HomeBlogExpertiseLoRaWAN® successes and shortfalls: Four years and 200 customers’ review
3 min reading
7 September 2023
7 September 2023
LoRaWAN® successes and shortfalls: Four years and 200 customers’ review
LPWAN IoT deployments have been taking place for the last 5+ years with varying degrees of success. Nowadays, it is common to read articles where people claim that most IoT deployments are slow, expensive, difficult to deploy and operate, do not address real problems, or that the entire IoT industry fell short of their expectations. It is one large generalization that is neither accurate nor of any help to people or enterprises looking to invest in or deploy IoT solutions. A better approach is to summarise:
most common IoT solutions;
problems they address;
cost-effective and proven ways to deploy them;
business models one should avoid, at least for now.
To help understand the overall IoT market, we analyzed ~200 customers from the list of 600+ whom we sold LoRaWAN® Gateways, Devices, or Solutions in the last four years. Our focus was to identify what IoT solutions are the most common and have the best ROI, what companies experienced the most success deploying LoRaWAN® networks and IoT solutions, and finally, what LoRaWAN® deployments and companies have experienced the least success so far based on revenue growth, market acceptance, and their customer satisfaction.
Below are findings based on the most successful LoRaWAN® use cases, companies, and business models to the least successful ones.
Proven use cases that solve real problems work exceptionally well (out of the box), have strong ROI, and have been deployed in large volumes by global customers for the last 4+ years. The most common and high volumes are the following:
First, Utilities (water, gas, and electricity metering).
Second, Asset and People Tracking and Utilization (indoors and within smaller areas, it is much larger than outdoors and over extensive areas or globally).
Third, Smart Building or Facility Management (indoor occupancy, air quality, energy and maintenance cost reduction, etc.)
Small to midsize companies with a strong focus on a few use cases and complete solutions that anyone can deploy without extra training (work out of the box) did much better based on revenue growth, customer satisfaction, and retention compared to other companies, large or small, without a clear focus or too many solutions, none of them working well or optimized for deployment cost, time, or ongoing management, maintenance, and support.
As a note, we observed that customers with IoT experience now consider complete solutions rather than generic IoT platforms with generic IoT use cases where they are required to pay a licensing fee, develop their own solutions, and integrate devices while continuing to pay for device connections. The reason is that such solutions are not cost-effective or efficient enough to deploy or provide good value.
LoRaWAN® suppliers with quality products and solutions, excellent technical knowledge, hands-on experience, and a focus on helping customers address their issues in the most cost-effective and efficient way by providing guidance, examples, and other customer references experienced the most success.
Developing the best-performing products and solutions to win customers and maintain them is no longer sufficient – suppliers should focus on helping customers succeed. LoRaWAN® suppliers must ensure their products and solutions are simple to deploy, operate, and sustain over 5-10 years. This often leads to 30% to 70% lower deployment costs and the same or even more savings in yearly operations and maintenance costs.
Similarly, companies, vertical solutions, and business models that have seen the slow adoption of LoRaWAN® and little success are provided below.
Companies that offer a broad portfolio of other vendor devices and many generic applications (some list over 15 different gateways, over 100 different devices, and over 50 applications, with less than 20-30 development and customer support engineers) did not experience significant revenue growth. These companies do not have the focus or resources to deliver the best IoT solutions that work out of the box, are easily integrated with other IoT platforms (especially larger companies’ existing platforms or IoT solutions via open API), or are optimized for the most cost-effective and efficient deployment.
The latter two are key for successful IoT deployment. It is not the cost of the gateways and devices that matters most, but the deployment and operation of 10s to 100s of thousands of devices over 5-10 years that one should be focused on. Many such companies expect enterprises or end customers to integrate the selected devices themselves or pay for them, which is time-consuming and expensive and significantly delays customer decisions and deployment.
Any providers that state their solutions are “device- or HW-agnostic” should be a red flag to any customer who is looking for a complete solution – device-agnostic, most of the time, means “DIY.” Some companies invest in custom solution development, but it takes much longer to close such opportunities and bring them to the market, resulting in the loss of significant opportunities for product-focused companies.
Smart Cities, except for a few examples around the globe, have not advanced or met most people’s expectations, even though most governments and municipalities around the globe state digital transformation and IoT are one of their top priorities for the next five years. Many government-sponsored IoT groups, webinars, and conference events focus on Smart Cities. Furthermore, municipalities have many problems to solve, but there are a few excellent examples with strong ROI in practice. By now, there are many proven IoT solutions on the market that, if implemented, would improve residents’ everyday lives and use municipal budgets more effectively. Municipalities’ most common problems that Smart Cities and IoT technologies must address are related to Utility Management, Public Safety, Environmental Well-Being, Waste Management, Street Lighting, Smart Parking, Road Traffic Management, and Public Transport Management. Surveying municipality responses on slow adoption rate, many respond that the Smart City concept is still too broad, with many competing solutions and technologies leading to an impossible decision that meets every stakeholder’s need. Moreover, it is often unclear how everything fits together at all levels:
hardware to software;
sensors and gateways to cloud platforms;
data to analytics and automation.
It needs to be made clear who the main customers and actors are and what role they play in the whole ecosystem of a Smart City.
LoRaWAN® operators that offer basic connectivity (and it is up to customers to find solution providers or become the integrators of their own solutions by identifying the right devices, developing applications, and then proving the solutions work) are the least successful. This model is similar to both cellular IoT and Sigfox operator models. So far, neither has been successful for a simple reason: enterprises and businesses are looking for complete solutions, not connectivity alone.
If cellular providers had not been able to accelerate IoT adoption for the last 5 years by selling connectivity alone, LoRaWAN® would not have succeeded in following the same model. Helium network also proves that IoT connectivity without solutions does not help with IoT mass adoption.
In summary, the most successful LoRaWAN® use cases are Utilities, Asset and People Tracking, and Smart Building or Facility Management. Small to midsize companies with a clear focus on a few use cases and complete solutions that anyone can deploy without extra training have done much better than other companies with a broad portfolio of other vendor devices and many generic applications.
IoT providers should focus on developing the best-performing products and solutions that are simple to deploy, operate, and sustain over 5-10 years. They should also provide guidance, examples, and other references to help customers succeed.
On the other hand, IoT customers should focus on solutions that work out of the box, are easily integrated with other IoT platforms, and are optimized for the most cost-effective and efficient deployment. They should avoid IoT platforms with generic IoT use cases where they are required to pay a licensing fee, develop their solutions, and integrate devices while continuing to pay for connectivity sincethis is not a sustainable model in most cases. Instead, they should look for complete solutions with integrated devices, as such solutions are more likely to work out of the box and be cost-effective in the long run.
Overall,LoRaWAN® technology has successfully addressed real problems and provided strong ROI in certain use cases. Still, IoT providers and customers must focus on developing and deploying complete solutions optimized for cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and ease of use. By doing so, they can increase the success rate of IoT deployments and realize the full potential of IoT technology.
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