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Essence Reinvents the Technology of IoT Devices: Leveraging LTE CAT-M1

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In today’s interconnected world, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become an integral part of our daily lives, revolutionizing the industries of healthcare and home security. Essence Group, with 30 years of experience in developing advanced technologies for the security and healthcare markets, recognized the need to move away from traditional systems reliant on central hubs and local infrastructure. This need posed a variety of technical challenges, notably, finding a communications infrastructure that facilitated connectivity and power autonomy while transmitting critical data at a sufficient rate. The solution was found in the new cellular technology of LTE CAT-M1. However, this technology had some inherent limitations that needed to be overcome. Being a pioneering company in the IoT space, Essence leveraged CAT-M1 technology and enhanced its capabilities, ushering in a new era of reliability and technological advancement in security and healthcare.

The Limitations of Existing IoT Technologies

IoT technology needed to make the leap to a more reliable and mobility-enabling phase. Traditional IoT systems often rely on central hubs and Wi-Fi connections, which can be vulnerable to interference, signal disruption, tampering, and power outages. They also have limited signal coverage, which limits the mobility of the devices they support. As the demand for reliable and mobile IoT devices continues to grow, it has become imperative to address these shortcomings by creating battery-powered security devices that connect directly to the cloud, simplify installation, and ensure portability. Enter LTE CAT-M1 technology.

What is CAT-M1?

LTE CAT-M1 (Category M1) is a low-power, wide-area (LPWA) cellular technology designed specifically for IoT applications. It offers a balance of power efficiency and bandwidth, making it suitable for IoT applications that don’t require high-speed connectivity. Unlike similar technologies, such as NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT), CAT-M1 offers enhanced capabilities that make it ideal for a wide range of IoT devices.

Essence recognized the potential of CAT-M1 early on and strategically chose this technology for its new innovative devices:

Umbrella: A mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS) based on LTE CAT-M1 cellular communications, with built-in fall detection, ideal for senior care, whether at home or on-the-go.

MyShield: An all-in-one standalone intruder intervention solution with on-board video camera for intrusion verification. The device can instantly fill a room with harmless yet disorienting smoke, forcing intruders to leave immediately.

What We Sought to Achieve Using CAT-M1 Technology

In designing Umbrella and MyShield, we wanted to ensure uninterrupted and continuous data communication, whether the device is stationary or mobile, and to dramatically increase the reliability and range of our products.

To achieve these goals, we needed to enable the following specifications:

Low Battery Consumption: Ensure extended device operation without the need for frequent battery changes or charging.

Independence from Central Hubs and Local Networks: Create devices that are portable, compact, and capable of connecting directly to the cloud, eliminating dependence on intermediary infrastructure.

Wider Signal Coverage: Enhancing the range of IoT devices for the purpose of mobility.

Overcoming the Limitations of CAT-M1

While CAT-M1 technology offered many advantages, Essence faced challenges related to the fact that CAT-M1 was not designed to provide the high-speed data transmission required for voice and video communications. We had to create a system that would take an IoT technology that did not have the bandwidth to support voice and video, and transform it into one that did.

Voice communication:

Essence’s team of experts embarked on a journey of innovation, developing a unique system from scratch that enabled CAT-M1 to effectively support voice communications, overcoming limitations in channel quality and latency. The company developed proprietary protocols for voice communication, including echo cancellation and data compression, ensuring real-time transmission over limited bandwidth.

Video transmission:

Real-time video was not an option due to the limited bandwidth, so we focused on file transfer rather than streaming, using advanced compression technologies to reduce bit and frame rates. We limited communication to very short clips and used high-end video compression technology (H.264/5) to minimize file size.

 The Future of IoT is Here

Essence’s breakthrough work on enhancing the functionality of the CAT-M1 technology allowed MyShield and Umbrella to be created as network and power-independent IoT devices. This innovative utilization of CAT-M1 technology has propelled our IoT devices into a new era of reliability and security. The use of CAT-M1 technology, whose modules and services are quickly becoming more cost-effective, provides greater control over communication channels in security and life-safety applications, particularly when it comes to battery-powered devices, opening up new possibilities for IoT innovation that will likely replace traditional hub-based technology.

We envision a future where homes and offices will not be reliant on local hubs or infrastructure to connect their myriad security and safety devices. Rather, all devices will connect directly to the cloud, simplifying implementation and integration. Technologies like CAT-M1 will be crucial to achieving this.

With MyShield and Umbrella, Essence has demonstrated its commitment to pushing the boundaries of technological advancement to provide consumers with peace of mind and unparalleled protection. By harnessing the power of CAT-M1 technology while adapting it to our unique needs, Essence has not only overcome technical hurdles, but also set a new standard for reliability and security in IoT devices. Essence continues to be at the forefront of leveraging new technologies to improve the security, reliability, and functionality of the IoT devices it creates. The future of IoT is here, and we are leading the way.

Author: Ohad Amir, Essence Group CTO

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