agriculture drone appsVerizon’s dedicated Internet of Things network based on the LTE Cat1 standard is now available for use, the company said this week. The company also announced the availability of several new developer tools on its ThingSpace IoT platform. The news comes just a few weeks after the company announced its Cat1-based IoT strategy and highlighted opportunities in several key areas, including pharmaceuticals, the smart city and in agriculture.

Agricultural Drone Apps
Verizon again called out agricultural opportunities in this week’s release, even noting early adopter agricultural drone trials in the subtitle to the release. But LTE was not an element of the drone trials conducted to date, according to a company spokesperson, who declined to provide details beyond the sketchy outline included in the release.

According to the release, data collected from aerial agricultural drones to “run specific crop algorithms” could “help vineyard owners identify disease, estimate yield and harvest more effectively.” It would appear that LTE might be used to communicate information gathered from a drone to a central database, but the spokesperson declined to confirm what role LTE might play in this application. She said the company was waiting for guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration on this issue.

Cat 1 LTE and IoT
As Telecompetitor previously reported, LTE Cat1 networks such as Verizon’s are designed specifically for low-cost applications, and according to Cat1 component manufacturer Sequans, can provide maximum throughput of 10 Mbps downstream and 6 Mbps upstream. Sequans says Cat1 modules are less costly than 3G modules. And considering that network operators are beginning to shut down the 2G networks that traditionally underpinned IoT applications, Cat1 offerings would appear to be a strong alternative to 3G options.

Verizon in its previous IoT release noted that using Cat1 could eliminate the need to use Bluetooth, Zigbee or Wi-Fi base stations or gateways. Currently the relatively high cost of cellular IoT modules has driven some IoT manufacturers to use the gateway approach to minimize the number of modules needed. But Verizon apparently is hoping the cost of Cat1 devices will be low enough that each device supporting an IoT app will have its own Cat1 connection directly to the Verizon network.

Sequans is one of two chipset vendors, along with Altair, whose chipset platforms have been certified on Verizon’s LTE network, according to this week’s release. It would appear that the statement refers specifically to Cat1 LTE chipset platforms, as the carrier also noted that it has certified IoT routers from Encore Networks.

The new developer tools on Verizon’s ThingSpace platform include the integration of Bug Labs’ dweet APIs and freeboard visualization engine.

Image courtesy of flickr user Lars Plougmann.