The LoRa Alliance, now almost certainly the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) market leader, says it’s now getting particular traction in the utility market, where smart meters for water are driving real LoRaWAN sales volume. According to ABI Research, by 2023 there will be an installed base of 1.34 billion meters and nearly half of these will be smart meters used in the water utilities market, especially in North America where this market was one of the first to deploy LoRaWAN sensors/end devices at scale, with hundreds of thousands of connected meters already in use by 2019.
In fact, LoRaWAN networks seem set to dominate the IoT market – at least in terms of sheer numbers of deployed devices. Higher value deployments (although in much smaller numbers) are also being enjoyed by the telco technologies – LTE-M and NB-IoT – which are better suited to mobile applications (monitoring things on the move like containers) and data-heavy (in IoT terms) applications up to and including machine-to-machine, video and voice.
The numbers, however, appear to be with LoRaWAN which hits the low cost sweet spot: it uses public spectrum, is extremely miserly with its power expenditure (device batteries are designed to last 10 years and more), and is a great beneficiary of economies of scale in terms of the devices.
And 5G’s arrival doesn’t seem likely to knock this class of devices out of the way either.
“Current estimates predict that 75 per cent of all IoT solutions will be best suited for LPWAN technologies,” claims Donna Moore, CEO and Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance. “LoRaWAN is the global de facto LPWAN standard for IoT and quickly becoming the connectivity backbone for a multitude of smart city applications.”
Agriculture is another big area for LPWAN devices where it’s characteristics suit multiple devices sending back straight-forward readings, on soil moisture and temperature, for instance.
LoRa also scored a hit when Chinese giant, Tencent, joined up with the LoRa Alliance in July 2018 and partnered with ‘The Things Network’ to bring LoRaWAN to China.
It recently also partnered with Siradel, a provider of wireless network design and smart city planning tools, to design a LoRa network that will cover key areas of Shenzhen City. As part of the network design, Siradel planned to evaluate and optimize the existing IoT network based on LoRaWAN technology. Siradel used its S_IoT tool to assess the current outdoor and indoor coverage, as well as simulate the future coverage after integration of additional gateways.
Siradel’s S_IoT platform uses the company’s 3D ray-tracing propagation model dubbed ‘Volcano’, and 3D visualization capabilities and is capable of estimating a large number of dedicated IoT metrics such as the impact of the gateway geographical distribution. The S_IoT service also considers geolocation accuracy as a dimensioning indicator enabling use cases with mobile equipment.
According to Siradel, the study determined the precise location and number of gateways needed to achieve coverage targets for each scenario and for applications such as smart parking, smart metering or smart building.
Clearly, what started as a simple one-way, low cost, low powered network scheme has been able to add manageability to its offer as it scaled up its deployments. LoraWAN and the LoRa alliance, far from being knocked out by the telco technologies, looks like thriving side by side and even working in tandem – for instance cellular services could provide gateways for LPWAN services and aggregate and backhaul the data from thousands of devices.―Telecom TV