Verizon LTE now available for IoT devices

Calif. winery is already testing sensor data over Verizon network bolstered by drone surveillance

Verizon on Tuesday announced U.S. availability of chipsets for Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can connect to its LTE network at speeds up to 10Mbps.

The carrier also said it began a pilot two weeks ago with drone partner PrecisionHawk to monitor a grape crop at the Hahn Estate winery in Soledad, CA. Verizon intends to use the drone pilot project to help develop mapping and analytics for agribusiness, then to sell its LTE network and IoT integration as a package deal to wineries.

Hahn winery photo Verizon

Verizon is working with the Hahn Family Estate winery to test a drone's high resolution photos of its vineyards. The photos can be compared with data from various sensors on the ground to detect soil moisture and more.

Verizon claimed it is the world's first carrier to offer Category 1 LTE network capabilities for IoT user equipment. Such features will allow Verizon customers to move from slower 2G speeds to 10Mbps with 4G LTE with the possibility of lower costs and power consumption. LTE network chipsets certified for Verizon's LTE come from Sequans and Altair; a Category 1 router from Encore is also certified.

Pricing was not disclosed.

Verizon also said it has added more developer tools from Bug Labs for building quick and easy applications to connect IoT devices to the Internet. The developer tools are part of the ThingSpace platform Verizon launched in October.

The drone trial will provide high resolution images of vineyards to help owners identify disease and estimate yields and harvest. The drones don't currently connect via LTE, and the data collected is downloaded once the drone lands.

Data from the crop images is compared with data gathered over LTE from various sensors near the growing vineyards. The sensors monitor weather conditions, mildew, soil moisture and other factors to help the winery make adjustments to increase crop yield.

The drone trial has operated under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval, and the agency would be required to approve any drone usage of LTE, said Mike Toto, director of new product development at Verizon. LTE on a drone could be used for relaying real-time data to manage crops, he said.

All the IoT sensors in the Hahn Estate pilot are aimed at producing a 10% increase in crop yield, a 30% drop in water and electricity expenses and a 10% reduction in operational costs. The impact of all the sensor monitoring and adjustments could also improve revenues with a higher-scored wine product.

Sensors at the vineyard transmit data over a 900 MHz network to an Intel gateway.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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