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The Internet of Things enables smart cities, smart buildings, and related connected technologies but what will enable the Internet of Things as it grows out of its cellular data shell?
GSM, LTE, and WiFi are great but not set up to handle the continuous high volumes of data we should expect as the number of IoT devices continues to grow exponentially. We will need a low power, Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) dedicated to IoT connectivity, and the technology seems to be evolving to meet that demand.
“The LoRaWAN specification is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery operated ‘things’ to the internet in regional, national or global networks, and targets key IoT requirements such as bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility and localization services,” states The LoRa Alliance, a non-profit association committed to enabling large-scale deployment of the IoT through the development and promotion of the LoRaWAN open standard.
When deploying the IoT on a city, campus or even a large building scale, LoRaWAN offers unrivaled simplicity for installation and also power source efficiency in comparison to wireless alternatives. LoRaWAN also brings about unprecedented flexibility, through a wide selection of operating accounts and through direct connections between devices or back to central servers.
“LoRaWAN network architecture is deployed in a star-of-stars topology in which gateways relay messages between end-devices and a central network server. The gateways are connected to the network server via standard IP connections and act as a transparent bridge, simply converting RF packets to IP packets and vice versa. The 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 many gateways,” The LoRa Alliance explains.
LoRaWAN deployments are already taking shape around the world. In South Korea, SK Telecom has connected 99% of its customers using a LoRa network designed by Semtech. South Korea “has also used LoRaWAN to realize a 46% increase in the recycling of waste combined, with an 83% reduction in cost,” reports Nick Ismail, editor for Information Age. While in the UK, the Scotish city of Glasgow is being used as the testbed for LoRa technology through a collaborative project involving Stream Technologies, Semtech Inc., Boston Networks and CENSIS.
“This is an exciting development in the story of the IoT and the next wave of internet technology. The LoRaWAN network we’ve set up in Glasgow is one of the most advanced in the world – and is the perfect demonstrator for how it can be rolled out across other cities,” said Nigel Chadwick, CEO of Stream Technologies, recently acquired by ARM.
“The model will allow businesses to start up their own IoT networks with just one or two devices, and scale-up to the point where they have hundreds, or even thousands, of connected ‘things’. That might sound like it is purely focused on technology companies, but the network could be used by practically any organization – or even individuals. Its potential is awe-inspiring and it’s happening right here in Glasgow city center,” Chadwick continued.
LoRaWAN is not simply increasing speeds, nor just expanding the number of connections available, it is about enabling the IoT for all. The benefits brought about by the evolution of LoRaWAN are therefore the benefits of developing the IoT, meaning smart cities, smart buildings, and all related technologies in this new connected era. As markets continue to move from the advanced testing phases we are seeing in the UK, to the full deployment that has begun to take shape in South Korea, they will experience accelerated digital transformation leading to boosts for businesses, the economy and across society.
“This isn’t about providing faster broadband to businesses – it’s about connecting devices that are currently excluded from the Internet and providing services which are not currently possible. LoRa technology is set to address some of the key challenges in the IoT, making long-term battery-powered wireless monitoring possible, with the additional benefit of real-time location information,” says Mark Begbie, Business Development Director at CENSIS, part of the Glasgow LoRa project.
“With fewer than 10% of the predicted 30 billion nodes by 2020 likely to be connected to the internet using cellular technology, networks like LoRaWAN are going to become increasingly important. It has the potential to be as disruptive to businesses as the Internet has been already to daily life – and, with the conclusion of the agreement at Mobile World Congress in Shanghai in June 2016, Scotland is at the forefront of making that happen.”
The IoT has bold ambitions to change the world by connecting all manner of “things” in order to gather and react to data in unprecedented ways. However, this all depends on creating a connectivity infrastructure capable of handling the challenges the IoT poses, which has so far been falling short of the sectors hopes. LoRaWAN now promises to create the “DNA” for the IoT and through enhanced connectivity, it should allow the IoT to reach for its incredible potential.