LoRa Wireless for M2M & IoT
- LoRa is a wireless technology that has been developed to enable low data rate communications to be made over long distances by sensors and actuators for M2M and Internet of Things, IoT applications.
One of the major issues for machine to machine, M2M communications used for applications like the Internet of Things, IoT is to enable communications over long ranges using very low power levels.
One scheme for addressing this is known as LoRa. It gains its name from the fact that it is able to provide 'Long Range' communications using very low power levels.
A LoRa network can be arranged to provide coverage similar to that of a cellular network. Indeed many LoRa operators are cellular network operators who will be able to use existing masts to mount LoRa antennas. In some instances the LoRa antennas may be combined with cellular antennas as the frequencies may be close and combining antennas will provide significant cost advantages.
In order to develop and promote the LoRa wireless system across the industry, the LoRa Alliance was set up.
Although LoRa has been fundamentally developed by Semtech, making the technology an industry standard will enable the system to grown and gain a much larger market share.
The LoRa Alliance is an open, non-profit association that was formally launched at Mobile World Congress in 2015. It was initiated by various companies to standardise Low Power Wide Area Networks, LPWAN, for the Internet of Things, IoT, machine-to-machine, M2M, and smart city, and industrial applications.
The founding members of the LoRa Alliance include Actility, Cisco, Eolane, IBM, Kerlink, IMST, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, and Microchip Technology, as well as lead telecom operators: Bouygues Telecom, KPN, SingTel, Proximus, Swisscom, and FastNet (part of Telkom South Africa).
There are several key elements of the LoRa wireless system. Some of its key features include the following:
- Long range: 15 - 20 km.
- Millions of nodes
- Long battery life: in excess of ten years
LoRa technology consists of several elements:
- RF interface / physical layer : The LoRa physical layer governs the aspects of the RF signal that is transmitted between the nodes or endpoints, i.e. the sensors and the LoRa gateway where signals are received. It governs aspects of the signal including the frequencies, modulation format, power levels, signalling between the transmitting and receiving elements, and other related topics. Read more about the LoRa physical layer.
- LoRa network architecture: Apart from the RF elements of the LoRa wireless system, there are other elements of the network architecture, including the overall system architecture, backhaul, server and the application computers. Read more about the LoRa network architecture.
LoRa wireless technology is ideally placed to be used in a wide variety of applications.
The low power and long range capabilities mean that end points can be deployed in a wide variety of places, in buildings and outside and still have the capability of being able to communicate with the gateway.
As such the system is easy to deploy and it can be used for a large number of Internet of Things, IoT and machine to machine, M2M, applications.
Applications for LoRa wireless technology include: smart metering; inventory tracking, vending machine data and monitoring; automotive industry; utility applications . . . in fact anywhere where data reporting and control may be needed.
LoRa technology is particularly attractive for many applications because of its long range capability. New nodes can easily be connected and activated and coverage is easy to provide.
By Ian Poole
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