Bob Emmerson went to a recent LoRa Alliance event in Rotterdam, The Netherlands to assess the current state-of-play. Part 1 looked at application development, the architecture and KPN’s network. This article focuses on LoRaWAN™ gateways and network management.
LoRaWAN™ Gateways enable the creation of low power wide area networks (LPWANs) that are ideal for connecting devices that need to send small amounts of data over a long range, while maintaining a long battery life. Some IoT applications only need to transmit tiny amounts of information, e.g. a parking garage sensor.
Data rates range from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps. To maximise both battery life of the end-devices and overall network capacity, the network server manages the data rate and RF output for each end-device individually. Communication between end-devices and gateways is spread out on different frequency channels and data rates.
LoRaWAN™ solutions are also cost effective. The use of chirp spread spectrum technology prevents communications with different data rates interfering with each other and that enables the creation of “virtual” channels, thereby increasing the capacity of the gateway. For example, Link Labs’ gateway has eight simultaneous receive channels, with up to six orthogonal “spreading factors” each, which provide support for thousands of endpoints.
But it gets better. MultiTech’s Conduit Gateway employs programmable LoRaWAN™ modules to provide intelligence at the edge in order to enable efficient data transmission, e.g. only send exception data. A sensor might measure its parameter at short intervals, but there is no need to transmit the result if it is within the pre-defined performance limits. In addition this gateway employs duplex connectivity, which is needed to ensure that a critical operation such as close or open a valve has been performed.
Networks of LoRaWAN™ modules need to be managed, a process that is very similar to the management of regular cellular modules. Stream Technologies’ states that its IoT-X platform allows customers to monitor, manage and monetise connected device solutions regardless of the technology; therefore adding support for LoRaWAN™ compliant gateways was a no brainer. According to Kevin McDowall, the company’s COO, “LoRaWAN™ will form a major part of the IoT and now, with the IoT-X network, operators can provide a solution which meets all the connectivity needs of their clients.”
Stream Technologies has integrated gateways from Kerlink, Link Labs, MultiTech, Senet and Semtech into their network environment. It enables network operators to commercialise LPWAN’s, as customer segmentation is realised using in-built data routing algorithms. The billing capability can either be the traditional data tariff model for cellular devices, or for LPWAN it can be based on data usage or number of connections, thereby ensuring very low operating cost for LoRa devices.
The author of this blog is the independent M2M writer and analyst, Bob Emmerson.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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