Wirepas gears up for massive IoT challenge

Who will save the world from bad IoT? That's a question perhaps being asked by many, and a problem that a small Finnish wireless connectivity specialist called Wirepas is hoping to solve.

Indeed, Wirepas has just unveiled a further evolution of its technology that it claims will remove many of the existing obstacles in industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) deployments, such as cost and ease of implementation.

The specialist already provides Wirepas Massive (previously Wirepas Mesh), a hardware-independent radio communication protocol for decentralized networking to support large-scale IoT applications. The pitch for Wirepas Massive is that it can connect potentially billions of devices using 2.4GHz spectrum.


It's in the clouds: Bad IoT is a problem – but Wirepas thinks it might have the solution. (Source: jeferrb from Pixabay)

Now, it is working on what it is calling Wirepas Private 5G. According to Teppo Hemiä, CEO at Wirepas, the new product should be on the market next year. In the meantime, Wirepas is seeking partners to help develop a wider ecosystem and build momentum.

Standards, please

Wirepas Private 5G is based on a new standard, DECT-2020 NR, which was published by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in October 2020.

It's an evolution of the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) ETSI standard for short-range cordless communications, and is also on track to be included in upcoming releases for the 5G standard, which in turn is evolving to support massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

Hemiä noted that Wirepas has been the key contributor in developing the DECT-2020 NR standard. Indeed, Jussi Numminen, the vice chair of the ETSI Technical Committee DECT, is also head of radio strategy and IPR at Wirepas.

According to ETSI, DECT-2020 NR was developed to support broad and diverse wireless IoT applications requiring both ultra-reliable and low-latency communication needed in voice and industrial applications.

It also supports massive machine-type communication with millions of devices in a network required in use cases such as logistics, asset tracking and more.

ETSI also notes that the DECT-2020 NR physical layer is in principle suited to address any frequency bands below 6GHz. For now, it is set to use the dedicated global frequency band at around 1.9GHz.

No cellular here

The principles behind Wirepas are that it is based on a decentralized network topology using a software licensing model, and that it is a non-cellular technology — unlike low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies such as narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), LoRa and LTE-M.

Its aim is to allow any enterprise to set up and manage its own network autonomously — without the involvement of middlemen, including mobile operators.

"We started from a clean slate," said Hemiä. "We did not try to push old cellular technology to new limits."

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Wirepas has some bold ambitions. It said it is seeking to "democratize" the way in which IoT can be built and offer a more affordable way to deploy thousands and even millions of connected devices.

The company is a 2010 spinoff from the University of Tampere. On its website, it says it has 160 partners in its ecosystem and connects about 4 million devices.

Projects include connectivity for smart buildings, smart factories, asset tracking and smart metering. In a recent deal, it sold the Wirepas Massive technology for inclusion in 100,000 Ingy lighting units.

In 2019, Wirepas completed a €14.4 million ($17.58 million) investment round, with support from ETF Partners, Inventure, KPN Ventures, TESI (Finnish Industry Investment) and Vito Ventures.

At the time, total funding in the startup was said to have reached €22 million ($26.8 million). Notably, Andrew Gilbert, the former executive vice president of Qualcomm as well as the former managing director of FLASH-OFDM developer Flarion, is the company's non-executive chairman.