As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, the need for efficient and reliable wireless protocols becomes crucial. Two popular options in the IoT space are LoRaWAN and Zigbee. Understanding the strengths and limitations of each technology will allow businesses and individuals to make informed decisions when implementing solutions in various industries.
Whether you are looking for long-range communication with extended battery life or a flexible network structure with high security, this comparison will help you choose the right technology for your specific IoT application.
LoRaWAN and Zigbee Network Architecture
Unlike cellular networks, LoRaWAN operates on a Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technology, enabling long-range connectivity with low power consumption. It leverages Spread Spectrum technology to enable devices to communicate over different frequencies within designated frequency bands. A LoRaWAN® network consists of end device nodes, gateways, and the network server.
On the other hand, Zigbee is a wireless protocol designed for low-power and low-data-rate applications. It operates on the IEEE 802.15.4 physical radio specification and employs a mesh network architecture. It comprises Zigbee devices that form a network by connecting wirelessly. Each device can also act as a repeater to facilitate data transmission over long distances.
What Zigbee and LoRaWAN® are Built for
Zigbee and LoRaWAN® serve different purposes and cater to various IoT applications.
The Zigbee protocol is ideal for creating wireless control and monitoring systems within a localized area. Its common applications include home automation, smart lighting, and industrial monitoring. Zigbee devices offer a reliable and low-latency wireless connection, making them suitable for real-time control and automation.
LoRaWAN®, on the other hand, is designed for long-range communication and supports thousands of devices across large areas. It is a fitting technology for applications with low data rates, such as smart agriculture, asset tracking, and smart cities. LoRaWAN sensors provide extended battery life and reliable data transmission over vast distances, so they are suitable for remote and outdoor deployments.
Feature Comparison of LoRaWAN® and Zigbee
When comparing LoRaWAN® and Zigbee, several distinguishing features come into play.
Zigbee operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency band, which may experience interference from other wireless devices operating in the same frequency. On the contrary, LoRaWAN® relies on various frequency bands, including license-free sub-GHz bands, offering better coverage and reduced interference.
Zigbee features low communication delay. LoRaWAN®, with its long-range capabilities, introduces higher communication latency due to the nature of long-range transmissions.
Zigbee protocol excels in low-data-rate applications, providing reliable and secure data transmission. In comparison, LoRaWAN® supports both low and high-data-rate applications, allowing flexibility based on project requirements.
Zigbee offers higher data rates than LoRaWAN® does, so it works well for applications that demand faster data transmission. Nevertheless, whether it is LoRaWAN vs Sigfox or Zigbee comparison, LoRaWAN® focuses on low-power applications and offers lower data rates, ensuring energy efficiency and long battery life.
Zigbee networks support a larger number of devices, making them feasible for applications that require dense device connectivity. Meanwhile, LoRaWAN® can support thousands of devices over a large geographical area.
Zigbee networks offer shorter transmission distances, generally limited to a range of a few hundred meters. LoRaWAN®, with its long-range capabilities, can transmit data over several kilometers.
Both Zigbee and LoRaWAN® provide authentication mechanisms to ensure the security of the network and the data transmitted. Proper authentication certifies that only authorized devices can access the network and transmit data.
For both, it is lower compared to other technologies. The transmitting current of the LoRa™ chip is like Zigbee’s, but the receiving current is lower. In Zigbee, the number of data packets sent and received increases power consumption, while LoRa™ generally requires fewer interactions and data packets.
LoRaWAN® uses a star-of-stars topology, where LoRaWAN gateways relay messages between end devices and the central network server. At the same time, Zigbee offers various network topologies, including star, tree, peer-to-peer, and mesh networks. Each topology affects message routing and device connections differently.
LoRaWAN® long-distance communication, strong wall-penetrating capability, and large system capacity require fewer gateways than Zigbee, reducing the networking cost. Additionally, the installation and deployment of LoRaWAN® devices are simpler compared to Zigbee, leading to lower installation expenses.
Pros and Cons
- Longer range: One of the prominent advantages of LoRaWAN® technology is its longer-range capability. The extended range allows for communication over larger distances.
- Low power equals more battery: LoRaWAN® devices provide the benefit of low power consumption, which translates to a longer battery life. With efficient power usage, it can achieve more than 10 years, reducing the need for frequent battery replacements and ensuring continuous operation over extended periods.
- Remarkable immunity to interference: LoRaWAN® technology adopts the spread spectrum, resulting in remarkable resistance to interference. Even when multiple signals are sent to the host simultaneously on the same frequency, LoRaWAN® ensures that these signals do not interfere with each other.
- Easy and fast deployment: A LoRaWAN® network employs a star topology, making it easy to deploy and expand. Additionally, LoRaWAN® handles less bandwidth, which simplifies the deployment process. The ease and speed of deployment make LoRaWAN® an obvious choice for practical IoT applications where data transmission can be unstable or unpredictable.
- Not ideal for large data payloads: LoRaWAN® technology is not suitable for applications that require large data payloads. This limitation arises due to the processing of less bandwidth and the transmission of smaller amounts of data.
- Unlicensed radio networks: LoRaWAN® can operate on unlicensed radio networks. As the number of LoRaWAN® devices and network deployments increase, there is a possibility of experiencing interference on that frequency.
- Less secure: The LoRaWAN® network layer and the application layer share the same root key and random number, and they are not isolated from each other. Consequently, this setup presents potential risks for data privacy leakage and data tampering due to private key leakage.
- Flexible network structure: Zigbee offers a flexible network structure with multiple options for network configurations. However, due to its limited communication distance and weak capability to penetrate walls, expanding a Zigbee network can be challenging. Nevertheless, its flexibility provides versatility in designing networks for specific applications.
- High security: Zigbee utilizes the AES-128 encryption algorithm, providing a high level of security during data transmission. This encryption algorithm ensures that data is securely transferred and protects against unauthorized access. Individual applications using Zigbee can tailor their security properties to meet their specific needs.
- Short delay: Zigbee boasts short delays in response time, resulting in prompt and efficient communication. Nodes in a Zigbee network can quickly switch from sleep to working mode in just 15ms. Additionally, individual nodes can connect to the network in as little as 30ms, further reducing power consumption and conserving energy.
- Large network capacity: Zigbee networks can accommodate many connected devices. Each can include up to 255 Zigbee network nodes, with one designated as the master device and the rest as slave devices. When connected through a network coordinator, it can support over 64,000 nodes.
- High cost: Deploying many nodes in Zigbee applications can be costly. The short communication distance necessitates the deployment of multiple nodes to cover larger areas, leading to increased costs. Additionally, when something goes wrong or a node requires replacement, the expenses of replacing devices can be substantial.
- Limited transmission coverage: Zigbee’s coverage is primarily limited to indoor environments. The technology’s range and ability to penetrate walls are not as effective outdoors, making it less suitable for applications that require long-range connectivity in outdoor contexts.
- Complex deployment: Zigbee involves numerous terminal nodes and gateways, leading to complex networking and deployment scenarios. The large number of devices and other components can increase the complexity of setting up and expanding Zigbee networks. Depending on the scale of the intended deployment, Zigbee may require additional planning and configuration efforts.
||Flexible network structure
|Low power consumption
|Remarkable immunity to interference
|Easy and fast deployment
||Large network capacity
|Not ideal for large data payloads
|Unlicensed radio networks
||Limited transmission coverage
As LoRaWAN® and Zigbee have distinct advantages, they serve different use cases in the realm of IoT. Below are the common application scenarios for each technology.
LoRaWAN® application scenarios
LoRaWAN® is well-suited for the following uses:
- Smart cities
- Smart homes
- Smart buildings
- Smart environmental monitoring
- Smart measurement
- Smart agriculture
- Smart farming
- Smart industry
- Smart retail
- Smart logistics
- Intelligent fire protection
Zigbee application scenarios
The most common uses cases for Zigbee include:
- Smart homes
- Smart measurement
- Smart agriculture
- Smart energy
TEKTELIC LoRaWAN® Solution
One LoRaWAN® product example is TEKTELIC and cirkuit’s solution for remote monitoring of indoor conditions. By utilizing TEKTELIC’s COMFORT and VIVID sensors, building managers can gain real-time insights into various parameters, including room occupancy, leak detection, temperature, humidity, light, and open/closed doors and windows.
The COMFORT & VIVID sensors are completely wireless and can be easily deployed anywhere within a room, including wall, ceiling, and table mounts. With a battery life of up to 10 years, these sensors offer a long-lasting investment for business owners and facility administrators.
The VIVID sensor features a PIR lens with multiple masking options, enabling occupancy monitoring and management of meeting rooms or flexible workspaces. It can be wirelessly configured for different purposes, such as custom apps, actions, limits, triggers, and reports. Meantime, the COMFORT sensor can be paired with an external probe for leak detection. These sensors provide real-time alerts and insights, improving property management.
Here are the benefits of the decision to buy LoRaWAN sensors by TEKTELIC:
- Increasing employee engagement, productivity, and comfort.
- Proactively managing and reducing the risk of significant events such as water leaks, improper humidity levels, and unauthorized access.
- Enhancing effectiveness of cleaning schedules, reducing operating costs, and minimizing the need for harmful chemicals.
- Optimizing space utilization and gaining better insights into tenant activity.
- Reducing utility costs by effectively monitoring temperature levels and energy consumption.
- Automating ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting to drive shareholder value.
Furthermore, by combining TEKTELIC COMFORT & VIVID sensors with the KONA Micro Gateway and the cirkuit SaaS platform, building managers can automate routine monitoring tasks and optimize building usage.
In summary, LoRaWAN® is good at long-range communication, supports thousands of devices, and is perfect for applications like smart agriculture and asset tracking. Zigbee is designed for low-power applications and is commonly used in home automation and industrial monitoring. LoRaWAN® has a longer transmission distance, while Zigbee offers higher data rates.
Both technologies have security measures in place, but LoRaWAN® may require additional security measures. It is a preferred option for long-distance transmission, while Zigbee is better for short-range, low-latency applications. The choice between the two depends on specific requirements and use cases.