On the Use of Cellular IoT for Smart Grids and Smart Cities

Written by Sudhir K. Routray

The Cellular Internet of things (CIoT) are deployed alongside the mobile cellular infrastructure. These networks do not need too many extra resources for their operation. CIoT networks can be easily deployed with lower costs and lower complexities. In the smart grid and smart city initiatives, we need a lot of support functions from IoT. In this regard, CIoT can support them to a large extent. In this article, we list the main utilities of CIoT for smart grids and smart cities. We show that some of the CIoT based services are beneficial to both smart grids and smart cities.



Smart grids are large, interconnected heterogeneous grids which can provide multiple services over the grid infrastructure. Due to their multi-functional features, they need the support of large number of sensors and actuators. The Internet of Things (IoT) can provide all these supports and now became an integral part of the smart grids. Smart cities are large cities which are equipped with all the basic and modern facilities. Smart city initiatives are essential for the long term sustainability of the global cities and their progress. In fact, smart cities are impossible without IoT. The large number of services and their provisioning are simply not possible without the direct and indirect supports of the IoT. Similarly, the energy demand in the smart cities will increase due to the provisions for all modern facilities. These energy demands can only be provided efficiently through the smart grid initiatives. Therefore, we find that smart grids have a default presence in the smart cities. Just like smart cities, smart grids cannot be "smart" without IoT. In addition to that, a properly deployed IoT can serve the multiple service requirements of smart cities and smart grids. There have been several IoT solutions available in the recent years and cellular IoT (CIoT) solutions are the ones which can be deployed alongside the cellular networks. In fact, they use the same standards as the cellular infrastructure over which they are deployed[1]. In this article, we formulate the essential functions of the CIoT for smart cities and smart grids.


Cellular IoT

CIoT, also known as mobile IoT, was started as the solution for massive machine type communication (mMTC) through the mobile cellular architecture[1]. Cellular IoT is standardized according to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standards. CIoT standards are very similar to the standards of LTE. In Release 12, LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for machines) was standardized for mMTC applications and it was the first CIoT. However, it was not good enough to compete with the non-cellular IoT available at that time. Therefore, in Release 13, three different solutions were proposed in the CIoT framework: LTE-M (better than the Release 12 version), NBIoT (Narrowband IoT), and EC-GSM (Extended coverage GSM). All these solutions are now popular in different domains. These CIoT solutions provide long battery lives, wide coverage, consume lower amount of resources, and facilitate large number of connections[2]. Smart cities and smart grids are large scale projects which cover a wide area. These CIoT solutions are widely preferred for these applications because the costs of the infrastructure for these IoT are low and they can be deployed easily over the existing cellular infrastructure[3].


CIoT Solutions for Smart Grids and Smart Cities

All CIoT solutions are designed to provide mMTC solutions for various common applications. Out of the three, NBIoT is preferred in the majority of the large scale applications as it is suitable for low-power wide-area (LPWA) scenarios[2]. In case of smart grids and smart cities several LPWA applications are there. For instance, water leakage detection and automatic closing of the supplying pipes at the appropriate locations can be easily managed through a deployed NBIoT[3]. Similarly, leakage current detection in the insulators and its follow-up steps to avoid further damages can be provisioned in the NBIoT based solutions. We find a large number of such applications are possible using NBIoT for all these LPWA scenarios. In addition to these, there are several interdependent functions in which smart grids have to be used for the smart cities. In such cases, we also find that NBIoT can facilitate the use of smart grids for smart cities. For instance, the smart metering applications perfectly monitor the energy demands and provide a clear picture to the grid management. In smart cities these meters are essential to manage and monitor the energy demands. Overall, we find that CIoT-based solutions are essential for the long term sustainability of the smart grids and smart cities. While NBIoT is suitable for the LPWA applications, LTE-M is suitable for the applications where a larger bandwidth is needed.



  1. GSMA | GSMA Mobile IoT Initiatives | Licensed Low Power Wide Area Technology. [Online]. Available: https://www.gsma.com/iot/mobile-iot/ (last accessed on: 11 Jan 2022).
  2. S. K. Routray, D. Gopal, A. Javali, and A. Sahoo, “Narrowband IoT (NBIoT) Assisted Smart Grids,” in Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Smart Systems (ICAIS), pp. 1454-1458, Mar. 2021.
  3. S. K. Routray, K. P. Sharmila, E. Akanskha, A. D. Ghosh, L. Sharma, M. Pappa, “Narrowband IoT (NBIoT) for Smart Cities,” in Proc. of IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Communication Technologies and Virtual Mobile Networks (ICICV), pp. 393-398, Feb. 2021.




This article edited by Cesar Duarte.

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Sudhir K. Routray has volunteered for IEEE since last 21 years, since his early university years. He received his PhD degree from University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal where he worked on communication networks. He received his MSc degree in Data Communications from the University Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, and his BE degree in Electrical Engineering from Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology, Sarang, India. He has received several awards and fellowships for his research works. Currently, works as an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Bule Hora University, Bule Hora. He has more than 80 publications in journals, conferences, and books, mainly in IEEE. Currently, he is the PI of three funded projects.

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