4 min reading
28 September 2021
28 September 2021
What is LoRaWAN and What is it Used for?
Are you looking for the latest revolutionary technology that enables cost-effective, secure, and reliable communication over long distances? Then read on to learn about LoRaWAN—the new wireless communication protocol that is transforming the way IoT devices communicate. In this article, we’ll explore what LoRaWAN is, how it works, and what it’s used for.
What is LoRaWAN?
The term “LoRaWAN” refers to the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) protocol and system architecture of the network. The physical layer of LoRaWAN is based on LoRa modulation, which provides long-distance communication between smart devices, gateways, and end-user. The LoRaWAN coverage range can be up to 15 km which is much larger compared to Wi-Fi; besides, LoRaWAN is more economical to deploy compared to cellular IOT technologies (in remote areas). LoRaWAN protocol follows Internet of Things (IoT) requirements such as bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility, and also enables localization services.
How Does LoRaWAN Work?
LoRaWAN works by sending data packets over a shared radio frequency, allowing devices to communicate with each other. The communication is enabled by a network of gateways that act as collectors, allowing LoRaWAN devices to transmit and receive data over the radio frequency. The gateways are connected to the internet, allowing the devices’ data to be sent to a LoRaWAN server and then accessed by the end user.
The packets of data are exchanged using the LoRa modulation technique, which enables the data to be sent over a wide range of frequencies and distances. This allows for low-power, long-range communication with very low latency.
What is the LoRaWAN Gateway?
The LoRaWAN Gateway is a device used to provide LoRaWAN coverage, similar to a cellular network, that allows LoRaWAN devices to communicate with the server and their owner’s application. Simply saying, it acts as the bridge between the physical world and the virtual world. The gateway receives the data from the LoRaWAN devices and then forwards it to the network server, which stores it and distributes it to the applications as needed. Communication in the other direction, from cloud-based applications to physical devices, is also supported.
TEKTELIC is one of the leading providers of LoRaWAN gateways, which are designed to provide reliable, secure, and cost-efficient communication between sensors and end-user applications. We offer both indoor and outdoor gateways with minimal energy usage and broad frequency coverage. For example, our KONA Micro IoT Gateway provides in-building coverage with “Always On” connectivity and battery backup for up to 4 hours, which makes it a perfect choice for areas that experience frequent power outages but need to keep receiving and transmitting data.
As for the outdoor gateways, one of the most universal options is KONA Macro IoT Gateway, designed to withstand challenging weather conditions and be deployed in outdoor areas. With an IP-67 rating, it can operate within a temperature range of -40°C to +60°C, so it can satisfy the requirements for the most demanding deployments. KONA Macro can connect large numbers of IoT devices to the network, so it allows deployment in demanding applications such as roof-tops and tower-tops that maximize range and coverage thereby reducing overall deployment cost.
What are LoRaWAN Sensors?
LoRaWAN sensors are devices that use the LoRaWAN protocol to exchange data with a gateway and its network server. They are used in the IoT for applications such as asset tracking, monitoring environmental conditions, and collecting other types of data from remote locations. The sensors are low-power consuming and long-range. These sensors support adaptive data rate control allowing their operation to be flexibly configured to support transmission over both long and short distances efficiently.
LoRa, LoRaWAN, and LPWAN
LoRa, LoRaWAN, and LPWAN are low-power wide-area network technologies that are used to enable the Internet of Things (IoT). They offer various advantages to IoT applications, such as long-range, low power consumption, and cost efficiency. At the same time, although, LoRaWAN and LPWAN share many characteristics, each technology offers distinct performance metrics in terms of latency, throughput, covered distances, etc.
LoRa (Long Range Radio) is a low-power, long-range physical layer technology that is used to exchange wireless data over long distances. It utilizes spread spectrum modulation techniques to reduce power consumption and extend the range of transmission, allowing for long-range data communication. LoRa is best suited for applications that require low data rates and long-range coverage, such as remote asset tracking and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.
LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is a wireless network protocol that is designed to provide secure, reliable, and low-cost communication for IoT applications. It is based on the LoRa physical layer technology and uses a star topology with gateways connecting the end devices to the central network server.
LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) is a generic term that refers to wireless network technologies that are designed to be energy-efficient and to provide long-range data communication. It focuses on low-data rate applications, such as sensor networks, and is ideal for applications that require low power consumption and long-range coverage. LPWAN is not necessarily used with LoRa. It can be based on one of the technologies, LoRaWAN is one example, others include Sigfox, NB-IoT, Weightless, etc.
In LoRaWAN there are 3 classes of devices with different capabilities and different power consumption profiles: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
Class A is the most economical. Devices of this class are powered by a battery for several years, which is achieved because the device is only active for a short time, during the transmission of its data on a programmed schedule and for an additional time immediately after this transmission to allow the network to communicate with the device. The rest of the time the device is in sleep, power-saving mode.
It relies on an Aloha-type communication design which permits unscheduled communication initiated solely by an end device and includes two short receive windows (Rx1 and Rx2) following uplink transmission. During these receive windows, the network can send downlinks to the device – an ideal feature for applications that need quick communication after uplink transmissions have finished.
Class B is a communication mode that enhances Class A by enabling devices to schedule downlink transmission windows during designated downlink ping slots. This enables applications to send control messages during these designated slots without waiting for an outbound message from the device. Class B devices must have achieved timing synchronization with the network before they can receive these downlink messages from the gateway.
Once a Class B device has been timed correctly, it enters receive mode during its ping slots to ensure it can receive any downlink communications from the network. As such, Class B offers much lower latency than its predecessor Class A; this is a reduced battery power consumption mode compared to always having the receiver powered as in Class C.
Class C is an end-device mode that enables communication with devices from a gateway at almost any time. It requires more power than its Class A or B counterparts, yet offers the lowest latency when sending data from the application to an end device.
The LoRaWAN is successfully used in smart buildings, agriculture, the medical sphere, oil and gas industries, and many others. TEKTELIC has a variety of products for each industry, and a list of successfully realized projects.
For smart buildings, we offer a temperature and humidity monitor called COMFORT. This sensor is an all-in-one device for indoor conditions monitoring. It measures light, vibration, temperature, humidity, and detects leaks, open/closed doors, or windows.
TEKTELIC has provided COMFORT to one of the UK’s leading construction and regeneration groups to keep an eye on the office environment and provide a healthy workplace. With the COMFORT sensor, building operators were able to address the ventilation issues they had, and maintain optimal climate conditions indoors.
Another device we offer for indoor environment monitoring is the air quality sensor BREEZE, which is designed to monitor CO2 levels, temperature, and humidity in real time. It can be useful for residential and commercial buildings, as well as for public institutions such as schools, universities, and libraries. It is fully integrated with the LoRaWAN infrastructure and can be added to any sensor network, your business already has.
Smart agriculture is another area of our interest and we offer CLOVER and KIWI soil moisture sensors to the market. Both sensors monitor soil moisture, temperature, as well as ambient temperature and humidity, and can detect light. They have up to 10 years of battery life, so you can forget about constant battery replacements and recharging, just install the sensor and have updated measurements for up to 10 years. The only difference between CLOVER and KIWI is the way of deployment. CLOVER is mounted right into the surface, while KIWI features an elevated mount and can be deployed on a tree or wooden stick with external probes.
Our KIWI sensors have already proved their efficiency in La Sapienza Botanical Garden in Rome, and at Brook House Farm in Bromyard. In both cases, our sensors helped to solve the problem of irrigation scheduling and provided the necessary data to sustain the health of the plants. The biggest advantage of the sensors is their wireless connectivity and long battery life, which most other devices do not provide.
In healthcare, LoRaWAN is used for monitoring and tracking patients, medical devices, and other health-related data. By using LoRaWAN, healthcare providers can track patient data in real time, allowing them to respond quickly to changes in a patient’s condition and make informed decisions. It also helps to reduce costs associated with manual data collection, as well as provide better patient monitoring and improved patient outcomes.
TEKTELIC has already noticed the fast pace of healthcare development and we have offered several wearable health monitoring devices to the market. First of all, our eDOCTOR Device, which is designed to measure vital signs such as heart rate, temperature, respiration rate, chest expansion, body position, has cough/sneezing detection, and more. The device is user-friendly, easy to set up, and provides real-time data that can be monitored and analyzed on a smartphone or computer.
The other health monitoring device TEKTELIC offers is the eBEAT Arm Band. With eBEAT, medical professionals can track patients’ heart rates, body temperatures, and blood oxygen levels. With its long-lasting battery life and sleek design, the eBEAT is the perfect device for telemedicine and remote monitoring of patients during the day.
In the oil and gas industry, LoRaWAN can be used to monitor and manage pipelines, drilling rigs, and other remote assets. With LoRaWAN, companies can monitor oil and gas production levels, detect potential leaks and contamination, and ensure safety and compliance with industry regulations. The technology also helps companies quickly and accurately detect and respond to any unexpected events or issues.
TEKTELIC has ORCA Industrial GPS Asset Tracker, which can be used to track assets in transit or warehouses. It is a unique device because it features LoRaWAN, GPS, and BLE technologies, so it can transmit location data of the assets indoors and outdoors. It has an operable range of temperature from -40°C to +85°C, which makes it suitable for the most demanding conditions.
The Most Common LoRaWAN Sensors
The most common LoRaWAN sensors are:
- Environmental sensors
- Motion sensors
- Location trackers
These sensors can be used for various applications such as monitoring environmental conditions, occupancy, and tracking assets.
Environmental sensors are used to measure the temperature and humidity of an environment. They are commonly used in offices, residential buildings, and other indoor spaces. We can mention TEKTELIC VIVID and COMFORT as these types of sensors. Both sensors are designed to monitor humidity, temperature, and motion in indoor areas, to optimize the environment inside the building. They can be configured over the air, allowing for custom applications, behaviors, thresholds, and reports, allowing it to support various Smart Home and Office IoT applications.
Motion sensors, in turn, allow tracking of occupancy in certain areas of a building and help keep track of assets. With motion detectors, users can track the movements of people and objects around the organization and organize foot traffic patterns better. Besides, motion sensors can be connected to room booking systems for effective meeting planning and management. VIVID is one of the effective motion sensors as well due to its PIR lens, and various masking options. Plus, it can be connected to TEMPO Display Tablet for real-time updates on room occupancy and meeting status updates. TEMPO can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar so you don’t need any additional software to use it.
Location trackers are needed to track the assets while they are in transit. They also can be used to locate employees throughout the workplace in hazardous areas. Locating devices are usually small in size and easily attached to an asset without the need for any additional mounting equipment. For example, TEKTELIC SEAL is a compact and sleek design wearable LoRaWAN and GPS tracker, which is made for indoor and outdoor personnel tracking. It has an extensive battery life of up to 12 months, which makes it a cost-effective investment for any business.
While LoRaWAN is a popular choice for LPWANs, there are several alternatives such as Sigfox, Weightless, and NB-IoT.
Sigfox enables communication over long distances at low power. It operates in the unlicensed ISM band, which offers the advantage of lower cost and ease of deployment. However, the Sigfox network is reliant on a single vendor compared to the wide and diverse ecosystem that is supported by the LoRa Alliance. Bi-directional communication is limited, with uplink data rates limited and downlinks not supported.
Weightless P is another LPWAN technology that uses radio frequencies to transmit data over long distances at low power. It is suitable for applications that require low-cost, low-power connectivity, but its capacity is limited and its infrastructure is expensive. Once again, the LoRa Alliance eco-system offers much more choice in equipment, both network and device level compared to this system.
NB-IoT technology, in turn, is designed for low-power, low-cost, and long-distance communication. It is more suitable for applications that require higher throughput than other LPWAN technologies. The advantage of a cellular-based LPWAN technology is ubiquitous coverage while the obvious disadvantage is the cost required to have a sim card/data plan for each and every device.
We should also mention Wi-Fi and cellular when speaking about alternatives.
Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network (WLAN) technology commonly used in homes, businesses, and public places to provide internet access. It is widely available and is often the first choice for most people when it comes to connecting to the internet. However, it cannot cover large areas and require many routers for that.
Cellular networks, on the other hand, are mobile networks that use radio waves to transmit and receive data. They are typically used to provide internet access to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Cellular networks are more reliable and faster than Wi-Fi and can provide internet access to more remote areas. However, they are also more expensive to set up and maintain, and each device requires its own data plan.
What are the Benefits of LoRaWAN
LoRaWAN has one of the greatest impacts on the battery life of the node, network capacity, quality of service, security, and a variety of programs that serve the network.
Smart Energy Consumption
LoRaWAN node exchanges information when it has data ready to send. This type of protocol is commonly referred to as the Aloha method. On a contrary, in a cellular network or a synchronous network nodes often have to “wake up” to synchronize with the network and check messages. This synchronization consumes a significant amount of power and is the number one driver to reduce battery life.
Many existing deployed networks utilize a “mesh” network architecture. In a mesh LPWAN network, the individual end nodes forward the information of other nodes to increase the communication range and cell size of the network. While doing so increases range, it also adds complexity, reduces capacity, and reduces battery lifetime because nodes forward and receive irrelevant information from other nodes. That is why the long-range star architecture of LoRaWAN makes the most sense for preserving the battery life of the device when long-range connectivity can be achieved.
Quality and Security of service
In LoRaWAN, nodes are not connected to a specific gateway. Instead, data transmitted by a node is typically received by multiple gateways and forwarded to the central network server where the messages are verified and forwarded securely to its application.
Intelligence and complexity are transferred to the network servers that manage the network and will filter redundant packets received, perform security checks, schedule acknowledgments through the optimal gateway, perform adaptive data rates, and more. If the node is mobile or moving, there is no need to pass control from gateway to gateway, which is a key feature that allows the asset tracking application.
The LoRaWAN specification varies from region to region based on the country-specific regulations where the system is to be deployed. TEKTELIC can present LoRaWAN products and solutions for Europe and North America specifically. Also, some products are already supported in a range of Asian countries and Middle East States.
LoRaWAN for Europe
LoRaWAN defines a regional channel plan for the EU that is based on the spectrum in the 863-870 MHz range. Unlicensed operation in this frequency band is allowed at 14 dBm transmit power as long as a <1% transmit duty cycle limitation is respected.
LoRaWAN for North America
The ISM band in North America is 902-928 MHz. LoRaWAN sets 64, 125 kHz BW, channels ranging from 902.3 MHz to 914.9 MHz, plus 8, 500 kHz BW, channels ranging from 903 MHz to 914.2 MHz for the uplink channels. Downlink channels, also 500 kHz BW, range from 923 MHz to 928 MHz. In North America, the maximum transmit power is restricted to less than 30 dBm if operating as a frequency hopping device over > 50 channels, other regulations allow operation at a reduced power level, 20 dBm, when hopping over a smaller number of channels. According to the FCC, there is no duty cycle limit, but there is a maximum transmission time of 400 milliseconds per message.
Is it Secure?
The short answer is – yes, LoRaWAN is secure. It uses AES-128 encryption to protect data from tampering or interception. It uses a Network Session Key to confirm the integrity of every message from authenticated devices and uses an Application Session Key to ensure the confidentiality of messages all the way to their final end-point. Finally, all communications are routed through a dedicated network server, which provides an additional layer of security.
Despite its many advantages, LoRaWAN has some limitations that should be considered before adoption.
First, LoRaWAN does not offer ubiquitous coverage. Unlike cellular networks, it is common to want to deploy LoRaWAN in an area that does not have network coverage. Fortunately, it is possible to work with LoRaWAN network operators to expand their coverage to your area of interest or it is also possible to deploy and operate your own enterprise network.
Second, applications requiring mobile devices need coverage across the areas that your devices will move. This may require roaming agreements to be established with neighboring network operators. It is likely that your devices can move across an area that is larger than the network that you are interested to operate, cooperating with neighboring networks can be very useful in this case.
Third, LoRaWAN is limited in its data rate, which is less than 50 kbps. This makes it unsuitable for applications that require higher data rates, such as streaming video or audio.
Is it Fast?
LoRaWAN is not particularly fast, but it is designed for low-power, long-range communication that requires low data rates. Data rates can range from 0.3 kbps up to 50 kbps with a long range of up to 15km (10 miles). So, if you need to send measurements and reports, it is fast but it will not be a good choice for sending videos or images.
At the same time, if you approach the decision to choose LoRaWAN protocol with all the limitations in mind, and most importantly, with the purpose of your deployment, you will be able to have all the benefits of LoRaWAN technology listed above.
The LoRaWAN network works where other networks cannot be used due to distances, high energy consumption, high traffic, or lack of coverage. Where engineering services are unable to lay the cable, the LoRaWAN antenna also emerges. This standard is designed to connect devices that send small amounts of information over long distances with minimal energy consumption (which has a positive effect on the price of sensors). The openness of the standard, the longevity of network equipment, high energy efficiency, the absence of regulatory barriers, and the flexibility of solutions make LoRaWAN almost the ideal Internet of Things standard.
That’s why if you are looking for a reliable network for IoT infrastructure or devices to create a smart environment, you should consider LoRaWAN connectivity. For more detailed information on LoRaWAN technology, feel free to get in touch with our sales team.