Why Connectivity Needs to be a Priority in Rural America

August 14, 2020 Remi Lorrain, LoRaWAN Network Director, Semtech

It’s expected that 5G will cover about 25% of the world’s population in the next decade. A majority of the coverage will mainly be in wealthy, well-developed areas in the U.S., China, and Europe. Impacted industries expand beyond telecommunications and into healthcare, education, and far beyond. But while users can expect to experience faster download and upload speeds and lower latency, what happens to businesses, and even people, based in rural America who don’t have the proper broadband coverage or hardware in place to support constant connectivity?

In today’s volatile economic market, adaptability and choice must be the name of the game. Not all use cases are created equal and while the market has been so focused on how 5G will impact the world, long range, low-power technology has proved itself to be the technology of choice for those requiring ultra-low power. Businesses and individuals are looking to leverage the IoT with long range, low-power solutions that are flexible, scalable and easy to implement. While 5G was designed to bring faster speeds and connectivity, long range, low-power solutions serve distinct use cases where devices need to be battery-operated and can last in the field for extended periods of time.

This technology is essential for rural communities as it gives organizations the ability to measure and monitor data in real-time and detect issues before a crises arises. This happens through the implementation a network of sensors and gateways. The agriculture industry is one of the most well-known use cases for IoT technology in rural areas as it enables efficiencies that can help farmers to maximize their yield while minimizing their impact on the environment. For some, technology is the difference between a good or bad harvest, healthy or unhealthy livestock, and efficient water usage or significant waste.

Organizations like Waterbit and Sensoterra have utilized this type of technology to monitor data for a range of applications from plant health to water consumption.

WaterBit

WaterBit is a precision agriculture irrigation company that “believes in helping growers be good stewards of the land through smart agriculture.” The company is leveraging long range, low-power technology for its Automated Irrigation Solution (AIS). It’s a complete planning and control solution that enables the monitoring and regulation of local land, with considerations for soil conditions, plant stage, and weather at a more granular and accurate level. In 2017, Devine Organics deployed WaterBit’s AIS across 40 acres of asparagus at its California and Mexico operations. Within the first season, the organization saw a 6% reduction in water use and they nearly doubled crop yield from 800 to 1,500 pounds per acre. They also reduced gas emissions by 5%. Through IoT technology, WaterBit’s AIS is able to reduce operating costs; handle millions of messages per day to support activity across a 6-mile radius; and secure communication across devices making crop data and management software highly resistant to attacks.

Sensoterra

Sensoterra develops wireless soil moisture optimization solutions to help growers effectively irrigate crops. These solutions operate on a long range, low power-based infrastructure and meet the most demanding customer specifications, offering farmers detailed insight into the soil moisture levels in their fields. Sensoterra is utilizing technology provided by Senate to collect the necessary information that will then be used for analysis. Having deployed more than 5,000 sensors across more than 30 countries worldwide, Sensoterra has achieved over 60 million data points. In 2017, an Idaho potato farmer deployed this solution across their farm and saw a 30% reduction in farm water use. Other organization’s leveraging Sensoterra’s long-range, low-power enabled solution can expect to see ROI in less than one growing season, with improved soil heath and increased yield.

The agriculture industry and rural America are proof that there’s not a one size fits all solution when it comes to connectivity. While 5G is the technology of choice for many applications, long range, low power solutions are designed to serve these types of distinct use cases where infrequent communication devices need to be battery-operated and can last for extended periods of time.

About the Author

As LoRaWAN Network Director at Semtech, Remi enables LoRaWAN operator footprint expansion across geographies while supporting business increase. For the LoRa Alliance, Remi drives operator-focused projects, as co-chair of 5G work group and sponsor for Wireless Broadband Alliance Liaison.

Remi has been taking for more than 20 years, management and executive positions in Mobile and Fixed Operators as well as software companies.

Remi received an engineering degree from Telecom Paris Tech and a master of computer science from Paris Orsay university.

 

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