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The Internet Of Things: What’s Old Is New Again

You think the Internet of Things (IoT) is something new? Think again.

Back in the 80s when cellular was young and analog, and before GPS came into civilian use, companies developed cellular-based tracking systems for installation in the trunks of cars. A bulky cellular transceiver was mated with a Loran-C navigation receiver, which tapped into a nationwide network of Loran C radio transmitters intended originally for maritime navigation.

Car-security supplier Code-Alarm developed a solution to track stolen cars, and other companies envisioned such law-enforcement applications as tracking high-profile politicians and businessmen who had been kidnapped or carjacked.

Then in the 90s, along came CDPD (cellular digital packet data), a 19.2kbps packet-switched technology used for telemetry (machine-to-machine) services, including the monitoring of vending machines to signal when inventory was low. CDPD modems were also connected to laptops and PDAs (personal digital assistants) for short messaging and slow web browsing. CDPD was also integrated into PocketNet cellphones form AT&T.

Vehicle tracking and telemetry were the first cellular-based IoT applications, and from this modest start, overall cellular-based IoT connections will grow in the U.S. from 42 million connections at the end of 2014 to 203.1 million connections in 2020, a Compass Intelligence study shows.

In 2014, the largest applications were fleet tracking and portable-asset tracking, accounting for almost nine million connections. In 2020, Compass expects retail applications such as vending, POS transaction terminals, and digital signage to be the largest applications.

Consumer-targeted cellular IoT connections will grow from 21.7 million at the end of 2014 to 57.5 million connections in 2020. Of the 2014 connections, connected cars represented the largest application at more than 8.7 million cellular connections. In 2020, smart home and alarm monitoring solutions will be the largest consumer application, Compass forecasts.

And that old Code-Alarm system? The folks monitoring the location of your stolen car used paper maps.

All that change in little more than a generation.