Reflections on National NB-Fi Standard and Billing Systems
Briefly about the main thing
In 2017, a note appeared on Habré: “ A draft national standard NB-FI for the Internet of Things has been submitted to Rosstandart .” In 2018, the Cyberphysical Systems Technical Committee worked on three IoT projects :
GOST R Information Technologies. Internet of things. Terms and definitions ”,
GOST R“ Information technology. Internet of things. The reference architecture of the Internet of things and the industrial Internet of things ”, GOST R“ Information technology. Internet of things. Narrow Band Spectrum Interchange Protocol (NB-FI). ”
In February 2019, it was approvedPNST-2019 “Information Technology. Internet of things. Protocol for wireless data transmission based on narrow-band modulation of the radio signal NB-Fi ". From April 1, 2019, it began to operate and will end its action on April 1, 2022. Over the three years of operation, the preliminary standard should be tested in practice, its market potential should be evaluated, amendments to the standard prepared.
In the media, the document is actively positioned as “the first national standard of the Russian IoT, with the prospect of becoming an international standard” and an example is the project implemented in NB-Fi “VAVIOT” in Kazakhstan .
Uhhh. How many links are in such a short text. Here is the final link of this section- the text of the preliminary standard in the first edition for those who are too lazy to google. It is better to look at the performance characteristics of the standard in this document, we will not mention them in the article.
About IoT data transfer standards
On the network, you can come across a value of about 300 protocols / technologies for transferring data between devices that can be attributed to IoT. We live in Russia, work on B2B, so in the publication we will touch on only a few:
Cellular standard for telemetry devices. One of the three that are implemented in LTE Advanced networks is NB-IoT, eMTC and EC-GSM-IoT. In 2017-2018, the Big Three mobile operators of the Russian Federation deployed network sections working with NB-IoT. Operators do not forget about eMTC and EC-GSM-IoT, but we will not select them separately now.
It operates on unlicensed frequencies. The standard is well told in the article of the end of 2017 “What is LoRaWan” on Habré. Lives on Semtech chips.
It operates on unlicensed frequencies. Domestic supplier of solutions for housing and communal services and other industries. Uses its own XNB protocol. They talk about production in Russia, but promise to ensure mass production of chips in Russia only in 2020, while they live on ON Semiconductor (ON Semiconductor AX8052F143).
- Fresh NB-Fi
It operates on unlicensed frequencies. Uses the same ON Semiconductor AX8052F143 chip as the Strizh, TTX are similar, also announcements of the production of their own chips in Russia. In general, the relationship is traceable. The protocol is open.
About integration with billing
For those who tried to assemble a “smart home”, it quickly becomes obvious that the use of sensors from different manufacturers is significantly complicated. Even if we see one inscription on communication technology on two devices, it turns out that they do not want to communicate with each other.
In the B2B segment, the situation is similar. Protocol, chip developers want to make money. Starting a project with LoRa, you will need to buy equipment on Semtech chips anyway. Paying attention to a domestic manufacturer, you can get a load of buying services and base stations, and in the future, with the successful launch of chip production in Russia, potentially equipment / components can only be purchased from a limited number of vendors.
We work with telecom equipment and it is common for us to receive data on the telemetry of equipment, aggregate, normalize and transfer it further to various information systems. Forward to us, Forward TI (Traffic Integrator) is responsible for this block of work. In a typical version, it looks like this:
In the case of expanding customer needs for data collection, additional modules are connected:
The estimated growth rate of the IoT devices market is 18-22% per year in the world and up to 25% in Russia. In April, at the IoT Tech Spring 2019 in Moscow, Andrey Kolesnikov, director of the Internet of Things Association, announced annual growth of 15-17%, but different information goes around the network. In April 2019, the RIF on the slides provided data on the annual growth of the Russian Internet of things market at 18% until 2022, the volume of the Russian market in 2018 was also indicated there - $ 3.67 billion. What is characteristic, the reason for today's article “The first Russian document on standardization in the field of IoT ...” was also mentioned on the same slide. In our opinion, there is already a real need to integrate UNB / LPWAN base stations and telecommunication servers into billing systems.
The data transfer protocol or the implementation of the transport function in general will not be of great importance (we are again talking about the fact that IoT is not just an iron connected to the Internet, but an infrastructure or ecosystem). Data will be collected from completely different devices and the payload will also be different. It is unlikely that an electricity supplier company will build one data collection network, a gas supplier its second network, a third sewage service, etc. This is not rational and looks unlikely.
This means that in a conditional location they will organize a network on one principle and one organization will collect data. We call such an organization an operator-data aggregator.
The aggregator operator can be a service department that provides only data transfer, or a full-fledged intermediary that takes care of all the difficulties in charging, arranging payment for the services provided, interacting with end customers, customers and service providers.
Many times I saw people scooping out pieces of 5 receipts per month from the mailbox, for me this situation is familiar. Separate receipt for gas, separate for electricity, separate for major repairs, separate for water, separate for house maintenance. And this is not counting the payment of monthly bills that exist only online - payment for Internet access, mobile, subscriptions to various services of content providers. Somewhere you can set up auto payment, somewhere you can’t. But the general situation is such that it is already becoming a tradition - to sit down once a month and pay all bills, the process can stretch for half an hour or an hour, and if once again something is wrong in the suppliers' information systems, you have to transfer part of the payments to another day . I would prefer to interact with one service provider on all issues, rather than dividing your attention into a dozen paychecks and sites. Modern banks simplify life, but not completely.
Therefore, the automatic collection of data on consumed services and the transfer for the end customer of payment for services in one "window" is a blessing. The data collection mentioned above through traffic integrators like our Forward TI is just the tip of the iceberg. The traffic integrator is the first line through which telemetry data and payload will be collected, and unlike providers, which are important in terms of the volume of traffic consumption, IoT will give priority to the payload.
Let us look at a close example to us from a telecom what the first line does. There is an operator that provides communication services. A call lasts 30 minutes. 15 minutes of the call fell on one day, 15 on the other. The telephone exchange at the border of the day divided the call and recorded it in 2 CDRa, essentially making two out of one call. TI, by indirect indications, will glue such a call and transmit data about one call to the charging system, although two data came from the equipment. At the level of data collection there should be a system that can resolve such conflicts. But the next system should receive already normalized data.
The information in the traffic integrator is not only normalized, but also enriched. Another example: data for zone charging are not coming from the telephone exchange, but we know from which location the call was made and TI adds information about the geographical charging zones to the data that it transfers to the next information system. Similarly, you can put down any calculated parameters. This is an example of simple zoning or data enrichment.
Another traffic integrator feature is data aggregation. Example: data is sent from equipment every minute, and TI sends data per hour to the accounting system. Only the data required for charging and billing remains in the accounting system, instead of 60 entries only one is made. In this case, a backup of the "raw" data occurs in case of the need for their processing.
We will continue to develop the idea of an aggregator that has become a full-fledged intermediary. Such an operator will maintain a data collection network and share telemetry and payload. Telemetry will be used for their own needs, maintaining the data collection network in good condition, and the payload will be processed, enriched, normalized and transferred to service providers.
A moment of self-promotion, because it’s easier to illustrate on your software than to come up with abstract examples.
On this line, the aggregator uses in its inventory:
- Billing, which takes into account the receipt of prepared data from TI, their binding to registered consumers (subscribers), the correct billing of these data in accordance with the used tariff plan, the formation of accounts and receipts, the receipt of funds from subscribers and posting them to the corresponding accounts and balances.
- PC (Product Catalog) for creating complex package offers and service management as part of these packages, setting rules for connecting additional services.
- BMS (Balance Manager), this system must necessarily be multi-balance, flexible management of charges for various services will be required, it will also make it possible to use several specialized billing systems serving individual services and aggregate the payments received from them in relation to the total balance of the subscriber.
- eShop for interacting with end consumers, creating a public showcase of services, providing access to your Personal Account with all modern goodies such as statistics on the use of services, switching services online, applying for new services.
- BPM (Business Processes) Automation of aggregator business processes aimed both at servicing subscribers and interacting with service providers.
Here the most interesting from my point of view begins.
Firstly, there is a need for PRM (Partner Management System) class systems, which will allow flexible management of agent and partner schemes. Without such a system, managing the work of partners and suppliers will be difficult.
Secondly, there is a need for DWH (Data Warehouse) for analysis. There is where to deploy with BigData on telemetry and payload data, here the creation of showcases for BI tools and analysis at various levels will go.
Thirdly, well, like a cherry on a cake, you can supplement the complex with a forecasting system such as Forward Forecast. This system will allow you to train the mathematical model underlying the system, segment the subscriber base, generate forecasts of consumption and behavior of subscribers.
The rather complex information architecture of the aggregator operator looms in aggregate.
Why do we single out three lines in the article and not combine them? The fact is that several aggregated parameters are usually important for a business system. The rest is needed for monitoring, maintenance, reporting analysis and forecasting. Detailed information is required for security and Big Data, because we often do not know what parameters and criteria go into analyzing Big Data analytics, so all data is transferred to DWH in its original form.
In business systems with management functions - billing, PRM, some of the parameters that came from the equipment and telemetry are no longer needed. Therefore, we filter out the extra fields, remove them. If necessary, we enrich the data according to some rules, aggregate it and, in conclusion, normalize it for transfer to the business system.
So it turns out that the first line collects raw data for the third line and adapts them for the second. The second works with normalized data and ensures the operational activities of the enterprise. The third allows you to select growth points from raw data.
What do we expect in the future about the economics of IoT projects
First, about the economy. Above we wrote about the volume of the market. It seems that quite a lot of money is already involved. But we saw how the economy of projects that tried to implement with our help or that we were invited to evaluate does not converge. For example, we calculated the creation of MVNO for M2M using sim cards to collect telemetry from a certain type of equipment. The project was not launched because the economic model was not viable.
Large telecom organizations are moving to the IoT market - they have the infrastructure, ready-made technologies. There are very few new human subscribers in Russia. But the IoT market offers great opportunities for growth and additional profit from their networks. While the preliminary national standard is being tested, while small enthusiastic companies are choosing different options for implementing UNB / LPWAN, a large business will invest in capturing the market.
We believe that over time, one single standard / data transfer protocol will begin to dominate, as was the case with cellular communications. After that, the risks will decrease, equipment will become more affordable. But the market by that time could already be half taken.
Ordinary people get used to the service, it is convenient for them when the automated devices take into account water, gas, electricity, the Internet, sewage, heat, provide security and fire alarms, panic buttons, and video surveillance. People will mature for the massive use of IoT in the housing sector in the future for the next 2-5 years. It will take a little more to entrust robots with a refrigerator and an iron, but this time is also not far off.
The preliminary national standard NB-Fi was loudly announced as a contender for international recognition. Among the advantages are the low cost of radio transmitters for devices and the possibility of their production in Russia. Back in 2017, in the aforementioned article on Habré it was announced: A
base station of the standard NB-FI will cost in the region of 100-150 thousand rubles, a radio module for connecting the device to the network - about 800 rubles, the cost of controllers for collecting and transmitting information from the meter - up to 200 rubles, the cost of the battery is 50-100 rubles.
But so far these are only plans and in fact an important part of the element base for devices is produced abroad. The PNST itself explicitly states ON Semiconductor AX8052F143.
I would like to hope that the NB-Fi protocol will be truly open and accessible, without speculation on import substitution and imposition. Will become a competitive product.
IoT is fashionable. But we must remember that, first of all, the “Internet of things” is not about the itemization and hanging of sending data to the cloud with everything that is possible. “Internet of Things” about Machine-to-Machine infrastructure and optimization. Wireless data collection from electricity meters is not an IoT per se. But the automated distribution of electricity to consumers from several sources - state, private suppliers - for the entire village is already similar to the original concept of the Internet of things.
What standard would you build your data collection network on? Have any hopes for NB-Fi, is it worth investing in the development of billing systems for collecting data from devices of this standard? Maybe participated in the implementation of IoT projects? Share your experience in the comments.
And good luck!