Six real-world cellular IoT applications

Learn how the world is using cellular IoT hardware to solve real problems quietly and efficiently.

Jeffrey Lee article author avatarJeffrey LeeMay 09, 2018

Cellular IoT (Internet of Things) is strengthening ubiquitous connectivity at a rapid pace, with industry experts projecting the number of cellular-connected devices to grow to 1.8 billion by 2023. That’s because cellular IoT ensures massive deployment in almost every industry from transportation, manufacturing, to agriculture.

Cellular technology (like Particle’s Electron family) also provides enterprises and product creators the low-power, low-cost variants they need to connect their devices to the internet reliably.

However, the problem with cellular IoT is that it’s often hard to see in action. That’s why in this article we rounded up real IoT applications to show how cellular technologies are helping product creators and enterprises solve real-world problems.

1. Environmental Management with Opti

Today, the vast majority of cities aren’t equipped to handle the environmental damage that can occur from earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. However, companies like Opti have developed ways to combat inadequate infrastructure with drainage systems that are equipped with cellular IoT hardware.

Opti’s stormwater management system

Opti’s CMAC (continuous monitoring and adaptive control) drainage system combats environmental damage by monitoring weather forecasts and actuateing drainage valves to minimize flooding and environmentally hazardous. The drainage system is equipped with an Electron, which allows them to control their device’s behavior over cellular networks. It gives them the ability to control the actual firmware – and to update it over the air, which is extremely helpful when you have hundreds of little drainage systems deployed throughout a region. In short, cellular IoT allows Opti to send out new features and fix bugs on their devices instantly.

2. Remote-Starting Excavators

Greg Meandel is not your regular farmer — he loves to build and program IoT projects that remove the complexity from daily farm life. One of his many IoT projects is an excavator that can be started remotely.

Remote-Starting Excavators

By using an Electron, he can remotely heat up the excavator’s block heater, which helps start up the engine. In some cases, he had to wait hours for the internal block to heat up. Now, he can wake up and wirelessly send a command to an electron via his phone. By the time breakfast is finished, the excavator is heated and ready to go. Greg’s brother, who works with a salvage crew, now uses the tractor because he can start it remotely in the field, without having to rely on spotty Wi-Fi services.

3. Tracking Data in Public Park Systems

Chip McClelland, Founder of See Insights, is using cellular IoT to keep track of attendance in his park district in North Carolina. You see, parks departments are required to report how many people visit their facilities each year to county and state officials to help determine proper fund allocation. Traditionally, parks pay someone to sit at an entrance and record how many people enter park grounds. However, Chip is using IoT counters to keep track of any walkers, joggers, bikers, or cars accessing his park.


Chip McClelland’s Electron-based counters

These counters are built with the Electron and take advantage of its cellular connectivity to send data remotely. This allows them to send data over cellular networks to their dashboards, which means they don’t have to leave the office anymore. After about three years counting visitors, parks managers see success from Chip’s work. Umstead State Park has had Chip’s devices deployed for over two years with a device at every entrance. And nearby Crabtree park is testing Chip’s devices to count their visitors. Now he is working on producing these devices at scale to empower parks across the US.

4. Fleet Management with SafeTransport

SafeTransport – a subsidiary of Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI) – is using cellular IoT to bring fleet management to the school commute. Powered by an cellular asset tracker, SafeTransport allows school administrators to remotely track and monitor school buses in real time.

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Fleet Management with Safetransport

Just over two years later, three large school districts in Pennsylvania have already implemented the SafeTransport system for their bus fleets. With this system, school administrators can track buses in real time, identify which are behind schedule or off route with proactive alerts, and can communicate with parents about the buses’ whereabouts when complications arise.

5. Mass alerting with StaffAlerter

StaffAlerter, from PM Power Products, is using both Wi-Fi and cellular hardware to produce a IoT-based mass alert system. With this system, users can configure multiple events, with activation done via phone systems, contact switches, manually-activated switches, and wireless keypads (pictured below). The activation event can consist of a text message, email, automated voice call with text to speech, application alerts, and more.

Staff Alerter Diagram
An illustration of how StaffAlerter Works

Staffalerter can be used for industrial monitoring, severe weather alerts, emergency remote door locking and unlocking, and more. StaffAlerter is opening up the Mass Alert and premise management markets to whole new demographics; and improving upon their capabilities at the same time.

6. Envirofit Drives Public Health Awareness

Over 3 billion people around the world cook with biomass over open fires inside their home. And while cooking over an open fire might seem romantic to some, it comes with a heavy price to families and the environment: the use of wood-fired stoves releases large amounts of CO2 and other harmful emissions that actively contribute to climate change. However, Envirofit is using cellular IoT to remotely monitor the indoor emission reduction impacts of their clean energy cookstoves. These wood-fueled stoves are engineered to reduce harmful emissions and conserve fuel, all while taking traditional cooking customs into consideration.

Envirofit’s clean energy stoves

Recently, the Honduran government partnered with Envirofit to deliver stoves to local communities in need. To ensure the stoves were being adopted Envirofit equipped 1,000 stoves with temperature sensors and Electrons to record exactly when and for how long the stoves are in use by the families who own them. With this system, they are also able to contact specific customers who aren’t using their stoves to understand why and help improve customer experience.

The Bottom Line

Cellular-enabled IoT products are being deployed daily, and their reach can only grow from here. If you’re building an IoT product, you should know most US carriers have already sunset their 3G networks or are in the process of it. These rapid changes mean that it’s critical for product creators and enterprises to make the jump to LTE if they haven’t started already.

Cat-M1 is the newest cellular connectivity option available for IoT devices; it’s an LTE chipset that is designed to integrate with sensors. Not only does Cat-M1 consume less power, and come with improved battery life, it supports everything from water monitoring systems to asset trackers, and consumer electronics.

Even for applications where WiFi is the preferred connectivity method, cellular is making great strides to catch up and surpass WiFi in terms of data throughput, costs, and growing coverage. Learn more about how to choose between cellular vs. WiFi for IoT.

That’s why our all-new E SoM modules come with LTE connectivity that is designed for enterprise IoT applications. Enterprises can evolve alongside the quickly-changing cellular landscape without missing a beat with the newly supported LTE-enabled hardware. The new LTE hardware evaluation kit ships for $89 with an evaluation board, a sample temperature sensor, and accessories to build out a proof of concept. To find out more, visit

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