The strong growth of the Internet of things (IoT) that has been observed in the last few years has led to the rapid development of LPWAN (energy efficient long-range networks).
The LoRaWAN technology has come to the first roles due to the market demands that include availability, energy efficiency, deployment speed, cost and service optimization.
What is LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN is a low-energy network protocol using LoRa broadband modulation. LoRa modulation provides a range of data transmission (up to 15 km in the open, up to 5 km in urban areas), a high penetrating capability in urban areas (it is possible to use in deep basements without additional costs) and a signal protection against interference.
The LoRaWAN protocol is a software layer that defines the use of LoRa equipment in time of transmitting or receiving messages. It is developed to allow low-power devices to exchange data with long-distance wireless applications connected to the Internet.
The popularity of LoRaWAN technology in industry, “smart cities”, agriculture is growing due to the fact that it is a possible protocol of wireless two-way communication covering a large area at low power consumption (some devices operate on one battery for up to 10 years).
This way LoRaWAN resolves the most acute problems of the IoT for business:
- data acquisition from a large number of devices over a large area;
- extended service life of terminals (work up to 10 years is possible due to low energy consumption);
- cost and time saving (network is deployed quickly, it is easily scalable and possible for remote service).
LoRa network architecture
The terminal IoT device in the LoRaWAN network (sensor, executive machinery or both) connects to the LoRaWAN wireless network via LoRa modulation gateways. At the same time, data transmission goes to all base stations available in the location, rather than to one. The lack of binding to a specific gateway makes it possible to guarantee the transmission of information and, if necessary, to control the sensor in motion. All information transmitted from the IoT endpoint is protected by end-to-end encryption with 2 levels of cryptographic protection: a 128-bit network key and a 128-bit session key.
Each gateway (base station) is registered in the LoRaWAN network and sends the received data packets directly to the Network Server, using the most suitable network connection (3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, optical fiber or radio-line).
Network Server manages the entire network. It receives data from gateways, removes duplicate messages, sends received data to the appropriate Application server, controls data transfer speeds.
Application server processes the received data and sends it to the connected end devices. The data can be interpreted and used to solve business problems.
LoRa device classes
There are 3 classes of terminal devices used in the LoRaWAN network: A, B and C. They differ from each other in the modes of data dump and transmission and energy efficiency.
- Сlass A is a base class that has to be supported by all devices. This class of IoT devices logs on according to the planned schedule and has 2 additional windows to sniff on the network immediately after the data is sent. It has the longest lifespan, but you have to wait until the next scheduled time goes online;
- Class B – Unlike Class A, it has additional scheduled network sniffing periods, which are opened on a scheduled basis. The device is synchronized with the base station via special beacons, allowing to know the exact time of the device’s communication;
- Class C – Terminal IoT devices of this class sniff the network all the time except for the transmission period. It is used in cases when there is no need to save energy, but it is necessary to probe devices in unscheduled time.
Technological strengths and weaknesses
Like any other technology, LoRaWAN has its advantages and disadvantages, which determine whether it can be used for a specific task.
The strengths of LoRaWAN technology include:
- high range of data transmission compared to other wireless technologies;
- high penetrating capability in urban areas;
- speed and simplicity of network deployment. The “star” topology quickly covers a large area of one base station (lock) without using additional hardware;
- depending on the class of the device used and the specified parameters of the network output, the battery life can be up to 10 years;
- simplicity of scaling;
- low cost of base stations and end-use devices compared to current systems.
Like any other system, LoRaWAN also has disadvantages:
- delay in data transmission from the end devices to the application: from few up to tens of seconds;
- low bandwidth: from a few hundreds bits/s to a few tens kbit/s.
The use of LoRa
The advantages of LoRaWAN make it possible to apply the technology in a variety of fields: services, industry, agriculture, etc.
Long communication range, energy efficiency, high penetrating capability make it possible to solve and simplify a variety of tasks:
- collecting data from all resource-use instruments in a single system;
- controlling the leaks, breakdowns, hazes;
- monitoring the state of environment;
- tracking the location and the staff movement;
- controlling the street lighting;
- creating optimal conditions for animals and plants in greenhouses, fields and silos;
- organizing control over mechanisms and units, etc.
Nowadays Atiko has already implemented a number of LoRaWAN based solutions.
You can find more information about them in the “Solutions” section.