Actility collaborates with Microchip Technology

The Actility Newsroom

Actility launches Ecosystem Partner Program

Actility has announced at Electronica that it is collaborating with Microchip to allow IoT device manufacturers to speed their time to market and ensure seamless integration with LoRaWAN operator networks globally.

Microchip has fully validated interoperability of the LoRaWAN network stack with the newly launched SAM R34 System-in-Package (SiP) family and qualified the hardware through Actility’s ThingPark Connected programme, ensuring that any vendor using the SiP can be sure that their device is fully interoperable with any of the 60 national or large scale LPWA IoT communication networks deployed across 5 continents by Actility customers and powered by the ThingPark Wireless platform.

ThingPark Connected is an interoperability test programme for hardware, devices and applications, covering multiple regions, LoRaWAN versions and device classes. It goes beyond simple standards compliance to ensure end to end performance on networks powered by ThingPark Wireless in realistic use conditions. We’re delighted that Microchip has taken advantage of the benefits of working with ThingPark Connected, delivering interoperability at a fundamental level in the overall stack and thus enabling a large vendor ecosystem using the SAM R34.

David Royet, Director of Ecosystem and Digital Services, Actility
"As the LoRa ecosystem expands rapidly across geographies, interoperability testing with networks is crucial to reduce risk and time to market. In addition to a certified reference design, LoRaWAN software stack and a complete development tool environment, the SAM R34’s proven interoperability on networks powered by ThinkPark Wireless significantly simplifies the development process, enabling products to get to market faster."
Clayton Pillion
Director of marketing, Microchip’s Wireless Solutions business unit

The SAM R34 is a highly integrated LoRa SiP family that combines an ultra-low-power 32-bit microcontroller (MCU), sub-GHz RF LoRa transceiver and software stack in a 6 x 6 mm package. The devices provide the industry’s lowest power consumption in sleep modes, making the SAM R34 family ideal for long-range, low-power IoT applications. Developers will enjoy using Microchip’s fully-integrated development environment to write their application using Microchip’s LoRaWAN™ software stack.

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.

ThingPark China accelerates the IoT ecosystem by launching a Developer Lab and Marketplace

TP-China

The Actility Newsroom

ThingPark China accelerates the IoT ecosystem by launching a Developer Lab and Marketplace

ThingPark China announces the opening of an IoT Ecosystem Lab in Beijing enabling customers to evaluate their IoT solutions, and an online Market which will enable Chinese IoT device and application sellers to market their IoT solutions to business customers in China, and also to benefit from the global audience and IoT sales opportunities enabled by Actility’s ThingPark Market.

Bing Liu, CEO of ThingPark China says, “Our Ecosystem Lab and Marketplace will help accelerate the growth of LoRaWAN-based IoT in China by supporting the local ecosystem at every stage from developing and testing their products to distributing solutions to local customers and taking them to market worldwide. We’re bringing the tried and tested solutions from Actility and adapting them to the needs of the local market.”

Chinese device makers and application developers will be able to create a free account on the ThingPark China developer SaaS platform, hosted in China, giving them access to LoRaWAN connectivity and a suite of tools and APIs, including a self-test capability, to support the integration of their solution with ThingPark. A dedicated Ecosystem Lab facility in Beijing will provide a location with LoRaWAN coverage. Within the facility, developers will be able to use the self-testing tools for devices using the Chinese LoRaWAN frequency bands, and also prepare for international distribution by testing against European, APAC and US channel plans. For customers who prefer to develop and test in their own location, ThingPark China will offer a Developer Kit and gateway pre-configured to connect remotely to the ThingPark China developer platform.

Along with support for developers to create their products, the opening of the ThingPark China Market will provide the opportunity for them to sell local-market IoT products to business customers in China with a user experience optimized for Chinese buyers, and also to sign up to the international ThingPark Market, through which they can sell IoT devices and solutions for any region to customers around the globe, who will be able to buy them in almost 30 different local currencies.

“Here at the LoRa Alliance All-Members Meeting, we can see how quickly the interest and commitment to LoRaWAN is growing in China,” says Bing Liu, “and we’d like to extend an invitation to any company that is interested in adopting, developing and marketing LoRaWAN products globally to join our ecosystem, make use of our lab facilities, developer kits or online tools and sign up for our Market to accelerate their progress in bringing their solution to this dynamic and fast-growing market.”

IoT geolocation enables asset tracking for logistics

IoT asset tracking

The Actility Blog

IoT geolocation enables asset tracking for logistics

IoT asset tracking

Railway cars, truck trailers, containers: tracking valuable assets on the move is a pain point for most large distributed organizations involved in logistics and supply chain, typically relying on partners such as distributors to correctly register check-in and check-out events. This registration process at specific checkpoints is usually manual, intermittent and subject to human errors. To tackle this issue, an IoT low power asset tracking system using LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) trackers brings a “timeless” checkpoint solution. Specifically, LoRaWAN™-based trackers, because of their low power, low cost and lightweight infrastructure, provide a first truly reliable tracking solution allowing to reduce downtime during transportation. 

The challenges involved

In the logistics sector, many business cases involve additional costs due to inefficient utilization of assets. Transport companies need to invest in freight railway cars, car logistics companies need to invest in truck trailers, and of course there are the standard containers and pallets.

“The profitability of these business cases directly depends on the minimization of asset downtime: every day or hour lost in a warehouse, parking or rail station reduces the number of times the moving asset will generate profit in a year.”

However, measuring this downtime is also a challenge. Traditional solutions involved cellular or satellite trackers, which require significant CAPEX, but perhaps more importantly also ongoing OPEX due to battery replacements and connectivity costs. In some cases, trackers are located in hard to reach areas especially when mounted on railroad cars, or in oil and gas rigs, which makes it very costly to replace batteries especially if there are several hundreds of thousands of trackers deployed in the field. The battery replacement is done by humans and is one of the dominating OPEX factors in overall Total Cost of Ownership ( TCO) of the whole solution. These replacement costs actually made it difficult to justify the mass adoption of conventional geolocation solutions in the logistics sector.

LPWAN trackers: a game changer 

LoRaWAN  is a very recent development leveraged by Actility, the industry leader in LPWAN connectivity, to create disruption in both the technology and business models. On the technology front, the main impact is on drastic reduction of power consumption, which reduces battery usage and ultimately also OPEX related to ongoing maintenance. It also creates new opportunities for more dynamic tracking, as communication events are less costly. On the business model side, logistics companies can now trade off between CAPEX and OPEX: most LPWAN systems operate on an unlicensed band, for example the leading LoRaWAN™  technology operates in the 915MHz band in the US, the 868MHz band in Europe and equivalent ISM bands in other parts of the world. This means that logistics companies can invest in their own wireless networks to reduce or eliminate variable connectivity costs.

“The cost of LPWAN radio network gateways has decreased due to higher production volumes and are now affordable even to very small logistic centers, such as a car distributor. “

Next generation LPWAN trackers

The potential of LPWAN-enabled tracking requires a new generation of hardware. The lower radio frequency power consumption is only a part of a massive effort to decrease overall power consumption of the whole system. And rather than focusing on geolocation technology, Abeeway, Actility’s subsidiary,  took the path of developing a smart multi-technology geolocation system fully optimized for LoRaWAN™. Ultra-low power technologies such as TDoA LoRaWAN network triangulation, WiFi sniffing, or BLE beacons, will be used whenever possible, along with the classic GPS optimized through techniques such as Low power GPS and D-AGPS (learn more about our Low power GPS technology here). Trackers from Abeeway were the first to reach sufficient maturity to be deployed in a use case requiring tens of thousands of units, with relatively low-cost assets (such as scooters), which means that reliability, low cost and low power were an absolute must. In the case of asset tracking, dedicated modes such as Start/Stop reporting have been developed: logistic application developers, can trigger the reporting events only when motion stops or starts, but also periodically to increase resiliency.

LoRaWAN and LP-GPS (AGPS/GPS) significantly increases battery lifetime

LPWAN LoRa low power geolocation

Merging an IoT network solution such as LoRaWAN with  multi-mode geolocation technologies for outdoor and indoor positioning increase by at least a factor of 10 the battery lifetime compared to the standard cellular solution using GSM/AGPS. Source: Actility

Designing LPWAN-based asset tracking: a system view

  1. The first step in designing a mobile asset monitoring system is to list all potential stop points for the asset, e.g. for railway cars, these would be freight railway stations and triage/transit centers, or in the case of car distribution companies these would be the distributors.
  2. The second step is to deploy a wide area wireless data collection system: each stop point will be equipped with one, and rarely two or three, radio base stations connected to the internet, usually leveraging existing on-site connectivity or cellular modems. All base stations are coordinated by a central network server, hosted by a service company or owned by the logistics company.
  3. The last step is to equip all moving assets with a LPWAN tracker, typically with a long-lasting primary battery, like the ones offered by Abeeway. These trackers will report stop and start events, so that downtime may be measured, but may also periodically report at rest or in transit to maintain continuous tracking.
  4. In some countries, roaming agreements with public LPWAN networks also allow precise monitoring during transit. Any large or small businesses can deploy a hybrid LoRaWAN™ private/public model using Actility’s ThingPark platform.  And even more, in order to enable new multi-country use cases, Actility partners with network operators worldwide to launch ThingPark Exchange, the first LoRaWAN™ international roaming hub for instant packet roaming between their networks (click here to learn how it works).

If you are interested in experiencing low power tracking devices for your use cases, you can test Abeeway trackers using one of our Low Power Location Trial Packages here. 

Actility collaborates with Opencell to offer class-leading IoT digital subscription services

The Actility Newsroom

Actility collaborates with Opencell to offer class-leading IoT digital subscription services

Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, 28 February 2018: Actility, the industry leader in Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, today announced a successful technology partnership with Opencell to integrate their class-leading open source billing engine framework into the ThingPark Wireless platform. The Opencell partnership, made possible thanks to a close and effective collaboration between the two companies initiated in 2016, will offer billing-as-a-service for ThingPark Wireless customers, support ThingPark Market ecommerce, and enable key features of Actility’s channel partner programme to support advanced revenue-sharing business models globally.

Olivier Hersent, Actility CEO, explains: “Opencell provided the flexibility we needed to optimise the product billing features available within ThingPark Wireless to the complex and evolving needs of our network operator partners for their IoT billing & settlement. We have also integrated it completely in our IaaS cloud to manage the complex financial flows matrix of ThingPark Market for devices, applications and connectivity, and the related settlement requirements.”

According to Opencell CEO, David Meyer: “Actility’s leading position in industrial IoT presents a wide range of requirements in subscription and usage monetization, settlement and commissioning as well as catalog management. We’re very pleased that Actility recognized the strengths of our platform as we’ve worked hard together to meet their requirements and deliver a world-leading solution addressing the developing needs of IoT customers.”

Opencell’s solution is the only open source billing platform capable of addressing complex B2B and B2C usage scenarios. Its software makes complex subscription and usage-based rating and commissioning accessible to all types of businesses and industries including telecoms, cloud operators, Internet of Things enablers and utilities.

“The partnership between Actility and Opencell significantly reduces the cost barrier to entry of addressing complex IoT business models and ensures the reduced time to market that’s critical in the fast-moving world of LPWAN,” concludes Olivier Hersent.