The recent Things Conference in Amsterdam brought together members of the fledgling (but rapidly growing) LoRa-based wireless IoT community. Short for Long-Range low-power wireless, as an unlicensed part of the spectrum, LoRa is positioning itself as a de-facto solution for Internet of Things (IoT) applications from refrigerator temperature monitoring to tracking endangered tortoises in the Galapagos.
Recently the LoRa development community met in Amsterdam for the Things Conference, sponsored by the Things Network, an organization servicing the burgeoning creator environment. Part of the LoRa Alliance, among the support assets the group provides is their enterprise-ready LoRaWAN (LoRa Wireless Area Network) server stack, which addresses requirements like advanced security configurations and device life cycle management.
The number and variety of attendees and exhibitors underscored the application diversity and technological dynamism of the movement. The solutions presented ranged from simple remote-sensor monitoring to space-based global IoT services for those with international assets that need to be connected. Two separate companies, Lacuna Space and Fleet Space have several microsatellites currently in orbit providing coverage to places thought previously unable to serve due to their remoteness.
The migration towards using modular, scalable subsystem building blocks to create a product is ongoing, with more and better pieces being unveiled every day. One example can be found in Microchip Technology’s RN2483 LoRa Transceiver Module, the core of a low-power solution for long-range wireless data transmission. These powerful new modules are providing designers of every stripe the ability to create sophisticated wireless products without a lot of prototyping.
A fully-certified 433MHz/868MHz LoRaWAN module, the RN2483 Module uses spread-spectrum modulation within the sub-GHz band. Specifically designed for ease of use, the RN2483 LoRa Transceiver Module is certified to the LoRaWAN 1.0 specification, ensuring that designers can quickly and easily integrate their end devices into any LoRaWAN network. These modular and scalable subsystems are empowering people in every area of design.
In this video, Lucio Di Jasio from Microchip talks at The Things Conference 2019 in Amsterdam about their family of building-block modules to create wireless IoT solutions by assembling subsystems with the desired functionality.
IoT in the field
With all of the attention being given to industrial and smart facility applications, it is easy to forget that wireless IoT solutions can be implemented anywhere. Many outdoor businesses and activities can benefit from the advanced connectivity and functionality enabled by the latest wireless systems. With the right information, soil scientists and technologists can help farmers save money while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.
Companies like Teralytic offer products that bridge the gap between soil research and actionable analysis, to reduce fertilizer cost, among other things. Their LoRaWAN wireless probes collect data from the soils and send them to gateways to aggregate probe data and send it to the cloud in a secure, continuous, live stream. Then they run analytics on the data based on soil conditions compiled by governments, universities, and your criteria.
In this video, Steve Ridder, CEO of Teralytic, talks about the company's agricultural IoT solutions. Their LoRaWAN-based wireless probe has 26 sensors reporting soil moisture, salinity, and NPK at three different depths, as well as aeration, respiration, air temperature, light, and humidity.
Agriculture isn’t the only outdoor application that can benefit from an IoT-based wireless solution. Even tethered outdoor apps like signage can benefit from it. An example can be found in train stations, whose platforms have wired systems, but with legacy functionality that is difficult to upgrade without significant labor and cost. One solution is to use wireless systems to provide that additional functionality, tapping into the legacy wiring only to get power.
Recently, the German rail system (Deutsche Bahn) started developing a wireless solution to upgrade their platform clocks, already famous for their accuracy, but requiring hands-on monitoring and adjustment. The goal is to create “smart” clocks, that not only tell the correct time but can adjust themselves or call for service when off. In addition, the German rail company wants to turn them into intelligent platform monitors to perform platform traffic assessment.
In this video, Olga Wilner from Deutsche Bahn talks about using IoT technology to improve scheduling and maintenance at German train stations. By empowering these ubiquitous devices with additional functionality via IoT-based systems, the company can extend both the useful life of the clocks but also increase that usefulness, not just telling time, but helping Deutsche Bahn manage it better with improved traffic management.
These developments are very promising for the IoT industry, as the LoRa community is only one of several organizations, groups, or corporations developing infrastructure-level solution sets for IoT devices and development. Soon, everything with a power supply that has any value, or deals directly with humans, will have and use some level of Cloud-based network connectivity. The solutions from the LoRa community are only a small example of what is available, but it’s a pretty good start, and for some, the only necessary destination.