4 min reading
6 April 2023
6 April 2023
LoRaWAN Network Server Explained
Looking through the articles about the Internet of Things, we’ve noticed that the LoRaWAN network server is not properly explained at all. So, it is a fair question to ask what is it exactly, and how does the LoRaWAN network server work? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at LoRaWAN and explain what a LoRaWAN network server is, how it works, and how to choose the best option. Read on to have the LoRaWAN network server explained.
What is the LoRaWAN Network Server?
LoRaWAN Network Server is software used to manage a network of Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) devices using the LoRaWAN protocol.
It serves as a comprehensive platform for:
- Data transfer between Devices and Application
- Devices management
- Gateways management
- Device configuration
- User roles and access management.
It also decodes LoRaWAN packets, filters redundantly connected data, performs security checks, automatically schedules confirmation through the optimal gateway, and adaptively optimizes data rates based on device or network configuration.
If you use a commercially available (outsourced) LoRaWAN network server, it should be able to provide connection quality and network performance indicators so you can make informed decisions about your system. Furthermore, the LoRaWAN network server may automatically monitor gateways, integrations, and devices for proper functioning and send status alerts. Not all of the network servers have this feature, but TEKTELIC has it, which is extremely comfortable and beneficial for the user.
What is LoRaWAN Infrastructure?
The LoRaWAN infrastructure is the backbone that enables a variety of devices to communicate with one another. It is composed of three layers: gateways, end nodes, and the network server. Each layer provides different capabilities for communicating between sensors and applications.
Gateways are physical devices that sit between end nodes and the network server, enabling low-power, low-bandwidth LoRaWAN networks to be deployed over long distances. Typically, quite compact, gateways can be mounted on rooftops, water towers, or any structure with a view of an expansive area.
TEKTELIC offers a variety of LoRaWAN gateways for the market, including indoor and outdoor options. For example, our KONA Enterprise Gateway is the perfect choice for any business looking for a reliable, secure, and weatherproof gateway. It’s designed to be deployed both indoors and outdoors, allowing for a fast, robust, and reliable connection. KONA Enterprise also provides businesses with the flexibility to easily expand their networks, allowing them to quickly accommodate new devices and applications.
End Node Devices
End nodes are small, LoRaWAN devices that send data to gateways. They can be powered by batteries or non-battery options and also communicate wirelessly. These devices can be employed in a number of applications, such as smart buildings (to monitor environmental conditions, occupancy, and motion), hospitals with connected rooms, crop fields (to report soil conditions, irrigate crops more efficiently), and manufacturing facilities (alert facility managers when equipment failures occur, track lone workers, etc.).
TEKTELIC offers a range of LoRaWAN sensors for different purposes and industries, including those mentioned above. For example, our SPARROW Asset Tracker is a universal device to track equipment or other critical assets in real time. It uses LoRaWAN connectivity and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to provide real-time location tracking and reporting. SPARROW is designed to operate indoors and features an event-based start-up, which makes it energy-savvy and cost-efficient for different types of organizations. This device is suitable for asset tracking in healthcare, office premises, retail, public spaces (museums, libraries, and multi-building campuses), and other spheres.
As mentioned previously, the network server acts as the intermediary between the end users and sensors and is responsible for managing the data exchange.
The network server has several key roles:
- Authentication and authorization
The LoRaWAN network server is responsible for managing the authentication and authorization of the users, gateways, devices, and integrations to ensure that only authorized entities are allowed to access the network. This is important for maintaining the security of the network.
- Managing network sessions
It provides the necessary routing, public network management, and security services for the devices to communicate with each other and the end-user application. It is also responsible for managing the network topology and ensuring that the network is running optimally. The network server assigns and manages the session keys that are used to encrypt data transmitted from devices.
- Deduplicating uplink messages
According to the LoRaWAN network architecture, one message from the device can be delivered to the Network Server through several gateways. That leads to the uplink message duplication and the Network Server’s responsibility is to remove duplicates and process a single message.
- Managing LoRaWAN network
The network server monitors the performance of the LoRaWAN network, so the user can manage network parameters such as data rate, power, and channel selection to ensure efficient use of network resources.
- Selecting the best gateway to deliver a downlink to the device
It means picking the gateway that will provide the most efficient connection for the data transfer and that will be the most reliable for delivering the downlink to the device. This is achieved by considering network parameters such as signal strength, available bandwidth, latency, etc.
- Routing uplinks and downlinks between Devices and Applications through different integrations
It refers to the process of transferring data between devices, such as sensors, and applications over a LoRaWAN network server. This process involves routing data through integrations with other networks and protocols, such as REST or MQTT APIs, to deliver the data from the device to the application.
TEKTELIC offers a variety of servers including the KONA CORE LoRaWAN® Network Server.
Two deployment options are available: TEKTELIC hosted cloud and on-premises installation which can be installed to any private cloud or data center.
What to Consider When Choosing a LoRaWAN Network Server?
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing a LoRaWAN network server. Examining these considerations will help you decide what’s best for your project.
Compatibility & Customization
Ensure that the server is compatible with the LoRaWAN devices and gateways you plan to use. Network operations are defined by LoRaWAN specification. Specification version 1.0.x is commonly used.
Consider whether you need a server that is highly customizable to meet specific requirements or if a more off-the-shelf solution would suffice.
Device Power Consumption
Device power consumption management is one of the biggest considerations for any IoT solution, especially if you plan to deploy a large network of end devices. It is important to choose a LoRaWAN network server that is optimized for power efficiency if you want to save money spent on device infrastructure support and battery replacement.
Ideally, a LoRaWAN end device will support Adaptive Data Rate (ADR) settings that help to preserve battery life and improve RF conditions. This feature allows the network server to control the data rate based on the received SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) for each device.
Determine how much you are willing to spend on a LoRaWAN network server, and compare prices across different options. Keep in mind that there may be additional costs for maintenance, support, and upgrades. It might be helpful for you to model your P&L at scale to make sure Network Server costs work for you even with a large number of devices and gateways.
Make sure the server is designed to handle large amounts of traffic and data as your network grows. Look for a server that can easily scale up to meet your network’s needs. Architecture should support horizontal scaling which allows getting almost linear dependency between load and processing resources. Therefore, achieve unconstrained and theoretically infinite growth capabilities.
Additionally, make sure the server can be easily integrated with other systems, such as cloud platforms or databases, so you will not need to change servers as you expand your network. Support of WebHooks, HTTP API, and MQTT API will allow establishing integration with most parts of applications and 3rd party solutions.
Look for a server that offers secure authentication, encryption methods, and access control. Standard options will include:
- 128-bit AES encryption of devices payload
- TLS termination of HTTP and MQTT integrations
Additionally, make sure the server is regularly updated with the latest security patches. By taking these measures, you can ensure that messages exchanged are kept safe from potential attacks and unauthorized access.
Last but not the least, you must ensure that your IoT provider delivers adequate support for the server, including documentation, troubleshooting, and training. It can be helpful to look for user reviews and testimonials to assess the quality of support provided. You don’t want to be left alone with new technology and no explanation.
Which One to Choose: Hosted or On-Premise?
The better choice between vendor-hosted or on-premise LoRaWAN network servers depends on the specific needs of your organization. If the organization has the resources and expertise needed to manage and maintain the server in-house, then an on-premise server may be the better choice. However, if the organization does not have the resources or expertise to manage and maintain the server, a cloud server may be the better choice.
Here is a comparison table:
|Setup and maintenance||Fully managed by the vendor, which means that they take care of server maintenance, upgrades, and security patches.||The user has to manage it on his/her own, so it might imply difficulties, especially for those with minimal to no technical knowledge.|
|Scalability||Scalable and can grow with your organization’s needs. The vendor can handle the infrastructure, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business.||Scaling of infrastructure processing capacity for the Network Server becomes the responsibility of the hosting company.|
|Cost||Requires less upfront investment than on-premise servers, and the cost is often spread out over a subscription-based model.
For example, if you choose an end-to-end solution with TEKTELIC, you get a free LoRaWAN network server to use and support from our technical team.
|May require a higher upfront investment, as you will need to purchase and maintain the server hardware, software, and related infrastructure.|
|Security||Encryption and authorization protocols lie on the vendor. So, you need to find a trustworthy provider to feel safe about your data.||Users can maintain full control over their data and security protocols. This can be beneficial for organizations that require strict security measures, such as those handling sensitive data. vvvv|
|Customizability||An extensive level of customization is not always possible with hosted servers.||Can be highly customized to meet specific organizational requirements.|
Most Popular LoRaWAN Network Servers
- TEKTELIC Servers
KONA CORE LoRaWAN® Network Server features full support for the latest versions of LoRaWAN, allowing users to easily configure and manage their networks, as well as offering advanced features such as remote device management and monitoring. KONA CORE is also highly secure, making it ideal for critical applications where security is paramount. With its easy-to-use interface and powerful features, KONA CORE is the perfect choice for anyone looking to set up and manage a LoRaWAN network.
TEKTELIC also offers KONA ELEMENT OA&M Server. The server is designed to configure and monitor TEKTELIC Gateways. It supports advanced monitoring and management tools to ensure the best gateway performance and easy integration with existing networks and systems. It can also be integrated with 3rd party solutions via REST API. Deployment options include installation to any cloud or on-premises environment.
Finally, we have Geolocation Server. The main purpose of this server is to resolve device location based on signal Time Of Arrival (TOA) which is received from several gateways. It offers an impressive range of features and an intuitive user interface. With its robust security protocols, multiple user accounts, and advanced analytics, the Geolocation Server is an ideal choice for location-tracking applications.
With TEKTELIC hosted server, you will have:
It includes regular updates of the server’s software, regular backups, and automated response to any accidents.
Our servers follow the “fault isolation framework”. So, if any fault occurs in a system, it will be isolated not to affect other processes.
TEKTELIC servers can be scaled horizontally.
Horizontal scaling means increasing the number of computations nodes in the Network Server cluster to add more capacity to process higher loads. There is almost no limit to scale-up and the system can handle a very large number of devices and gateways. This allows the LoRaWAN network server to handle more connections and larger volumes of data, improving overall thruput. Important to mention that TEKTELIC Network Server can scale up automatically, provisioning new computation nodes once it is needed.
- Ease of integration
Our cloud servers are capable of connecting with other networks quickly and efficiently. For example, KONA CORE LoRaWAN® Network Server is equipped with both MQTT and HTTP Integrations and is compatible with third-party gateways.
Using LoRaWAN network servers, users can more easily build and manage a secure and reliable network for their IoT devices. They enable long-range, low-power communication for sensors and other devices in the IoT environment.
TEKTELIC, in turn, provides an extensive range of cloud servers and the LoRaWAN network server for a variety of applications, including managing traffic, monitoring and controlling data, and providing the necessary infrastructure for users to get their IoT system up and running quickly. So, if you are looking to implement LoRaWAN technology in your organization, contact our sales team and get started today.