COPENHAGEN – Add wireless M-Bus to the growing list of communications protocols gaining a foothold in the Internet of Things. A smart city project in Italy is installing 25,000 M-Bus systems this month in a one-year pilot project, inspired in part by plans of the country’s utility to deploy as many as 12 million nodes.
The 169 MHz technology was chosen in part because it is a European standard (EN 13757-4), and it comes at much lower cost and power than cellular alternatives. “LTE-M and cellular IoT technologies are promising, but they are two to three years away,” said Roberto Gavazzi, Telecom Italia’s program manager for its smart cty project in Turin where the wireless M-Bus systems are now being deployed.
The Turin project is part of a European Union joint research effort on smart cities called Almanac that also includes Copenhagen and Stockholm. So far only Turin has chosen to adopt M-Bus, and the other cities are free to make different choices.
A wireless M-Bus node already running in Turin's smart city project.
A host of low power wide area networks such as LoRa, Sigfox and Ingenu are jumping in to fill the cellular gap, but none of them are based on standards. The European Commission set the wireless M-Bus standard in 2005.
Italy’s utility stated an intention to network 60% of its gas meters, or 12 million systems, by 2018 using M-Bus. “Twelve million end points is quite a significant number,” said Gavazzi, in a talk at a smart city event here.
France also has plans to deploy wireless M-Bus in the 169 MHz band for its gas and water meters starting next year, according to a source in Texas Instruments that makes chips for the link. Germany and the Netherlands are adopting the technology in the 868 MHz band, the representative said.
The approach makes sense for Telecom Italia because it can deploy the wireless M-Bus in parallel to its cellular network using its existing expertise, antennas and towers. Nevertheless the carrier still faces a big job laying out a wireless M-Bus coverage map for Turin.
The carrier commissioned its system division, Olivetti, to build about a dozen wireless M-Bus concentrators for the network. “The [M-Bus] market is still not mature so we decided to develop them internally,” Gavazzi said.
An online buyer’s guide for M-Bus lists dozens of mainly small vendor companies. Chip suppliers include Silicon Labs as well as TI, which helped develop the original specification as a low cost network for utility meters.
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