Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Antenna maker Taoglas spots shift from LoRa to NB-IoT

Steve Rogerson
November 20, 2018



Even though NB-IoT is still an emerging technology being tweaked by the mobile operators, there is already a move towards it and away from the likes of LoRa, according to Ronan Quinlan (pictured left), co-CEO of Irish antenna maker Taoglas, speaking at last week’s Electronica trade show in Munich.
 
“NB-IoT is still an emerging market,” he said. “The operators are still tweaking the network, so we are waiting a bit on what we are doing.”
 
His colleague, engineer Steafan Sherlock (pictured right), pointed out that a lot of countries still had a 2G implementation but already many had NB-IoT in place.
 
“They are transitioning over from LoRa and so on,” he said. “In the USA, they are moving from LoRa to Cat-M.”
 
Sigfox on the other hand is looking more secure.
 
“Sigfox will not be replaced any time soon,” said Quinlan. “The chips are cheap. There is still an argument to which of the technologies is cheapest. Sigfox has the advantage that it is doing roaming in various countries.”
 
LoRa, he said, still had its place for those building their own private networks.
 
“The benefit of NB-IoT is you can use a 2G or 4G module that has NB-IoT on it, so it can switch to 2G if NB-IoT is not working,” said Quinlan. “You haven’t got that with Sigfox, but in Germany and Benelux Sigfox is doing very well.”
 
Sherlock added that operators such as T-Mobile were taking IoT market share in the USA.
 
At Electronica, Taoglas was plugging its centimetre-level positioning antennas for vehicles. These are stacked patch antennas for GPS as opposed to single stacks used in vehicles today. These give the better accuracy that will be needed for autonomous vehicles.
 
“We are seeing a whole new market emerging around these antennas,” said Quinlan. “They can also be used for robot lawnmowers.”
 
The company has developed a polymer to make the antennas lighter, about 30% lighter than traditional ceramic units.
 
Also on show was the Shift, this is a software-defined smart antenna that will be launching early next year and can be embedded directly into vehicles to provide 5G connectivity.
 
“The likes of BMW are looking at 5G,” said Quinlan.
 
Sherlock added: “Shift is great because as the car drives through a city, there are buildings and other traffic that can interfere with signals. Shift can switch to better signals if the signal deteriorates.”
 
Quinlan said the company’s IoT business was “booming”, growing at 20 to 30 per cent a year. A big boom market was GPS antennas for e-scooters, that has gone quickly from zero to millions of units a year.
 
Taoglas was founded in Ireland about 15 years ago and has its largest production facility in Taiwan. There is a technical support centre in the USA and a base in Munich. And it has recently opened a Chinese operation.