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Sprint and T-Mobile – What does this mean for IoT?

Blog, News

Shifting the Connectivity Landscape

If you’ve tuned into the news in the last year, you have probably heard a little bit about the Sprint/T-Mobile merger. This potential deal has now dragged on for a solid two years! However, over the past month, some critical steps have been taken by federal regulators (FCC) in the recent weeks to push the closing of this merger nearly to the finish line.

There still remain a few obstacles to overcome, including dealing with a variety of lawsuits by states looking to block/modify the deal. In spite of those hurdles, most think that the deal is likely to happen within the next couple of months.

What does this mean for the Internet of Things?

New Competition

This potential deal not only creates another giant in the IoT space, comparable in size to Verizon and AT&T, it also (as part of the agreement with the US government) would introduce a new wireless carrier into the US market. That new carrier is Dish Network. Dish has been holding a fair amount of spectrum (radio waves used to transmit wireless signals) and would now be pushed into using that spectrum to serve the market.

Faster to 5G

The potential of a Sprint/T-Mobile merger would bring together arguably the most robust spectrum offering in the country. The new entity would be able to use that spectrum to quickly deploy a significant 5G network footprint in the United States, while putting pressure on AT&T and Verizon to accelerate their 5G buildout.

While we usually think of 5G networks as being insanely fast and power consuming, the 5G standard actually incorporates lower speed, power-conscious networks like NB-IoT and LTE-M. Businesses need to know that these networks are coming soon, and they should be making network migration plans to move from legacy 2G and 3G networks.

Are you ready for change?

While there is good reason for excitement and anticipation as these new networks become real, the reality of sunsetting cellular networks is something that is stinging many. The truth is 2G and 3G networks were always good enough for most IoT applications. Of course they knew this day would come, but it still doesn’t help many businesses that have invested significant resources on legacy, sunsetting network technologies.

As you plan your network strategy, please reach out to us. Integron has managed some of the most high-profile and successful IoT deployments in the world. We’ve seen a few network sunsets in our 30+ year existence, and we’d love to help you.

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Virtual Clinical Trials: Understanding the Basics

Blog, Solutions

Bringing the Study to the Patient

One of the biggest challenges that contract research organizations (CROs) face is the recruitment and enrollment of patients. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of clinical trials fail to even meet the initial patient targets required by studies. Additionally, research shows that a 30 percent dropout rate exists for clinical trial participants, and one in every five trials ends prematurely due to an insufficient number of trial participants. One thing is clear: the system for supporting clinical trial patients needs to improve.

Many CROs have started to adopt virtual clinical trials as a way to solve the problems outlined above. So, rather than centering a study around a physical clinical research facility, virtual clinical research facilities are established that effectively bring the clinical studies directly to the patients. This approach minimizes or, in some cases, eliminates the need for patients to regularly travel to a physical clinical site, while also simplifying the collection of patient data. That slight modification in delivery model also opens the prospective market for patient recruitment up significantly – no longer are CROs restricted to recruiting within a proximity to a physical clinical site.

One in five clinical trials ends prematurely due to an insufficient number of trial participants

Under this model, and with the use of wireless technologies, patients receive a communication device (like a cellular phone or tablet) with the appropriate ePRO or eCOA software that is used to log study data, as well as any connected peripheral devices that might be relevant to the study (i.e. connected weight scale, blood glucose meter, pulse oximeter, etc…). These pre-configured technologies would be delivered directly to the patient, along with the study-related treatments.

The routing of real-time data is managed by the CRO, and its corresponding technology partners. Again, in many cases, the patient is able to perform to many of the requirements of the study from the comfort of his/her home. The obvious benefits of this model are improved patient recruitment and retention. As a secondary benefit, data quality has the potential to improve as study parameters become more patient-centric (i.e. increased frequency of data capture).

Virtual Clinical Trials: the non-exclusive future of clinical trials?

While virtual clinical trials will provide access to more data and uncover better intelligence for the development of pharmaceuticals, there will continue to be a need for the traditional model. However, in either case, wireless technologies are providing the hub to gather and access this valuable data. Integron has a long history of supporting the technology deployments of many leading CROs around the world.

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Are you prepared for the 2G/3G sunsets? What to know about their replacements

Blog, Solutions

"Part 1 of 2"

It’s a well-documented phenomenon: legacy cellular networks are put to rest to make way for network technologies that make more efficient use of spectrum. Spectrum is a limited resource that comes at a steep price – often commanding billions of dollars for the right to use certain frequencies. Rather than continually purchasing more of a limited resource, cellular carriers around the world have to make difficult decisions on what to do with the use of their existing spectral holdings. In many cases, this ends up being a decision to move from legacy network technologies, like 2G and 3G, and into more spectrally efficient technologies like LTE.

This evolution into newer technologies can pose quite a headache, especially for those that have built IoT solutions and strategies around some of these “legacy networks”. IoT has brought a new dimension of complexity to this issue. Unlike the consumer handset market, it’s obviously unrealistic to ask your deployed devices to get up and walk into the nearest carrier shop and swap out a radio module. Asking a team of technicians is of course an option, but it is an option that can be quite costly. And in the business of IoT, margins can already be quite slender to begin with.

Spectrum is a limited resource that comes at a steep price – often commanding billions of dollars for the right to use certain frequencies.

So, for those with existing 2G and 3G IoT deployments, there are some tough decisions to be made. The bright side of this situation is that there are plenty of options moving forward.

First though, what to do with those sunsetting devices?

A great first step would be to talk to an IoT managed services provider that understands what it will take to replace any affected deployed devices. Managed services providers have the expertise to bring a wide variety of perspectives and vendors to the table and make complicated issues relatively simple. In some cases, it may make the most sense to swap wireless modules, and in others, it might make sense to design and deploy an entirely new solution.

The next step is understanding the network options that are available. With the rapid growth of IoT solutions, cellular carriers have worked closely with standards bodies like 3GPP to develop protocols that are suitable to the variety of use cases of IoT solutions. No longer is there a one-size-fits-all mentality to cellular connectivity for IoT. We will walk you through some of those options.

LTE-M (Machine-Type Communications)

LTE-M (M is abbreviated from “Machine-Type Communications”) is part of the 3GPP Release 13 that reduces complexity associated power consumption. This network technology is deployed as a software addition to existing LTE network infrastructure. Part of that software update allows for a “Power Savings Mode” that uniquely allows connections to remain idle without disconnecting from the network. It also sacrifices data speeds in favor of power saving abilities. The network continues to be deployed in various countries around the world. Within the USA, Verizon and AT&T have invested in the deployment of this network deployment.

NB-IoT (Narrow Band IoT)

Narrow-Band IoT, also defined within release 13, uses an ultra-narrow band 180 kHz channel of LTE. Unlike LTE-M, NB-IoT is a larger capital investment, requiring additional hardware to be installed at the tower level. Support for NB-IoT has grown significantly in the last year as the technical promise is significant. Battery life is expected to be 10+ years for many applications, and signal propagation figures to extend much wider than other wireless technologies – delivering broader coverage. NB-IoT does not support voice and data transmission speeds are estimated in the 150kbps range. Currently, this technology appears to be the most broadly invested-in low power, wide area network globally.

LTE Cat-1 (Category 1)

LTE categories are essentially segmented based upon peak speeds. Categories 4 and up can be thought of as high speed. Category 1 (Cat-1) defines the user equipment required for operation within that standard. Cat-1 device are capable of communicating over regular LTE networks, however, performance is throttled back to deliver benefits in other areas like power consumption and cost. Cat-1 devices are a great option for those looking for a few months of battery life and a lower cost device/module. This network, as previously stated is deployed already in most parts of the developed world.

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2018: The Year It All Came Together For Connected Healthcare

Blog, Solutions

"The Turning Point"

451 Research predicts that 2018 will be remembered as the year when everything came together for connected healthcare.

Although remote monitoring and telemedicine have been used to augment healthcare for years, a coalescence of technological improvements, increased patient awareness, clinical provider and payer business model changes, and regulator support have set the stage for rapidly increased usage of the two to forge a connected healthcare, across a range of applications, to begin in 2019. Read More

How Mobile Devices and EDC Are Changing the Financial Landscape of Clinical Trials

Blog, Solutions

Integrated Technology Solutions for Clinical Trials

It is estimated that the average cost per clinical trial participant is about $40,000. Historically, the cost of developing drugs has been significantly impacted by the associated costs of administering clinical trials. With drug development costs ranging on average between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion (Collier, 2009), there is clearly a lot at stake. Mobile devices are quickly paying dividends for leading drug makers across the globe.

Reduction in Time

A recent study completed by the US Department of Health and Human Services identified that by making use of mobile technologies in clinical trials, that sponsors reduce time in phases 1-4 by 17.6%, on average. This reduction in time equates to a significant savings in clinical trial administration cost. (See Chart) Other studies have suggested that use of EDC and mobile devices have yielded a 30 percent decline in study duration (Neuer, Warnock, & Slezinger, 2010).

Drug development costs range between $1.3 billion and $1.7 billion

Collier 2009

Improved Data Flow

Additional to the decreased time and resource demands, empowering clinical trial participants with real-time tools to measure and record information reduces errors in data collection. Historically, clinical trials, especially those involving multiple countries and languages, have faced unique challenges. As data from disparate sources is received, the need to manually process and translate requires trained staff. Electronic Data Capture (EDC) tools streamline this process and allow data to freely flow into centralized databases where it can be powerfully analyzed. This synchrony in data collection is invaluable to the overall cost, when considering that the cost of each clinical trial participant has a cost of approximately $40,000.

Companies like Integron have partnered with technology leaders in EDC, ePRO, eCOA to make these financial benefits a reality for leading pharmaceutical companies around the world.