SOFTECH has been receiving requests to provide IoT apps that contain long range, low power usage and safe data transmission. One of the major difficulties in making the actual IoT (the internet of things) work is actually making sure that the so-called THINGS (the end nodes) are capable to communicate with the internet. Internet gadgets, machines and equipment are estimated to hit 25 billion by 2020. The network that may support such an infrastructure must also orchestrate the traffic. On top of all, the nodes must use a reliable battery power, have weak radios and must have an effective memory and processing power that is in reality rather limited.

What is the challenge? The struggle to achieve greater range than existing cellular networks is a real and complex issue for all IoT systems and app providers. The great thing about Semtech’s LoRa technology is that it can be conveniently plugged into any existing infrastructure while, in the same time, enabling low-cost battery-powered IoT applications, thus connecting all sort of devices and machines to the Cloud.

The IoT readiness

LoRa is indeed a way new ecosystem fitted for the IoT Universe. Firstly,it enables the connection between remote point-of-use elements and LPWANs for delivery to more complex analytics applications.

Secondly, the new wireless protocol is designed specifically for long-range, low-power communications, complementing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Cellular ones. LoRa actually stands for Long Range Radio and is mainly intended for M2M (machine-to-machine) and IoT (internet-of-things) networks. This technology will set-up public or multi-tenant networks to connect and interconnect a number of applications running on the same network.

Another major step, the LoRa Alliance was endowed to systematize LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) for IoT. The non-profit association has attracted a number of key market shareholders such as CISCO, actility, MicroChip, IBM, STMicro, SEMTECH, Orange mobile and others. It aims to provide interoperability among multiple interstate public networks.

In essence, each LoRa gateway can operate up to millions of nodes. The signals have the capacity to span great distance, therefore a considerably less infrastructure is necessary, making the construction of a network much reasonable in terms of cost and much faster to implement, in terms of time.

LoRa also features an adaptive data rate algorithm to help maximize the nodes battery life and network capacity. The LoRa protocol includes a number of different layers including encryption at network level, application level and device level for highly secure communications.

As it is described in the LoRa prospect, “the LoRaWAN open specification is a low power, wide area networking (LPWAN) protocol based on LoRa Technology. It wirelessly connects battery operated things to the Internet in regional, national or global networks. The LoRaWAN protocol uplifts the unlicensed radio spectrum in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) band. The specification defines the device-to-infrastructure of LoRa physical layer parameters and the LoRaWAN protocol, and provides seamless interoperability between devices.”

Wide Array of Field Applications

During our documentation, what we find useful about LoRa technology is the wealth of applications in the IoT field. There are a few current usages and many more explorations and opportunities in other sectors too.

  • Smart metering can grasp most of LoRa technology since utility companies can rapidly automate water, gas, and electricity metering processes.
  • Smart supply chain & logistics take the advantages of streamlined inventory management systems where asset-tracking processes are being automated in order to achieve a higher productivity and to reduce inventory loss.
  • Smart homes and buildings get closer and closer to the ideal of a fully remote controllable unit due to LoRa technologies, ESD protection solutions, isolated power systems and controllers.
  • Smart Agriculture is reshaped by the way low power wide area networks (LPWANs) allow farmers to track farm conditions, animal movement and the food processing chain.
  • Smart Cities include the low power wide area networks (LPWANs) so that municipalities can be capable of data-driven maintenance, fluid traffic control and smart waste management. The protection solutions, the power switches, the sensors and the network are all pieces of the big smart city puzzle.

While definitely being a game changer, LoRa solved the data communication over a long range with using very little power. Simply put, LoRa technology is a complement to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Cellular.

According to the official data, in 2018, LoRa Technology was operating on the LoRaWAN open standard which is backed by the LoRa Alliance™, the association committed to driving its adoption worldwide. Among its 500 members there are 80 public network operators with service in 49 countries and growing. Public, private and hybrid LoRaWAN networks are globally available and accessible in a total of 95 countries.

Romania is starting to implement LoRa technologies and in our opinion the existing infrastructure may be just enough to start deploying smarter and more effective networks.