IoT

Published on October 26th, 2016 | by Stephen Wilkins

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LoRaWAN: A Step Towards IoT

In recent years, terms such as “Internet of Things” (IoT) and “Smart” have become very popular in the ICT Industry. Businesses in the ICT industry are starting to associate their products to such terms1. The theory of IoT sounds great, but many think the cost and availability of the supporting underlying technology and infrastructure, makes it still seem like a pipe dream. Well, that may no longer be the case…

The Internet of Things comprises the linking of any device, object or “thing” to the internet, enabling data transmission between them (Machine-to-Machine). Research indicates that 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020. For so many devices to remain connected, the underlying communications platform supporting these connections must be robust, agile, simple and scalable. These were the principal drivers for the development of the Long Range Wide Area Network – LoRaWAN.

LoRaWAN is a type of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) and is defined by an open standard governed by the LoRa® Alliance2. The underlying technology for this network is LoRa; a simple wireless modulation technique introduced in early 2015, which is applied primarily for long-range, low-data communications. Moreover, due to its simplicity, the power consumption is minimal making it ideal for battery-powered applications (such as small sensors). Early reports indicate devices can function for up to 10+ years with a small battery 3.

LoRaWAN is considered one of the underlying communication technologies enabling IoT. LoRaWAN will allow public networks to link multiple devices using existing network infrastructure as backhaul, helping to enable IoT and provide new M2M applications, i.e. Autonomous Industry or Systems Monitoring. The LoRaWAN end nodes (Sensors) are low cost and provide full coverage with a star-type topology, supporting a significant number of devices to be interconnected.

* Source: “LoRaWAN, A Technical Overview of LoRa and LoRaWAN”, The LoRa Alliance, Nov 2015

So where does LoRaWAN fit within the communications technology market?*. LoRaWAN does not look to replace existing LAN/WAN wireless networks (Wi-Fi, mobile), but instead to coexist and provide smarter homes and smarter cities. Application requirements vary in throughput and range, and therefore LoRaWAN cannot hope to be a one-stop shop for IoT and instead works best in a heterogeneous network. Therefore, LoRaWAN is excellent for low data applications working in tandem with cellular and local area networks supporting applications with higher data requirements. Furthermore, the freedom with LoRaWAN’s open-standard assists with interoperability between other networks. The deployment of all those technologies together will increase autonomous capability in every sector, enabling new machine-to-machine communication.

Whilst the first business cases and deployments have already taken place, LoRaWAN remains in early development stages. However, a rapid increase in the number of developers and market products is foreseen in the coming years, since LoRaWAN uses open source protocols.

What does LoRaWAN architecture look like? What are the different features and benefits of using LoRaWAN? And what is the present and future of the different LPWANs technologies? More to come in the following Technology Updates…

References:
#1 Mobile World Congress 2016, Barcelona.
#2 “Unlock New IoT Market Potencial”, LoRa Alliance, 2015
#3 “LoRaWAN, a Technical Overview of LoRa and LoRaWAN”, The LoRa Alliance, 2015

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About the Author

Stephen Wilkins

Stephen Wilkins

Stephen is a degree qualified telecommunications engineer specialising in the design, development and delivery of communications projects in the railway and resource industries. Stephen’s technical areas of expertise include Radio Frequency (RF) modelling software, LTE networks, microwave and optic fibre transmission, 802.11 wireless and L2/3 packet networks.

Pablo Ribado

Pablo Ribado

Pablo is a qualified telecommunications Engineer with experience in Frequency Management and Coverage Planning.



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