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What is LoRaWAN and why is it taking over the Internet of Things?

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Marc Pegulu, Vice President of Marketing and IoT Product Strategy for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Product Group, explains how LoRaWAN is disrupting the Internet of Things

LoRaWAN is managed by the LoRa Alliance as an open standard, which includes 156 network operators around the world.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers the ability to connect billions of devices around the world with an infrastructure that connects directly to business systems. Connecting sensors to monitor all kinds of equipment through IoT offers huge benefits by providing data on smart buildings, smart cities, tracking, surveillance and utilities. With this data, machine learning can provide key insights into the operation of all kinds of systems, optimizing their performance and even predicting when they will need maintenance.

More than 75 billion IoT devices are expected to come online by 2025 according to market research firm Statista. However, many of them are in rural or remote areas without traditional connectivity networks.

One of the key technologies for connecting these devices is Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN). These networks operate in the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) frequency bands sub-GHz to 868MHz in Europe and 915MHz in North America. These frequencies allow long distance connections, often of several kilometers, to connect smart sensor nodes to a gateway. This gateway can feed data back into Internet and corporate systems to enable detailed analysis elsewhere in the world.

One of the main LPWAN technologies is SemtechLoRa devices from. This was developed in 2009 with a specific modulation called chirp spread spectrum (CSS) which has a high level of noise immunity to achieve both low power and long range capability. LoRa can support low power data transmission at rates up to 50kbps, although data rates of 1kbps to 5kbps are standard to extend battery life .

Using this protocol enables battery life of up to 10 years, eliminating the need for expensive replacements and reducing OPEX costs, making it possible to deploy smart sensor networks on a large scale. The low power of the transceiver chips means that the smart sensors can also be powered by energy recovered from the environment via solar panels or even surrounding RF radio waves.

Above the protocol at the physical layer is the LoRaWAN network architecture. This is a star topology where the gateways relay messages between the terminals and a central network server.

Wireless communication takes advantage of the long range characteristics of the LoRa physical layer allowing a single hop link between the end device and one or more gateways. All modes are capable of two-way communication, and there is support for multicast addressing groups to efficiently utilize spectrum during tasks such as over-the-air firmware upgrades (FOTA).

This led to LoRaWAN, as the implementation of LoRa became the most widely used LPWAN technology in the unlicensed bands below 1 GHz, providing battery-powered sensor nodes with miles of range for expanding applications on the Internet of Things.

Smart cities are a key area for this low-power, long-range connectivity. The ability to place smart wireless sensors for air quality, traffic density and transport wherever they are needed in urban infrastructure can provide key insights into city activity. The robust and low-power nature of the protocol allows local authorities to run a cost-effective network with sensors in the right place, whether they are powered by local power lines, batteries, or solar panels.

This extends to smart retail with in-store sensors to monitor occupancy and keep people safe for COVID-19 protection, and even to products, allowing high-value items to be tracked. factory to customer. With a network throughout the smart city, this tracking can extend as far as the networks reach.

For the oil and gas industry for example, data can analyze the performance of equipment on oil rigs, pipelines, or power pylons in the harshest environments. This can provide both sensor data monitoring pipelines and can also be used for predictive maintenance, using machine learning to identify patterns in the data that indicate a machine will fail in the future. . This allows equipment to be repaired or replaced during scheduled maintenance rather than breaking down at a random time.

LoRaWAN is managed by the LoRa Alliance as an open standard, and the Alliance includes 156 LoRaWAN network operators in 171 countries, as well as suppliers of LoRa chips, transceivers, and sensor cards and gateways. This open ecosystem of network operators and technology providers enables a wide range of applications, often with thousands of sensor nodes spread across an area, perhaps with miles between them.

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Future developments

LoRa’s success for long-range networks is repeated with a new protocol. Called Long Range – Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (LR-FHSS), it extends support for LoRa networks with direct data links to satellites. LR-FHSS further improves noise immunity, allowing sub-GHz signals to be picked up by satellites in low earth orbit (LEO).

Using sensor nodes to connect to these satellites allows existing networks to expand quickly and easily without replacing existing network infrastructure. Terrestrial and satellite modulation schemes can coexist at the same time in a gateway or the network server, and the different gateways can coexist in the same network.

These satellites carry gateways using LoRa as payloads that handle LPWAN messages natively using the same modulation schemes, relaying data in near real time from around the world. This allows satellite operators to reuse terrestrial gateway architectures or develop their own software-defined radio system (SDR) to implement modulation schemes.

This native approach eliminates the need to consolidate and convert data into IP packets, which is more time consuming and power consuming, and ensures that each data packet arrives at its destination with a time stamp. This is essential for business systems to handle the volume of data.

There is also growing interest in satellite connection for applications such as smart meters. LR-FHSS modulation allows greater indoor penetration for end nodes, especially smart meters which may be in less accessible places of a building. Having a direct connection to a satellite network also avoids the need to build or expand a network of gateways.

At least five satellite LPWAN networks have been launched or are in the process of being launched, offering a wide range of different engagement models, from direct connections to gateway links. This gives enterprise users several options to connect devices through the IoT to capture, analyze and act on data.

As technology continues to evolve and new solutions are developed to meet specific needs, it is important that businesses and individuals choose the right solution that not only adapts to changing technology, but have a global reach. To learn more about the LPWAN landscape and how LoRaWAN networks and multi-RAN architecture will connect the next billion IoT devices, To download the ABI white paper on the Semtech website.

Written by Marc Pégulu, VP of IoT Product Marketing and Strategy for SemtechWireless and Sensing Product Group