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The IoT changes everything: new use cases mean new requirements, and new networking technologies. Actility is at the forefront.
The internet of things will transform business and industry in every sphere of activity, from connected cities to intelligent manufacturing and smart agriculture. Sparked by the dramatically reduced cost of sensors and devices, combined with new connectivity solutions and cloud based data analytics, the IoT will enable processes to be monitored, measured, controlled and optimised as never before. Businesses large and small will be able to become more efficient, more sustainable and more profitable. This new industrial revolution demands a revolution in connectivity. From cows roaming mountain pastures or the Australian outback to valves buried in the pipework of a vast oil refinery; from water meters in a basement car park to containers aboard a ship in mid-ocean: millions of devices in remote or densely-crowded locations must be able to reliably deliver their data. And with business cases turning on a few dollars per “thing”, that connection must be low cost, and long-lasting.
Existing networks, whether cellular, broadband or wifi, have been developed to connect people to one another, or computers to the internet. They are designed for communication or entertainment: high volumes of data delivered with low latency. IoT devices don’t need to transmit or receive large amounts of data at a time; IoT devices can be anywhere, not just in someone’s living room or office; and many IoT devices will be remote and inaccessible, or without power connections. A new connectivity solution, called Low Power Wide Area Networking, has been developed, pioneered by Actility amongst others, to address specifically the requirements of the internet of things. The most widely adopted LPWA solutions are the open standards of LoRAWAN™ and 3GPP (LTE Cat M1 and Cat NB1)
LoRaWAN™ is a popular and widely deployed communication standard for LPWA that uses unlicensed radio spectrum in the ISM (Industrial, scientific, medical) bands, at around 900MHz or 430Mhz (precise frequencies vary around the world). The use of unlicensed spectrum means that companies can easily roll out networks, and enables private networks for enterprise. LoRaWAN defines the communication protocol and system architecture for the network, while LoRa™
describes the radio layer. LoRa uses Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) modulation, which is both power efficient and offers longer range than legacy alternatives. CSS has been used in military and space communication for decades thanks to its range and robustness to interference, but LoRa is the first low-cost implementation available for commercial use.
LoRa networks have a star layout, in which hundreds or thousands of devices communicate bi-directionally with gateways connected to the core network and, ultimately, the internet. The signal from an individual sensor or device is received by all the gateways within range, which increases reliability and opens up the possibility of location services. The network uses a sophisticated “adaptive data rate” algorithm to fine tune communication between each device and gateway, to minimise power consumption and maximise reliability.
For many requirements, LPWAN demands the lowest cost and lowest power. In real-world use cases (around 20 messages/day), the power consumption of LoRAWAN is 5 times better than LTE Cat NB1). The peak current needed is 10 times lower – translating into an order of magnitude reduction in battery size and cost for a ten-year lifespan. Another major difference between LoRaWAN and 3GPP is the use of unlicensed spectrum. LoRaWAN allows the easy deployment of “campus” networks with thousands of devices in a small area (smart city, smart building, smart airport, smart factory). Enterprise networks can be entirely under the control of the customer, and data remains encrypted end to end. Although Actility is a co-creator and pioneer of LoRaWAN, we believe that 3GPP technologies are complementary, and our products will support all forms of LPWA networking, to ensure the optimum solution for a specific requirement.
Actility is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance™, an industry group that maintains the open LoRaWAN standard, supports members in implementing the standard and promotes the adoption of LoRaWAN for IoT solutions. Launched in early 2015 and one of the fastest-growing groups in technology, the Alliance now has almost 400 members, ranging from major network operators to gateway and device manufacturers, software and service vendors, and end users adopting the technology. For more information visit http://www.lora-alliance.org