What is LoRaWAN?
LoRa is a manufacturer-independent interface for wireless communication between equipment to enable the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and smart cities.
Wireless networks with low energy consumption open up completely new possibilities for IoT. Established technologies such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity lack an acceptable combination of versatility and energy efficiency. To deal with this, new narrowband radio solutions are offered, one of which is LoRa, or LoRaWAN.
LoRa is the measurement collection of the future with open, affordable communication with completely new possibilities for completely new monitoring and control in district heating and VA
LoRa has already been tested for ranges corresponding to the distance between Stockholm - Luleå*, but can normally be considered to achieve a range of 15 km in rural areas and 10 km in urban areas. This is done with power consumption low enough to enable over 10-year battery life. In addition, there are plenty of development environments for creating new applications and the ability to quickly create a complete LoRaWAN solution with minimal effort.
Definition of words
Let's first go through the terms that appear on this page. Our goal is that you should be able to assimilate the technology without any special technical background.
Internet-of-Things (abbreviated IoT, "internet of things" in Swedish)
The Internet-of-Things is a term used for connected things that provide new opportunities for remote monitoring and remote control of everything from household appliances and TVs to cars and property supplies. By 2020, experts* estimate that there will be 50 billion devices connected and that the industry will have a turnover of SEK 3,500 billion. More can be read on Wikipedia.
Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) or Low-Power Network (LPN) is a type of wireless network designed to enable communication over long distances with minimal energy consumption, also known as narrowband radio. This includes LoRa but also technologies such as NB-IoT and Sigfox and others.
LoRa and LoRaWAN
LoRa is the physical layer for the communication (corresponding to network cables or RS-232) and LoRA-WAN corresponds to the protocol (corresponding to TCP/IP or Modbus). The LoRa Alliance is also the name of the non-profit organization that developed the system, defines the standard and is owned by over 500 member companies.
Link budget is what specifies the range of a radio communication. Expressing this in meters is a poor measure because there are always objects that affect the range of a radio signal. LoRa has such a long range (151 dB) that no two points on Earth are far enough apart with a clear line of sight to achieve maximum range.
The unit of link budget is dBm. For comparison, 10 cm of concrete consumes 12 dBm.
In LoRa, devices can have different communication speeds and are thus given the opportunity to optimize transmission times and range. Spreading factor SF6 provides the shortest transmission time, shortest range and least energy consumption. SF12 provides the longest transmission time, the longest range and the most energy consumption.
SF6 is therefore optimal for the best connection with the gateway and SF12 to reach maximum range. LoRa adapts the spreading factor automatically to maximize the possibilities in the network.
The advantages of narrowband radio
High-frequency connectivity provides high data rates but has limited range at acceptable power levels (eg WiFi and mobile telephony). For things with limited energy supply that need long range, low frequency operation is preferred. The lower the frequency, the less power is required to maintain a given link budget.
Narrowband radio means completely new possibilities for long ranges with extremely low energy consumption with standardized systems
Lower frequency transmissions mean lower data rates, but IoT applications do not require large bandwidth. In addition, lower data rates provide another benefit in the form of reduced errors, reducing receiver sensitivity requirements. The disadvantage of slow communication is increased energy consumption at both the transmitter and the receiver.
Narrowband radios can still help meet the range, energy, and data rate requirements required by most IoT applications. The modulation method in LoRa also reduces the disadvantages.
A strength of the LoRa standard is that it uses license-free frequencies. That means 868MHz in Europe, 433MHz in Asia and 915MHz in America. License-free frequencies have the advantage that they are free to use, but they make demands on things such as maximum power and how often you transmit. However, LoRa is not limited to these, but can also be used at other registered frequencies.
LoRa technology's unique modulation method is what makes it so well suited for IoT applications: It can operate successfully over 15 km in rural areas and more than 10 km in urban environments. It can achieve over 10 years of battery life and can operate in networks of up to 1,000,000 nodes. Furthermore, its support for different communication speeds gives developers the flexibility to optimize network performance.
LoRa is encrypted and interference-proof with many areas of use. It can replace all other measurement collection systems with reduced costs and increased functionality
LoRaWAN follows a well-known IoT hierarchy for connected things - local receivers and cloud-based servers (see image below). In LoRaWAN terminology, things are connected wirelessly in a star topology to a gateway, and gateways are connected via IP networks to a central network server
Sensors and meters transmit either with a predetermined periodicity or event-controlled. All gateways that receive the signal forward this to the network server. The network server decrypts information about which application server the data packet is going to and sends it there. When the application server has received the data package, it is completely decrypted and a clear sign is sent back to the sensor/meter via network server and gateway.
The system is bidirectional and as secure as VPN.
Security has been one of the main factors in the development of LoRa. That's why all traffic is encrypted in two steps, to make interception and unwanted influence on equipment more difficult.
You can read more about security in our in-depth study of LoRa.
It sounds expensive
In fact, the communication cards are significantly cheaper than GPRS and the operating costs are negligible. It is the most affordable measurement collection system available on the market.
Will it work with our software?
We have already carried out tests and quality assured LoRa with Metrima, One Nordic, Atea, Momentum, Powel and others. If other software is needed, we can be at your service with integration and possible delivery.
But what does society need LoRa for?
LoRa improves a number of different social functions and allows us to save time, money and also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Here are some examples:
- Garbage management - Let the bin tell you when it's full, instead of having to pick it up when it's half full or risk garbage being dumped outside the container.
- Energy optimization - Improve the management of energy use by bringing in more data from temp, wind, CO2 and solar sensors.
- Sign monitoring - when something happens in the road network such as damaged road signs or signal lights, an alarm can be sent
- Elderly care and home care - patient alarm with geolocation and care planning
- Bike and other vehicle tracking - find out where bikes, pets, cars and buses are
- Parking assistance - monitor parking spaces and help motorists find their way
- Farming - Keep track of animals and plot sowing and spraying.
This was just a selection of the areas of use that have already been developed. But only the imagination sets limits and it remains to be seen where this will take us in the future.