Actility’s IoT geolocation helps to protect workers and assets

lorawan for IoT connectivity network in underground train tunnels

The Actility Blog

Actility’s IoT geolocation helps to protect workers and assets

lorawan for IoT connectivity network in underground train tunnels

An IoT connectivity network has been installed in the tunnels of a commuter transit line in France to help monitor and protect the safety of workers and to track tools and assets below ground. Our client selected a LoRaWAN network powered by Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise connectivity platform to provide the underground IoT geolocation connectivity required. This, in turn, allowed the operation to run smoothly and to the required timeline.

An evaluation of a low-power consumption LoRaWAN communication network for connected objects was set up during several tunnel maintenance and upgrade projects. The positive results of these tests led to the decision to deploy a complete industrial and scalable solution in the underground tunnels between two stations on the line.

This deployment allowed the clients’ engineers to explore the applications of IoT in a transit environment. At the time, the train lines were closed to normal traffic between several stations to renew all the ballasts which support the rail tracks. The intensive project required approximately 400 people working non-stop on 12km of tracks for several weeks.

To ensure the security of workers located in dangerous zones, working in or near machinery and to be certain that no-one remained in dangerous zones during prohibited times, almost 250 LoRaWAN tags were deployed to map and secure hazardous areas, and a hundred tracking sensors were placed on objects or people for real-time geolocation.

LoRaWAN provides low power connectivity to devices in underground or remote indoor locations where access to regular 3G or 4G networks and electricity is extremely limited or even impossible, especially along the stretches of train tracks. To take LoRaWAN underground through the stations and along the tracks, multiple gateways and antennae are positioned to enable the penetration of the network, and the tracking sensors and tags then communicate through them.

Following the success of the underground IoT geolocation trial, which clearly demonstrated the value of the IoT in managing a large-scale underground project efficiently and safely, the client opted to deploy LoRaWAN technology more widely, selecting an industrial solution powered by Actility’s ThingPark Enterprise network connectivity management platform.

Actility’s ThingPark platform is already deployed in around 40 global, national or largescale LPWAN projects around the world. The ThingPark platform supports the major IoT connectivity standards: LoRaWAN, LTE-M and NBIoT.

Actility ignites a revolution in logistics with a breakthrough IoT Geolocation and Tracking Solution

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The Actility Newsroom

Actility ignites a revolution in logistics with a breakthrough IoT Geolocation and Tracking Solution

Actility, the industry leader in Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN), today announces the availability of a comprehensive geolocation and tracking solution platform offering breakthrough network-based location capability enabled by Cisco LoRaWAN network gateways and infrastructure. The ThingPark Location Service will be available to IoT solution providers and enterprise developers through a single API in ThingPark X, the company’s data mediation and enrichment platform.

“We believe that accurate location combined with LPWA networks are a game-changer in the logistics sector, delivering a revolution in precision and efficiency of resource and supply chain management.” explains Actility CEO Mike Mulica. 

“Geolocation and tracking could possibly be the biggest use case in the whole of the internet of things, based on the amount of interest we’re seeing in our location service portfolio. We are making asset tracking accessible to the global supply chain at very compelling cost and very long battery life for tracked devices, and of course with fine location granularity, all combined into a market-ready package with easy integration into existing enterprise management platforms and network solutions.”

Visitors to Actility’s booth at Mobile World Congress (8.C03) will be able to see the network based location solution in action, tracking vehicles and containers in the nearby Port of Barcelona. The system does not rely on dedicated tracking sensors. The signal from any LoRaWAN enabled device in the Port is received by several of the Cisco Interface Modules for LoRaWAN mounted throughout the facility. 

By precisely measuring the time it takes for that signal to reach each of the modules, the network is able to compute the distance to the device from each gateway and then “triangulate” its position. Since this solution does not require the connected device to be fitted with GPS, and the location calculation is done in the cloud, network-based geolocation carries no power penalty, and the lifetime of the device in the field is unaffected. Trackers capable of up to ten years in the field without maintenance are possible.

For many applications, the ability to locate an asset with minimal power usage is more critical than high precision accuracy – for theft prevention, for example, it is important to be sure that an asset is within a specific depot or site area, but not exactly where it is. For other live tracking applications, though, the exact location precision offered by GPS is necessary. To meet these high precision use cases, Actilty also integrates LoRa assisted GPS in its ThingPark Location Service. Dedicated tracking devices select relevant GPS signals to determine their location, and use energy-efficient LoRaWAN communication to pass location information to tracking applications. LoRA enabled GPS offers much longer battery life than comparable GPS trackers using mobile cellular modems.

“KPN believes localization is an important feature for a wide variety of LPWA use cases. Actility’s Thingpark Location Platform is as a very promising solution enabling geolocation, tracking and geofencing of assets in many industries,” comments Jacob Groote, EVP of Service Platforms at Actility customer KPN.

The complete Location Service will be available through a single ThingPark X API, which, coupled with the bidirectional capability of the LoRaWAN link, will allow developers to manage geolocation according to the needs of their application. For example, in an asset tracking and theft prevention scenario, the application may use low-power consumption network-based location to geo-fence a vehicle, raising an alert only when it strays outside a defined area. But if the vehicle breaks through that geo-fence, then the application can request regular GPS-based location updates to enable the vehicle to be traced in real time and recovered.

“We’re delighted to be pioneering this next evolution of IoT technology,” says Actility CEO Mike Mulica. “We believe that this capability is a game changer for many industries, including logistics, supply chain management, precision agriculture, utilities and mining. It’s the “killer app” for industrial IoT.”

ThingPark 4.0 premieres network-based geolocation and delivers enhanced data transmission, advanced network management, and a new partner portal featuring key tools for LPWA developers.

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The Actility Newsroom

ThingPark 4.0 premieres network-based geolocation and delivers enhanced data transmission, advanced network management, and a new partner portal featuring key tools for LPWA developers.

Actility, the industry leader in low power wide area networking, today announces the release of version 4.0, a major upgrade to its market leading ThingPark LPWA network platform. The enhanced software brings network-based geolocation, enabling tracking and geofencing; advanced radio optimization technology to maximize device battery life and network capacity; tools to streamline onboarding of devices for suppliers and network operators, and an improved suite of tools for monitoring and visualizing message flows in the LPWA network.

“ThingPark 4.0 represents a significant step forward for our carrier-grade IoT platform,” says Actility Founder and CTO Olivier Hersent. “The new network-based geolocation capability is obviously the headline feature: we are reaching record-breaking power and cost performance, which will enable a wide variety of new use cases for any customer who wants to locate or track assets, animals or people. The increasing maturity of the platform is clearly demonstrated by the release of tools designed to make it simpler and easier for our customers to manage and optimise large scale commercial deployments of ThingPark-enabled LPWA networks,” Hersent adds.

Location based services

Actility and top analysts expect that location-based services will become the leading applications for LPWANs in the next 5 years. Network geolocation is ideally suited, for example, to use cases where a customer wants to know if an asset with a tracker attached is moving or stationary, is in one store or depot rather than another, or to receive a warning if it strays out of a defined area. The network-based geolocation feature relies on the fact that in LoRaWAN networks, the signal from a distant sensor is received by multiple gateways (macro-diversity). 

By measuring the differences in propagation time from a specific sensor to several LPWAN base stations (which are synchronized to the GPS time reference with 30ns accuracy) as well as strength of the received signal, it is possible for the network to calculate the location of the sensor. The geolocation information is then added to the metadata sent by the ThingPark LPWA network to the customer’s application. Compared to GPS, network-based geolocation typically requires up to 50 times less energy per fix, and enables lower cost and compact designs. “We expect that network-based geolocation, and hybrid techniques combining network-based and other geolocation methods, will revolutionize the world of tracking,” comments Herrsent.

Optimized radio performance

LoRaWAN is a bidirectional communication technology and defines commands which allow the network to control the sensors’ transmit power, uplink repeat rate and data rate (spreading factor). While most implementations control only the data rate (Adaptive Data Rate, or ADR), ThingPark 4.0 introduces a new and more sophisticated algorithm that simultaneouslyy optimizes data rate, transmit power and repeat factor. This improved algorithm reduces the chance of strong signals from nearby sensors “drowning out” weaker signals from more distant ones , increases the quality of reception for hard to reach devices, increases cell capacity and minimizes airtime. This results in improved performance and lower energy consumption for ThingPark 4.0 based LoRaWAN networks, and also allows operators to introduce connectivity price tiers based on quality of service.

Supporting ecosystem partners

Fast industrialization of high quality LoRaWAN devices is critical to the success of LPWANs: the new and improved ThingPark Partner Programme now provides self-testing tools which allow developers to implement continuous testing of their LoRaWAN implementation, with comprehensive library of test scenarios as well as real-time MAC layer analysis. All is needed is a low cost LPWANs picocell in the lab, then the ThingPark partner program provides the full featured network-in-a-sandbox and test tools.

ThingPark 4.0 also introduces improved features for device and application developers, with a common framework allowing the integration of multiple application layer protocols over the LoRaWAN stack, integrated into the ecosystem through easy to use XML REST drivers and interfaces. LPWAN operators also need tools to streamline onboarding and activation of massive numbers of devices. ThingPark 4.0 provides automated onboarding tools, including LPWAN address pool allocation and management application and a fully automated, end to end onboarding process.

Olivier Hersent concludes: “2017 will mark the transition of LPWANs from early adopter phase to a full scale industry. ThingPark 4.0 provides a solid foundation for our operator partners and OEM customers to scale up their end-to-end LPWAN operations and fully automate management of what is going to become the largest technology ecosystem ever.”