How does 5G improve Internet of Things?

IoT and 5G are terms that probably almost everybody have come across by now. They are often used by technologists and sometimes politicians as they point at technology that will change our lives for the better. Sometimes they are discussed on their own, separately but more often than not they turn up together. So why is that – why is 5G an important enabler to further accelerate the usefulness of IoT?

Let’s start by sorting out what IoT is, on a high level.


This article is written by Jonas Morän, Business Development Manager at Smart Refill. It was first published 2020-08-06.

What is IoT?

Internet of Things, as the name implies, is basically when things – traffic counters, temperature sensors, pulse trackers, refrigerators, cars, shipping containers – gets equipped with sensors to gather some interesting data, small computers to manage it and network connectivity to send it to somewhere central for processing. Collecting this data enables the creation of some value or in other words services. Such a service could be the collection of of 24/7 blood sugar data from a diabetes patient. This rich data makes for a much better decision material for when the patient’s doctor prescribes the insulin dose compared to a one off test at the clinic.

Local or cellular network

The “Internet part” of IoT is of course quite central to the concept. To be able to send data, perhaps of several different types and multiple locations is the foundation for creating any IoT service. Crudely, the networking part of the IoT enablers can be divided into two basic alternatives – local and cellular wireless networks. Compare it to your WiFi at home and the mobile network for your smartphone.

If you are to build an IoT service for your warehousing company you’d probably set up a local network in your buildings and have all your devices connect to that. This network would probably be based on WiFi, Bluetooth, BLE, Zigbee or Z-Wave depending on the needs of your specific service.

But if you’d like to create an IoT service for your waste collection company you’d probably use the mobile cellular network for connectivity as your customers’ garbage bins are spread out over a large geographical area.

5G designed for IoT – evolution with dual purpose

Already today, in 2020, there are one billion IoT devices connected through cellular networks. So this is where 5G comes in… For the first time in the development of mobile cellular networking standards there has been a clear dual purpose with the 5G standard; The continued development of higher speeds but also the development of standards and protocols for low power, low latency applications with limited need for high data rates.

In addition to the dual focus on speed and low power there is also provisions in the network to split a single network into different segments that have different priority, among other characteristics. Compare it to having dedicated lanes for ambulances on a highway.

How can future IoT services use 5G in different ways?

So this allows for services with vastly different requirements

At one end of the scale, Ericsson calls it Massive IoT, a service might upload your body vitals and exercise data live to a service that provide you with coaching feedback in real time. It’s not really critical that you get the instruction to slow down your pace one second sooner or later and you don’t really need to send nor receive a lot of data. Here 5G provides the low power capabilities that makes it possible to design a sleek and lightweight wearable device that monitor your exercise activities.

At the other end, which is named Critical IoT by Ericsson, a highly specialised surgeon could operate on a patient in a disaster area remotely without having to travel there physically. This scenario requires low latency, to provide minimal lag as the surgeon operates via robotic tools, as well as high bandwidth to send the video feed of the surgery to the remote control centre.


This article is written by Jonas Morän, Business Development Manager at Smart Refill. It was first published 2020-08-06.

Taking IoT to the market: SIM:s, payments and service providers

As the number if use cases for IoT on 5G will continue to grow dramatically both in B2B and B2C scenarios there are 2 mechanisms that will have to be solved in all of them:

  1. Primarily each connected device will need to have a SIM, most probably an eSIM where the SIM profile is provisioned as a small piece of software, with an associated subscription that’s managed over time.
  2. There will also be a need for a mechanism to provide payment for the service provided based on the connected device. Compare to the scenarios where for one, you could get an autonomous lawn mower that’s connected to the cellular network and you pay a monthly subscription for that. On the other hand you could subscribe to a “never worry about cutting your grass – we’ll do it for you” service that deploy a lawn mower on your property only when it’s needed.

Smart Refill have worked with the leading telecom operators in the Nordic region since 2006 with a prepaid subscription platform as a service. We look forward to keep supporting the business needs of telecom operators in the IoT and 5G era.

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