LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is a low-power wireless communication technology specifically designed to allow devices to send and receive small amounts of data over long distances. The technology operates in the sub-gigahertz radio spectrum – a radio wave range that does not require licensing and is, therefore, free to use. LoRaWAN networks are primarily utilized in IoT applications.
The structure and size of the data transmissions are defining characteristics of LoRaWAN networks and devices. The data transmissions are incredibly small, with basic, direct communication like yes/no or on/off type transmissions. While LoRaWAN networks would not be appropriate for high-bandwidth applications like video calls or video streaming, it is perfect for signaling streetlights to turn on, notifying waste management if a trash can is full, or remotely monitoring utility meters.
What is LoRaWAN?
The LoRaWAN specification is supported and promoted by the LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit association with the mission to support and promote the global adoption of the LoRaWAN standard for massively scaled IoT deployments, as well as deployments in remote or hard-to-reach locations.
A LoRaWAN network acts similarly to a mesh network, but with a few changes. Rather than each device acting as a node, there are several gateways throughout the network. These gateways receive signals from LoRaWAN devices and send them along to a centralized network server. The data is either processed in this server or passed along to a cloud server for processing or analysis.
LoRaWAN utilizes Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS), which operates differently than a standard radio transmission. Instead of transmitting the signal at a fixed frequency, CSS gradually changes the frequency of the signal in a linear or non-linear manner. The result is a signal that appears as a chirp, with its frequency continuously increasing or decreasing over time. CSS allows the signal to travel long distances and allows the signal to penetrate objects and obstacles in such a way that it maintains signal integrity, while also minimizing the effect of background radio wave interference.
Where is LoRaWAN Used?
While LoRaWAN is still a relatively new technology platform – the initial release was in 2015 – the use cases and deployments are expanding at a near-exponential rate. The characteristics of the technology – specifically the ultra-low power requirements, the long range, and the ability of CSS signals to penetrate objects and obstacles – make LoRaWAN technology excellent for use in cities and densely populated areas. Below are some of the most common, current use cases of LoRaWAN technology.
Public safety, municipal utilities, and other smart city applications are currently the most prevalent use case of LoRaWAN devices. The ease of use, the long range, the long life, and the interference-limiting CSS signal make LoRaWAN devices perfect for deployment inside cities. LoRaWAN devices are currently used in a wide variety of smart city applications, from monitoring environmental conditions like air quality and temperature to monitoring open parking spaces to monitoring the status of public transit, to managing street lighting, to monitoring the health and status of static resources like fire hydrants, streetlights, bridges, and sewers.
LoRaWAN devices are perfect for many different agriculture applications. A major benefit of LoRaWAN technology is the low power requirement which contributes to the long life of the devices. This is especially appealing for agriculture applications as it is not practical to perform maintenance on or charge the batteries of sensors and other devices across expansive fields. LoRaWAN devices and sensors are currently being used to monitor sunlight exposure, soil moisture and content, weather conditions, and crop health.
Logistics and Transportation
LoRaWAN devices are used by logistics and shipping companies to track and monitor high-value goods and assets. The low power consumption and long range allow relatively small trackers or sensors to monitor locations across a large geographical area.
Why is LoRaWAN Popular?
LoRaWAN networks and devices offer a long-range solution to transmit small amounts of data. LoRaWAN solutions are also incredibly affordable since the networks operate in the unlicensed sub-gigahertz radio spectrum. Further, CSS allows LoRaWAN device signals to travel long distances and allows the signal to penetrate objects and obstacles in such a way that it maintains signal integrity, while also minimizing the effect of background radio wave interference. The low cost and high reliability make LoRaWAN technology highly effective in densely populated areas.
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