LoRaWAN: coming to a city near you

June 26, 2017 OpenSystems Media

Wouldn’t it be great to have an entire city connected by some central network that would allow for very simple tasks, like knowing whether a garbage bin is full, or a parking spot is taken, or if a water main is operating properly? Many cities are currently connected through WiFi, but that’s a pretty expensive proposition, and for the tasks I’m envisioning, is overkill (by a wide margin).

Where am I going with this? I recently attended an event staged by the LoRa Alliance, where they went through all the details of the technology, and even provided a hands-on workshop for semi-newbies like me. It was clear by the end if the day, that LoRaWAN solves lots of issues (problems?) in an economical way.

For the uninformed, LoRaWAN’s spread spectrum technology offers a range of more than 15 km in the right setting, has a very high capacity, up to a million nodes, and data rates ranging from 0.3 to 50 kbps. One of its key features is in the low power consumption, allowing devices to operate for more than ten years without having to swap in a new battery. When you talk about the 20 or 50 or 75 billion devices connected to the IoT, it’s technologies like LoRaWAN that can make such predictions a reality. Imagine hundreds of nodes in every building in a city. It adds up pretty quickly.

The LoRa Alliance is a global association of companies backing the LoRaWAN spec. The group just announced that they now number more than 500 members. Not bad for a group that’s only been in existence for about two years. And the list of certified products is quite a long one.

The event I attended started out with a morning of LoRaWAN 101 training, whereby a representative from Microchip went through how the network works and so on, then handed all the attendees a LoRaWAN-compatible development board and instructions on how to connect it to the network. I was pleasantly surprised by the type of attendees in the room (which numbered about a hundred). It was people from various industries within the city that had a good (or even great) reason to want to be connected to the network.

Later, the Alliance staged an open house to show off its technology, and even had presentations by the Mayor and CTO of Philadelphia, who explained how they plan to take advantage of the technology.

All in all, a good experience for me to learn how LoRaWAN is rapidly expanding in a city near me (and you).

Rich Nass, Embedded Computing Brand Director
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