

Nokia’s Impact IoT platform will manage all the devices and the subscriptions to various service providers. It can use eSIMs, a software-defined form of the Subscriber Identity Modules in cellphones, to shift devices from one carrier to another as they move across borders.

Impact will also analyze data coming from IoT devices, primarily for operational purposes like optimizing security and customer experience, but also for some vertical applications. The vertical-markets focus will be on the energy, health care, public safety, transportation and auto industries, plus smart cities. Impact already includes an analytics platform for streaming video, designed for things like monitoring traffic patterns.

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