Back in 2016, we started work on finding a more modern data collection system than what was available. We started by conducting an extensive market survey within district heating and water distribution. The result was that Ambiductor became the first supplier in Europe to offer LoRa in billing approved meters.
Ambiductor has, as the first company in Sweden, taken a closer look at how to standardize, simplify and save substantial costs with future technology within the Internet-of-Things. Let us now present what we have come up with.
Wish list - the perfect data collection system
We have carried out a market survey in the utility sector and compiled the below wish list for future measurement collection.
Battery lifetime 10 years
Meters in residential areas must be able to operate on batteries during the period of up to 10 years.
Possibility to influence the equipment afterwards. Optimizing the radio traffic and troubleshooting during operation is important.
No cables, no electricians
Cables pose a risk in the event of a lightning strike and require maintenance and personnel. A data collection should take place via the air.
Encryption, built-in security
The data must not fall into the wrong hands, and the system must not be used for criminal purposes.
Independence from mobile operator
The system must be open to competition. Must handle applications and equipment other than energy meters and water meters.
In order to minimize the number of radio receivers, a range of around 10km in an urban environment or 15km in sparsely populated areas is sought.
The perfect data collection system must be suitable regardless of whether you have meters in one property up to an entire city.
Lower start and maintenance cost
Price of meters seen over 10 years of sitting time must be as good or better than the alternatives.
Different types of infrastructure
We have compared a selection of radio protocols. Proprietary protocols do not deserve to be compared. We can only imagine working with open protocols. Customers must be confident that they own their own solution.
LPWAN system developed for measurement collection on the 868MHz band
Coverage for 80% of Sweden's population and standardized globally
LPWAN system developed for measurement collection via the mobile network
Under construction with a focus on urban areas
Gammaldags mätinsamling på 868MHz-bandet
Korta räckvidder och begränsad till ett fåtal sensorer
A system similar to LoRaWAN but available on a limited scale in Sweden
Comparison between systems
|Wireless M-bus, Sigfox and LoRaWAN draw very little energy. It is required to be able to use 868 MHz. LoRaWAN has different battery life depending on coverage conditions.
|NB-IoT draws more power and has a shorter battery life, but it may be sufficient depending on the application
|NB-IoT and LoRaWAN support bidirectional communication at each telegram for both parameter changes and firmware update.
|Sigfox supports bidirectional communication.
|Wireless M-bus does not normally support bidirectional communication
No cables, no electricians
|The comparison only applies to radio systems so full support in all of these
|NB-IoT and LoRaWAN have built-in encryption and additional security features that prevent hacking and eavesdropping.
|Wireless M-bus can be obtained with encryption.
|Sigfox was developed without built-in security.
Indepencence from mobile operator
|LoRaWAN can freely change operators and is therefore completely independent.
Wireless M-bus can change operators, but it is too expensive to set up a new network for this to be relevant.
NB-IoT can only change operators if the products are carefully prepared for this.
|Sigfox has only one operator.
|NB-IoT, Sigfox and LoRaWAN have very long range and are limited mainly by topography and buildings
|Wireless M-bus has a very limited range.
|LoRaWAN and NB-IoT are built for both Proof-of-Concept and easy scale-up.
Wireless M-bus is costly when scaling up as it requires an extensive number of radio receivers.
Sigfox lacks skilled operators in Sweden.
LoRaWAN is cheapest on a larger scale.
Wireless M-bus is cheapest when building on a small scale, but more expensive when scaled up.
|Sigfox is difficult to assess in the absence of larger existing networks.
|NB-IoT is the most expensive in the comparison due to more expensive hardware and larger battery.
Other factors to take into account
The amount of data
The biggest limitation of LoRaWAN, Sigfox and wireless M-bus is the amount of data that can be sent. This is not due to the technology, but to the fact that 868MHz is used, which has rules to follow.
This limitation does not affect NB-IoT which can send much more data.
Dual radio communication
If the property owner is also to be able to read out his data, double communication may be required.
This requires either that you share your encryption key, which we advise against, or that you have products with dual communication. For example. LoRaWAN and wireless M-bus.
All systems have limitations on the size of telegrams. Sigfox only handles very small telegrams, too small for e.g. energy meter.
For LoRaWAN, this depends on the spreading factor but meets most needs. Wireless M-bus roughly corresponds to LoRaWAN.
With NB-IoT, you can send much larger amounts of data.
Driveby requires sending data very often. There, only wireless M-bus is a suitable technology. None of the other systems are suitable for driveby or walkby.
With NB-IoT there is a potential delay in when the telegram arrives. This means that event-driven alarms may be delayed.
This limitation does not affect LoRaWAN, Sigfox and wireless M-bus.
Good access to transparent and reliable information and well-trained personnel at suppliers and operators are often the difference between a failed and a successful project.
"The ideal measurement collection system combines several different technologies to optimize its strengths."
After the comparison above, one can judge that LoRaWAN is by far the best system for most applications but the other systems have advantages. Wireless M-bus supports walkby/driveby. NB-IoT has better indoor coverage and no restrictions on the amount of data when you have voltage supply.
Our general recommendation is therefore to base your measurement collection through LoRaWAN but with supplementation with both wireless M-bus for driveby and NB-IoT for wells. Then you have the market's best measurement collection system.