By Nam Nguyen and Nadeen Jayasundara, Co-Chairs of the IoT Alliance Australia (IoTAA) Collaboration Workstream

While it’s acknowledged that Regional Australia has a Digital Divide versus metro urban areas, this disadvantage is often focussed on voice, mobile and broadband connectivity. The demand for data is relatively the same (or arguably greater) for regional communities and businesses. The success of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions has the potential to supercharge regional economies and improve livelihoods, or worsen the divide.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to connecting devices or systems with embedded sensors to the internet so that they can send and receive data remotely. IoT, in effect, is all about data. It’s about collecting appropriate data, storing, processing and transforming it into insights, enabling targeted data users to act for their particular purposes and benefits.

What is IoT?

To be successful, IoT solutions need three critical elements:

  1. IoT sensors/devices – required for data generation, and often they generate large volumes of it
  2. Connectivity – some form of connectivity is required to transport data to and from IoT devices/sensors. It is mainly for transporting data from IoT devices to the cloud for storage and processing. Without connectivity, there is no Internet of Things
  3. Data Analytics, AI/ML, Storage and Computing – sensor data needs to be cleansed, transformed, processed, and analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) methods such as machine learning (ML) to derive insights for business decisions or inputs to drive process automation. Often these tasks are done centrally in cloud platforms, on servers in data centres typically located in or near the major cities

Additional infrastructure is required on top of the above elements to make any IoT application accessible to end users, compliant with regulatory requirements, and purposeful.

Successful implementation of IoT applications needs reliable IoT devices, the availability of digital connectivity and access to connectivity, and computing resources for data storage, processing and enrichment, i.e. artificial intelligence/machine learning.

There are examples of successful IoT deployments from multiple industry sectors in Australia, from smart cities to smart buildings, construction, utilities, manufacturing and logistics, and the entertainment sector, to name a few.

The majority of these IoT deployments, however, are found in urban or populated areas, where there are multiple connectivity options, and access to public or private cloud computing resources is not of any concern, regardless of the requirements of the IoT solu

tions, such as bandwidths, the volume of data, and or latency.

The most common connectivities for connecting IoT devices to cloud platforms are:

LoRaWAN – an LPWAN, or low power wide area network technology that uses a licensed-free spectrum, the ISM band. LoRaWAN coverage delivered by many LoRaWAN network providers

SigFox – an ultra narrowband technology that also uses the ISM band and is provided by a private operator. Coverage is generally based on enterprise requirements, which are often private and therefore not available for public use

LTE-M/NB-IoT – public LPWAN, cellular-based technologies provided by the telcos, and coverage is extensive, from 80 to 98 per cent population coverage, depending on each cellular operator. There is only one provider of LTE-M network

LTE – broadband network with extensive coverage by all three telcos. All three Australian telcos have LTE networks with wide bandwidths, with downlink speeds of up to one Gbps, and can transport large volumes of data between devices/edge and cloud

5G – the next generation cellular technology from LTE. It offers large bandwidt

h and faster speed and can support many more IoT devices per cell than LTE. 5G coverage is not as extensive as LTE but is growing gradually

Ethernet LAN via Fixed NBN (National Broadband Network) – also widely available to most homes and businesses. NBN speeds vary from tens of Mbps to one Gbps.

Wi-Fi – is widely available to homes and most businesses.

The real value of IoT is unlocked when IoT data is sent to IoT platforms, often in centralised servers and data centres, for storage, processing and analysed with the use of artificial intelligence such as machine learning.

How is this different in regional and rural Australia?

Most population areas have choices for connectivity and access to cloud computing platforms. In contrast, in sparsely populated regional and rural areas, public cellular (LTE) networks and NBN fixed services do not extend beyond most regional centres, leaving regional businesses and consumers with no or limited connectivity.

NBN has been the only service provider offering satellite broadband services. However, it still falls short of regional business requirements in terms of bandwidths and speeds. Despite having limited connectivity to the internet, it has not stopped the deployment of IoT solutions and innovation in regional areas.

Many smart IoT use cases have found their way to farms, mine sites, paddocks, water and environmental monitoring, local council services and public safety, and regional businesses and industry hubs.

IoT devices are connected through a local network, using LoRaWAN, Sigfox, private LTE networks, or other private radio networks such as Taggle. New, innovative IoT satellite networks are emerging, offering narrowband, non- real-time services. More broadband satellite providers such as Starlink are starting to offer new innovative services that would be more attractive to regional areas.

Technology plays a major role in innovation. The lack of digital infrastructure, i.e. connectivity in regional and rural Australia, and local access to cloud computing and data centre resources directly affect IoT performance through low latency, real-time data and decision-making, costs and productivity.

How edge computing can help unlock the value of IoT deployments in regional Australia

Edge computing brings computing power, data storage, and networking capabilities closer to IoT deployments. There are different implementations of edge computing. Edge computing can also be known as:

On-premises/on-premises edge – where computing capabilities are geographically close to the IoT devices. Usually hosted on-premises and owned by the enterprise.

Edge cloud – where computing capabilities are implemented in regional, distributed edge cloud, or edge data centres. An example could be an edge data centre in the regional/rural areas providing computing capabilities. Edge cloud is usually hosted by data centre operators.

Implementing edge computing with IoT deployment can bring many benefits, including:

  • Edge computing can solve real-time problems. By processing IoT data as near the sources as possible, results can be made available in or near real-time, enabling immediate decisions and consistent experiences
  • Instead of constantly sending data to the cloud, only results are sent, reducing connectivity costs. Edge computing reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent away to a centralised cloud-based location
  • Real-time IoT applications such as process automation can be realised with edge computing as latency can be significantly reduced and performance increased
  • Edge computing also reduces IoT security risks associated with cloud computing, as data is not centrally stored, thus increasing resiliency

IoT deployments with edge computing capabilities enable improved IoT performance through low latency, real-time data and decision-making. This can bring significant cost reduction and increase productivity.

Regional deployment combined with the growing importance and innovations in sustainability (energy, land, water, food), AgTech and precision farming, smart mining and intelligent transport, provides the opportunity to supercharge regional and rural Australia economies and communities.

These views are of a personal nature in representation of IoTAA only. For more information, please visit

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