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Understanding and planning for your cellular IoT project costs is critical to its success, but uncovering those costs isn’t always easy – especially when it comes to data. It’s common to focus on data routing costs, but as you scale, sneaky hidden fees and unnecessary development expenses involving data can derail your initiative.

Now let’s dive into the ways in which hidden fees can potentially sink an IoT project and how you can avoid them.

1. Carrier Billing Practices

Most carriers bill for data usage by rounding the data used in each communications session up to some number, commonly 1,024 bytes. Sounds shady? Definitely, but this is typically the default, unless there is a direct negotiation and guarantees of high volume.

When an entire communications session is byte-optimized and may only be a fraction of what you are billed for, your projections for actual data costs vs. budgets are wildly out of sync.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: Byte-Optimized carrier billing of ‘wire’ data traffic

2. Data Volume

In some use cases, the volume of data being transmitted can be extremely high, especially over the lifetime of a device. Finding opportunities for data compression will stack up to some significant savings, but is generally implemented over time through costly data analysis and development work. This could be both compressing data on the IoT device to save on storage costs and compressing data that’s sent over the cellular network to reduce network traffic costs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: Data compression and byte-optimized protocols

3. Geolocation

Locating your device geographically is important in almost all solutions, from precise GPS location being streamed every few seconds, to knowing approximately where an indoor device might be located for customer support reasons. Geolocation can involve satellites, a single cell tower, triangulation of multiple cell towers, triangulation among multiple Wi-Fi access points, or the fusion of all these methods.

Whatever your use case, the conversion of cell tower IDs and Wi-Fi access point IDs to GPS location, and GPS location to ‘nearest city’, all involve complex cloud-based databases. Should you have to build this feature, you’re losing time and incurring development costs writing code that is not proprietary to your solution.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: Integrated Geolocation

4. Data Formatting

Platform imposed data structures and standardizations have their place in some IoT deployments, but they can slow your time to market and increase your development costs due to their inflexibility. Some platforms establish very tight constraints on the types of data that can be transferred from device to cloud. This is expensive and unnecessarily burdensome when you are developing both the device and cloud sides of an application for your own purposes.

It’s most critical for productivity that developers have complete freedom in rapidly designing and iterating their own free-form data schemas in a forward and backward compatible manner. The programming language JSON was designed for this specific purpose.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: Free-Form data formatting

5. Data Security

Network security is critical for every IoT deployment. Certain solutions where sensitive information and PII must be protected – such as remote patient monitoring devices – require an additional level of protection. It’s not just the device with the radio that needs to be secure, it’s also the communication of the data from device to cloud. That is something a lot of new IoT developers don’t know to consider.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: End-to-End encryption of data

6. Data Flow Transparency

Do you know the source of your data by device or fleet? Can you pinpoint routing errors? For many IoT developers these are not easy questions to answer. But, it’s critical to building a robust, secure fleet of devices that don’t result in an unexpectedly high support costs. We believe that by viewing this data flow visually, operational costs can be greatly reduced and problems can be solved much more quickly.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SOLUTION: Flexible viewing and analysis of routed events

Overcoming Hidden Data Costs

At Blues we are obsessed with removing the cost and complexity from cellular IoT. We are constantly optimizing our products for developers and to offer more business value. Here is a checklist of some of the cost-saving data features included with the Notecard and Notehub, and how it all works:

✅ Byte-optimized carrier billing of ‘wire’ data traffic

At Blues, cellular traffic sent over the Notecard with the bundled carrier is counted by the byte with no rounding.

✅ Queued data compression and Byte-optimized device <-> cloud ‘wire’ protocols

Notecard and Notehub work together to help you optimize the data that’s sent from your device to the cloud. With knowledge of the potential range of each and every data value being transmitted to the Notehub, a solution can give ‘hints’ to the Notecard and allows the developer to easily specify ‘templates’ for compressing data values. Common synchronization sessions are typically only a few hundred bytes total.

✅ Integrated Geolocation and accurate global and local time

Notecard seamlessly delivers geolocation without any additional cost, and data flowing out of the Notehub is automatically tagged with location without any effort by developers. These tags enable the application to understand which type of geolocation was used, what time the location was recorded, and the quality of the detected location.

Through a combination of geolocation data and “time zone offset” functionality, you can schedule work (such as uploads or downloads) to be done at, say, 2AM ‘local time’.

✅ Free-Form data formatting

Every message transferred by the Notecard and Notehub (referred to as a “note”) allows a full, unconstrained JSON object to be specified (referred to as its “body”) and also, optionally, an unconstrained binary object (referred to as its “payload”), for the greatest developer flexibility – free-form data formatting in JSON, in binary, or both. JSON is a language that is friendly to beginner developers, so you can often bypass the expense of high-skill IoT-specialized developers.

✅ End-to-End encryption

The Notecard’s default behavior is to provide TLS encryption of ‘over the air’ data between Notecard and Notehub, aimed at protecting against rogue network operators while still allowing for robust AIOps on the Notehub.

For highly sensitive PII, the Notecard makes it extremely easy to integrate end-to-end message encryption. Once your public keys are configured using environment variables, data is automatically encrypted and decrypted by the Notecard with no additional code necessitated on your microcontroller.

✅ Flexible viewing and analysis of routed events

The rolling log of Events in Notehub may be viewed on a project, fleet, or device basis, and devices can be referred to by the Serial Number of your own device that contains the Notecard.

It’s easy to see the location where Events are generated, the characteristics of the communications session when it was uploaded, as well as the data itself. It’s also apparent if there were any Routing errors for a given Event, and your operations personnel can automatically or manually retry failed routing attempts.

Project Success Starts with Removing Hidden Data Costs

There are a lot of factors that can make or break an IoT project, but cost and ROI are at the top of the list. Companies with successful IoT projects understand that it’s not just the glaringly obvious upfront costs that are critical to long-term project viability. Without understanding where hidden fees and high-skill development expenses can occur, your project could be one of the 58-75% of projects that fail.

Building the right IoT stack is imperative to reducing in-house development expenses. Connectivity can be incredibly complex and present budget-blowing technical challenges. Blues has made the investment to become a hyperscale cellular IoT solution provider capable of supporting you from POC to deployment of one device or thousands.

Why all of this investment in hyper-optimization? To make the best use of cellular data, and to make cellular IoT ‘actually’ possible for everyone. Learn how we just made data routing even easier.

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