Cambridge, April 2020: Plextek Services Ltd and Design Momentum Ltd are pleased to announce they have entered into a strategic partnership to develop scientific instruments and laboratory equipment for life sciences. The partnership brings together Plextek’s expertise in electronic engineering design & development at its ISO13485-certified premises with Design Momentum’s 25 years of experience in innovative technology design in the sector.

The life science industry continues to experience change and rapid growth. It is now more than ever vital for instrumentation companies to embrace new technologies, improve efficiencies and productivity, and move to meet the ever-increasing demands of the sector. The Plextek-DM partnership brings together deep skills and experience in product ideation, industrial design, technology development and manufacture, and will allow clients to advance using the latest technologies, speeding time to market.

Current events are showing only too well the need for rapid development of critical technology to support the life science industry, and this partnership is ideally placed to help its clients through a seamless process from design to the market.

“The Plextek-DM partnership provides a unique one-stop opportunity for life science companies to access all the skills necessary for product development, from inception through to product manufacture”, said Nicholas Hill, Plextek’s CEO. “The alliance brings together a powerful combination of skills in the laboratory equipment sector and builds on the two organisations’ previous collaborations. DM’s collaborative approach is uniquely complementary to how we work within Plextek, and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership”.

“Partnering with Plextek to design and deliver instrumentation for our clients will allow us to provide the very best design and engineering services,” said Professor Phil Gray, DM’s Managing Director. “Together, working as one team, we will unlock the full potential of our organisations and place our clients on the best path for success in a rapidly changing market.”

Our joint approach to scientific instrumentation development will grant life science clients access to a unique combination of long-term engineering know-how and best-in-class product design capability which will enable next-generation devices to be produced more efficiently, bringing products to a market quickly.

About Plextek Services Ltd
Plextek is an innovative electronic engineering consultancy with huge expertise in advanced sensing, data collection and communications technology. The company has extensive experience of developing highly complex and innovative products for a range of sectors, including medical & healthcare. In a world of rapid change, the company prides itself on its ability to solve the hardest engineering problems to deliver effective solutions to meet our clients’ needs.

About Design Momentum
DM is a user-focused industrial design and product development consultancy helping clients innovate and develop the next generation of products, systems and services. The company brings together a highly-experienced team with a unique blend of creativity, innovation and development skills all with a sharp business focus. DM has combined 72 years of experience in life sciences, automation and scientific instrument design & development.

Please contact Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare at Plextek for more information.

3rd April 2020: Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Healthcare & Medical at technology consultancy Plextek features in The Engineer news article on how advances in health sensing and monitoring tech could help with remote care for those in self isolation or vulnerable situations.

Coronavirus has taken us all by surprise, with many parts of the world in or heading into virtual lockdown. Can developments in tech and healthcare devices now come into their own and help us fight back against the current crisis?

We are only too aware that early detection is absolutely key to monitoring the spread of disease and ultimately improving survival rates, so how can these developments in devices come into play, now so desperately needed?

To read the full article Click Here.

3rd March 2020:  Cambridge-based Plextek Group has completed the sale of one of its spin-outs, the boutique microwave chip design business Plextek RFI Ltd, to Langford, Essex based CML Microsystems Plc. for an undisclosed sum, thus following the well-trodden Cambridge tech house model.

Plextek RFI was founded from within Plextek by Liam Devlin some twenty years ago and demerged into a separate limited company in 2015. It has earned an unrivalled reputation for right-first-time designs of RF, Microwave and Millimetre-wave (mm-wave) ICs and modules. The team has completed in excess of 100 IC designs, operating at radio frequencies up to 100GHz and is a third-party approved design house for a number of leading semiconductor companies globally. Design experience includes front end ICs for mm-wave 5G, broadband Monolithic Microwave ICs (MMICs), receiver, transmitter and power amplifier (PA) ICs for microwave links and GaN PAs for both commercial and defence applications. The designers, IP, order book and customer relationships are all part of the deal.

This represents the first outright sale of one of the Plextek Group companies. These are set up as sister companies and include:

  • Plextek Services Ltd (the original technical product design house):  which solves today’s hardest engineering problems in sensing, data collection and communications
  • Blighter Surveillance Systems Ltd: Best-in-class e-scan radars for border security, counter-drone, perimeter security, wide area surveillance & coastline security, including to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and civil and defence customers in over 35 countries
  • Redtail Telematics: full stack providers of black box telematics to insurers, OEMs and fleets including Admiral, ByMiles, Concirrus, TRACKER Network, LoJack and young driver specialist Ingenie
  • Telensa Ltd (now co-funded by ETF and others): a world leading supplier of streetlight metering and management solutions, whose deployments exceed GE and Philips combined.

The marriage between Plextek RFI (PRFI) and CML arose out of a clear strategic alignment. “PRFI’s dedicated and experienced team enhances our

Plextek RFI Technologystrategy for expansion within communications markets. Their design expertise expands upon the Group’s existing skills and provides a new independent service and consulting income stream for CML” said Chris Gurry, CML’s Group Managing Director.

Plextek Group Chairman Dr Colin Smithers added “We are both delighted and saddened to see Plextek RFI come to maturity and to wave it off into its new beginning at CML where we are sure they will help directly with their strategic goals. The choice of deal partner covered many aspects including a strong cultural fit.”

PRFI will remain based at the Plextek campus in Great Chesterford.

For any queries regarding this release, please contact Colin Smithers directly on +447801398714

Are NB-IoT and LoRA really competing for the same market?

By: Shahzad Nadeem
Head of Smart Cities

6th February 2020

4 minute read

Home » IoT

The growth of IoT devices and their applications demand capabilities never imagined before in communication technologies. IoT applications usually have specific requirements such as low cost, low power, long range and low data rates. Technologies like Zigbee, WiFi, 2G, 3G, and 4G don’t always meet these requirements which are often presented as the “Tens of IoT”. The IoT devices are supposed to have a battery life of 10 years, cost as low as $10 a piece, should be accessible from 10 km, send less than 10 bytes per hour and the base station should cater for 10,000 devices. These demands lay the foundations of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies like NB-IoT, LoRA and SigFox. SigFox and LoRa were initially developed by French companies around 2010. LoRA alliance standardised the LoRA protocols, SigFox is in discussions with 3GPP for standardisation and the development of NB-IoT standards is led by 3GPP. The backing from major market players is making LoRa and NB-IoT more attractive for IoT use cases compared to SigFox. In this article we are going to compare LoRa and NB-IoT with respect to their technical capabilities, market penetration and future prospects.
bluetooh, bluetooth BLE, wifi, IOT technologies

NB-IoT is a cellular technology based on the LTE network architecture. It works in licensed bands and piggy-backs on deployed cellular infrastructure. The potential of integration on top of the deployed cellular infrastructure makes it the technology of choice for mobile network operators who want to make best use of their licensed bands and deployed networks. While LoRa network needs deployment from scratch, the long term operational costs are lower because of the use of unlicensed ISM bands (868 MHz in Europe, 433 MHz in Asia and 915 MHz in North America) which makes it ideal for the low budget small scale deployments.

lpwan, iot, comparison

iot, module shipment forecasts
Courtesy – IHS Market: An in-depth view into the competition, applications and influencers driving the foundation of IoT

Adoption and support

NB-IoT is devloped by 3GPP which is a recognised standards body that developed the 3G and LTE standards. NB-IoT is supported by the Chinese government which has influenced the adoption and penetration of NB-IoT. Companies like Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are the early adopters in Europe. LoRA, however, is the technology of choice for low cost private IoT networks. LoRA is supported by the LoRa Alliance – a non-profit and open source association of 500+ members promoting the free use of LoRa protocols. IHS Markit in their white paper ‘Connectivity Technologies’ say “LoRa has earned a leading role in the LPWAN market after shipping over 32 million nodes in 2017 and growing to over 57 million nodes in 2018”. According to LoRa Alliance more than 83 public network operators are currently using LoRaWAN. GSMA claims that 40 countries are in the process of deploying NB-IoT networks.

Cost vs Quality

LoRa took an early lead in private network deployments owing to its low cost due to free band use, cheaper infrastructure and low device cost. When it comes to public networks there is a stiff competition with NB-IoT, however. The use of free spectrum by LoRa puts restrictions in terms of maximum power output and duty cycle to limit the interference. The cost vs quality trade-off is usually the deciding factor between LoRa and NB-IoT. Applications requiring low latency and guaranteed QoS will prefer NB-IoT over LoRA.

Longevity

IoT devices are supposed to have long battery life as these could be deployed in remote areas. The QoS, low latency, synchronous communication and higher device current require a higher energy use and render a shorter battery life to NB-IoT compared to LoRa. The applications that do not need low latency would prefer LoRa if battery life is the main concern.

Coverage

Better link budget gives a coverage edge to NB-IoT over LoRA. It is quite clear though that due to its reliance on the LTE network, NB-IoT may have limited coverage in rural areas. LoRa however, with low infrastructure costs, can be readily deployed to get coverage where no LTE infrastructure exists.

Data rate

The applications requiring higher than 50 Kbps need NB-IoT deployment which runs at 250Kbps peak data rate. LoRA, however, offers rate adaptation thus reducing the channel use and interference.

Mobility

IoT applications requiring mobility prefer LoRa over NB-IoT as the later works on cell reselection in Idle mode which does not offer optimum mobility support. LoRA network however, allows transmission to multiple base stations hence no need for handover.

LoRA and NB-IoT, although competing for the LPWAN market in general, have strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal for specific applications and market segments. Whilst LoRA is more suited for low cost, low bandwidth, local area and private network deployments, NB-IoT would be adopted for more sensitive applications requiring higher bandwidth, low latency and guaranteed QoS. It can be said with confidence that although seen as competing technologies, they will develop their own niche markets and co-exist for a long time.

How do you see the future of LoRA and NB-IoT? Let us know your thoughts.

The growth of IoT devices and their applications demand capabilities never imagined before in communication technologies. IoT applications usually have specific requirements such as low cost, low power, long range and low data rates. Technologies like Zigbee, WiFi, 2G, 3G, and 4G don’t always meet these requirements which are often presented as the “Tens of IoT”. The IoT devices are supposed to have a battery life of 10 years, cost as low as $10 a piece, should be accessible from 10 km, send less than 10 bytes per hour and the base station should cater for 10,000 devices. These demands lay the foundations of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies like NB-IoT, LoRA and SigFox. SigFox and LoRa were initially developed by French companies around 2010. LoRA alliance standardised the LoRA protocols, SigFox is in discussions with 3GPP for standardisation and the development of NB-IoT standards is led by 3GPP. The backing from major market players is making LoRa and NB-IoT more attractive for IoT use cases compared to SigFox. In this article we are going to compare LoRa and NB-IoT with respect to their technical capabilities, market penetration and future prospects.
bluetooh, bluetooth BLE, wifi, IOT technologies

NB-IoT is a cellular technology based on the LTE network architecture. It works in licensed bands and piggy-backs on deployed cellular infrastructure. The potential of integration on top of the deployed cellular infrastructure makes it the technology of choice for mobile network operators who want to make best use of their licensed bands and deployed networks. While LoRa network needs deployment from scratch, the long term operational costs are lower because of the use of unlicensed ISM bands (868 MHz in Europe, 433 MHz in Asia and 915 MHz in North America) which makes it ideal for the low budget small scale deployments.

lpwan, iot, comparison

iot, module shipment forecasts
Courtesy – IHS Market: An in-depth view into the competition, applications and influencers driving the foundation of IoT

Adoption and support

NB-IoT is devloped by 3GPP which is a recognised standards body that developed the 3G and LTE standards. NB-IoT is supported by the Chinese government which has influenced the adoption and penetration of NB-IoT. Companies like Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are the early adopters in Europe. LoRA, however, is the technology of choice for low cost private IoT networks. LoRA is supported by the LoRa Alliance – a non-profit and open source association of 500+ members promoting the free use of LoRa protocols. IHS Markit in their white paper ‘Connectivity Technologies’ say “LoRa has earned a leading role in the LPWAN market after shipping over 32 million nodes in 2017 and growing to over 57 million nodes in 2018”. According to LoRa Alliance more than 83 public network operators are currently using LoRaWAN. GSMA claims that 40 countries are in the process of deploying NB-IoT networks.

Cost vs Quality

LoRa took an early lead in private network deployments owing to its low cost due to free band use, cheaper infrastructure and low device cost. When it comes to public networks there is a stiff competition with NB-IoT, however. The use of free spectrum by LoRa puts restrictions in terms of maximum power output and duty cycle to limit the interference. The cost vs quality trade-off is usually the deciding factor between LoRa and NB-IoT. Applications requiring low latency and guaranteed QoS will prefer NB-IoT over LoRA.

Longevity

IoT devices are supposed to have long battery life as these could be deployed in remote areas. The QoS, low latency, synchronous communication and higher device current require a higher energy use and render a shorter battery life to NB-IoT compared to LoRa. The applications that do not need low latency would prefer LoRa if battery life is the main concern.

Coverage

Better link budget gives a coverage edge to NB-IoT over LoRA. It is quite clear though that due to its reliance on the LTE network, NB-IoT may have limited coverage in rural areas. LoRa however, with low infrastructure costs, can be readily deployed to get coverage where no LTE infrastructure exists.

Data rate

The applications requiring higher than 50 Kbps need NB-IoT deployment which runs at 250Kbps peak data rate. LoRA, however, offers rate adaptation thus reducing the channel use and interference.

Mobility

IoT applications requiring mobility prefer LoRa over NB-IoT as the later works on cell reselection in Idle mode which does not offer optimum mobility support. LoRA network however, allows transmission to multiple base stations hence no need for handover.

LoRA and NB-IoT, although competing for the LPWAN market in general, have strengths and weaknesses that make them ideal for specific applications and market segments. Whilst LoRA is more suited for low cost, low bandwidth, local area and private network deployments, NB-IoT would be adopted for more sensitive applications requiring higher bandwidth, low latency and guaranteed QoS. It can be said with confidence that although seen as competing technologies, they will develop their own niche markets and co-exist for a long time.

How do you see the future of LoRA and NB-IoT? Let us know your thoughts.

8th January 2020: Innovation and design consultancy Plextek has joined the Arm® Pelion™ and Mbed™ Partner Ecosystem, a growing group of leading embedded and cloud companies, component manufacturers, system integrators and OEMs committed to driving innovation in IoT.

The Pelion and Mbed Partner Ecosystem is focused on supporting openness, standards, technology and services needed to accelerate the development and wider adoption of IoT systems based on the Arm Pelion IoT platform, development tools and strong customer relationships. Plextek is an accredited Pelion and Mbed service provider, offering consultancy, engineering services and systems integration.

Shahzad Nadeem, head of smart cities at Plextek, said: “Our technical experience, partnered with Arm’s IoT technologies, competence and global reach, is an extremely significant development for creating effective and secure solutions for our clients. We are proud to be recognised for the quality of our engineering design over the past 30 years and to have been made an Arm Pelion and Mbed Foundation partner and look forward to continuing our strong working relationship.”

For more information on the Arm Pelion and Mbed Partner Ecosystem and list of partners, go to: https://www.mbed.com/en/partners/