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The Changing Face of Connectivity
LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN protocol will boost global connectivity —to some degree
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fast-moving movement, transforming the lives of many into a connected future with communication technologies. However, existing IoT devices are often too expensive and require high energy-efficient sensor nodes to communicate across a long distance. This motivates the development of new transceiver technologies that enable power-efficient communication over a very long range—for instance, Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) technologies such as LoRa, Sigfox, and Weightless. The development and implementation of these emerging technologies accelerate universal connectivity by creating new and efficient ways to monitor and optimize and many other unique use cases for various sectors.  In this article, we will discuss the performance and capability of LoRa and LoRaWAN protocol. Also, we will describe LoRa and LoRaWAN features and how these revolutionary technologies can be utilized efficiently in various application scenarios.

What is LoRa?

LoRa is a spread spectrum modulation developed by Semtech Corporation and is a byproduct of Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS). LoRa is an LPWAN solution intended for long-range wireless connectivity. The name LoRa is an abbreviation for long-range because it can transmit minimal data over a distance of 10 to 20 km with low power costs enabling it to run for a few years on a battery.  Users and businesses can easily connect sensors to the cloud, providing real-time data transmission, bringing forth business productivity and efficiency. There have been countless innovations around LoRa, such as smart IoT applications and enabling problem-solving solutions disrupting our planet: energy management, natural resource reduction, pollution control, infrastructure efficiency, disaster prevention, to name a few.

LoRa Security

All LoRa systems and chip modules will all come with already embedded at fabrication a secured key and a unique device ID. First, each chip is given a unique ID (devEUI) and key (appKey), also replicated in a secure cloud-based join server. Then this gets pushed to distribution, purchased by the device manufacturer, and moves the device in the sales channel. Moreover, the device manufacturer never sees the key and doesn't have to manage any security. The LoRa Alliance has defined standard interfaces between joint servers, a secure key storage server, and network servers, such as TTN and application servers. As soon as the device turns on and starts broadcasting its joint request packets, the key derivation process happens both in the device and the secure server. Thus the device is deriving these two keys the network key, and the application key and the joint server does the same. Through the standard interface defined in the Lora alliance, the network server and the application server have standard API. They can go to the joint server and fetch the network server at the network key, the application server the application key. The network server has never seen the application key. Therefore, you have end-to-end encryption in which the root key is concealed, and the user of the device might not even be exposed to the root key. The root key is embedded in the secure element in the device and is not accessible, and even if you physically break down the device you can't extract it.

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is an open protocol explicitly built for the IoT framework to connect numerous battery-operated sensors, modules, and machines over an extensive network. It was developed by the LoRa Alliance and was first released in the year 2015. LoRaWAN is a Media Access Control (MAC) layer protocol created on top of LoRa modulation. It is a software layer that determines how devices use the LoRa hardware, such as when they transmit and the format of messages. It is helpful for devices that are usually asleep, and only when a message needs to be sent does it wake up, sends the message, and then go back to sleep. Indeed, LoRa is complementary to existing IoT communication devices.

Visual Comparison

LoRaWAN is ideal for transferring small-scale payloads (like sensor data) over a long range. LoRa modulation provides a remarkably more excellent communication reach with low bandwidths than other participating wireless data transmission technologies.

LoRaWAN Network Architecture

On the left side, you can see the end devices which are connected to a gateway. The gateway is listening for messages that end devices are sending. Moreover, the gateway is transparent since it forwards the message to a network server. Then the network server identifies the end device and secures and manages the network. On the right side lies the application in which the solutions developer uses to gather data, manage devices, check status, and send the messages back.

Regional Specifications

LoRa can be used in the license-free spectrum. But unlike Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, LoRa is not globally harmonized. So in different regions, you have to utilize different frequencies. LoRaWAN has a regional parameter specification for each continent, where LoRaWAN is supported in 150 countries.

EU
863 to 870 MHz, 433 to 434 MHz
China
779 to 787 MHz
US
902 to 928 MHz
Australia
915 to 928 MHz

What is the difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN?

LoRa is the physical layer. Different regions such as Europe, the US, Asia have various bands or frequencies that you can utilize. Also, there is LoRa modulation which functions as a data transmitter in long-range over the air. On the other hand, LoRaWAN serves as the MAC layer or the Media Access Control. The MAC layer is responsible for securing the network, activating devices on a network, frame counting, acknowledging messages, synchronizing the windows that your application can send data to the end devices.

Why choose LoRaWAN?

  • Ultra-low power - LoRaWAN end devices are optimized to operate in low power mode and can last up to 10 years on a single coin cell battery.
  • Long-range - LoRaWAN gateways can transmit and receive signals over a distance of over 10 kilometers in rural areas and up to 3 kilometers in dense urban areas.
  • Deep indoor penetration - LoRaWAN networks can provide deep indoor coverage and easily cover multi-floor buildings.
  • License-free spectrum - You don’t have to pay expensive frequency spectrum license fees to deploy a LoRaWAN network.
  • Geolocation- A LoRaWAN network can determine the location of end devices using triangulation without the need for GPS. A LoRa end device can be located if at least three gateways pick up its signal.
  • High capacity - LoRaWAN Network Servers handle millions of messages from thousands of gateways.
  • Public and private deployments - It is easy to deploy public and private LoRaWAN networks using the same hardware (gateways, end devices, antennas) and software (UDP packet forwarders, Basic Station software, LoRaWAN stacks for end devices).
  • End-to-end security- LoRaWAN ensures secure communication between the end device and the application server using AES-128 encryption.
  • Firmware updates over the air - You can remotely update firmware (applications and the LoRaWAN stack) for a single end device or group of end devices.
  • Roaming- LoRaWAN end devices can perform seamless handovers from one network to another.
  • Low cost - Minimal infrastructure, low-cost end nodes and open source software.
  • Certification program- The LoRa Alliance certification program certifies end devices and provides end-users with confidence that the devices are reliable and compliant with the LoRaWAN specification.
  • Ecosystem- LoRaWAN has a vast ecosystem of device makers, gateway makers, antenna makers, network service providers, and application developers.

LoRa Applications around the World

Taiwan


Semtech's LoRa RF technology is being used in a significant expansion implemented by Asia Pacific Telecom, one of Taiwan's largest mobile networks. The development will provide coverage for the rest of the country, connecting over 23 million people. Eventually, it is also expected to connect machine to machine, IoT, and Smart city applications throughout Asia.

New Zealand


LoRa Alliance Members KotahiNet and Loriot deploy a LoRaWAN-based network in New Zealand, enveloping more than half the population in a matter of months. The network uses gateways and sensors embedded with the LoRa technology network and application software to create a smart sensing infrastructure for many IoT applications. From farmers receiving frost warnings to aid in protecting their crops to tracking lost boats and stolen beehives.

Mexico


Team Brainiacs from Guanajuato, Mexico, won one million pesos for Nodi solution, a free communication service to allow text communication on a free frequency using solar-powered mobile devices based on Semtech LoRa wireless RF technology. This aims to promote remote communities to create access to communication to serve health, education, public safety, environmental protection, income generation, and other needs.

Scotland


The New LoRa-based IoT network in Glasgow, Scotland, offers GPS-free geolocation capabilities that enable diverse tracking solutions. The introduction of Semtech's LoRa geolocation solution opens new possibilities for Glasgow's LPWAN. For example, it could be used in building monitors, pollution sensors, and social care devices to track the behavior of patients living with dementia and support independent living. The network in Glasgow is one of the most advanced in the world. It is the perfect demonstrator for rolling out across other cities, permitting urban infrastructure to become more intelligent.

South Korea


Semtech's LoRa wireless RF technology is featured in a new SK Telecom LPWAN, covering 99% of South Korea's population. SK Telecom also plans to offer 100,000 free LoRa modules to help scale the development and deployment of LoRa-based IoT solutions. This nationwide deployment of a LoRaWAN-based commercial network marks the first important step towards realizing connectivity between an infinite number of things going beyond just interconnectivity between people.

LoRaWAN Products

Grove – LoRa-E5 (STM32WLE5JC)


If you want to use LoRa with an SBCs like the popular Raspberry Pi 4, or a microcontroller like the Wio Terminal, the LoRa-E5 Grove module will be your best bet. Featuring full LoRaWAN capabilities in the modular simplicity of the Grove ecosystem, the Grove LoRa-E5 lets you bring your existing devices into your LoRaWAN network with just a few simple steps!

Features:

  • LoRa-E5 (STM32WLE5JC) embedded
  • Support LoRaWAN protocol on EU868/US915 frequency band
  • Ultra-long transmitting range up to 10km (Ideal value in open space)
  • Easy control by AT command via UART connection
  • Rapid prototyping with plug-and-play Grove interfaces
  • Ultra-low power consumption and high performance


LoRa-E5 Development Kit


The LoRa-E5 Development Kit consists of the LoRa-E5 Development board, an antenna, a USB Type Cable, and a 2*AA 3V Battery Holder. The LoRa-E5 Dev Board is embedded with the LoRa-E5 STM32WLE5JC module with LoRaWAN protocol compatibility on the global frequency band. In addition, it supports various data protocols and interfaces, such as full GPIOs, RS-485, and Grove!

Product Features:

  • Ultra-low power consumption and high performance
  • Easy testing and rapid prototyping
  • Full GPIOs that lead out to rich interfaces, including RS-485, Grove, etc.
  • Global LoRaWAN® and LoRa frequency plan supported
  • Long-distance transmission range to 10km (ideal value in open area)


WM1302 LoRaWAN Gateway Modules


Seeed Studio's new WM1302 modules are the next-generation of mini-PCIe form-factor LoRaWAN gateway modules that have been carefully designed to unlock greater possibilities in long-range wireless transmission. Powered by the brand new Semtech® SX1302, the WM1302 series features improved sensitivity, power consumption, and thermal management over older models with SX1301 and SX1308 chips!

Product Features:

  • It is powered by the Semtech® SX1302 baseband LoRa® chip, bringing extremely low power consumption while delivering high performance.
  • Mini-PCIe form factor with standard 52-pin golden finger for space saving and seamless integration with various gateway devices.
  • Operates at ultra-low temperatures, with no requirement for additional thermal management to keep your LoRaWAN gateways compact and space-efficient.
  • High sensitivity down to -139dBm @ SF12 with SX1250 TX/RX front-end; Transmission power of up to 26dBm @ 3.3V.
  • We are certified with CE, FCC, and TELEC to simplify your product development and certification processes.

Foreseeing Renaissance

Today our society is experiencing its transition. Together with constant innovation, we've created the connected cities of tomorrow to enable a more secure and connected future. In a changing world, ideas and technology collaborate to achieve prosperity for the planet as a whole. In hindsight, the coming era of accessible, connected devices will be viewed as the start of a new renaissance for us all. 
The Changing Face of Connectivity
snoosnoo 16 July, 2021
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