LoRa: The Key to the Global IoT Rollout

December 02, 2020

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LoRa: The Key to the Global IoT Rollout

Smart Edge Nodes (SENs) with integrated LoRaWAN radio technology is among the most significant enabling technologies fostering global IoT deployment.

Smart Edge Nodes (SENs) with integrated LoRaWAN radio technology is among the most significant enabling technologies fostering global IoT deployment.

LoRaWAN is a low power, wide area (LPWA) networking protocol that uses LoRa radio technology for connecting LoRa end-devices (EDs). The LoRa radio technology, which uses narrow-band spread-spectrum technology, is designed to communicate with IoT devices like environmental sensors and actuators over long distances at low date rates while gaining the benefits of low power consumption. The EDs in a LoRaWAN network are typically simple, inexpensive sensors spread over a large geographic area.

LoRaWAN utilizes two-way communication where EDs send packets of data to an IoT gateway or Smart Edge Node (SEN) with integrated LoRaWAN radios. The SEN then acts on the data received and can communicate to the same ED or another ED as part of the application.  The LoRaWAN network uses license-exempt radio spectrum in the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) frequency bands. This offers a combination of long range, low power consumption and secure data transmission over public and private networks. The low-power aspect of LoRaWAN allows EDs to be battery-operated and long-lasting, allowing maintenance intervals to be measured in years.

The LoRa radio technology at the heart of the LoRaWAN network uses the ISM frequency bands, supporting multi-kilometer communication and the ability to penetrate through walls where other radio technologies like Wi-Fi would be unable to operate. This makes it a good smart-building solution in dense urban environments and healthcare, and also supports applications in rural agricultural, mining, and drilling applications.

LoRaWAN networks can support a diverse set of applications to support business plans and revenue generation where other radio technologies would prove unfeasible or error prone.  

As a rule, LoRaWAN is well-suited if your application has the following requirements:

  • Long range – EDs installed multiple kilometers away from LoRaWAN gateway
  • Low End Device Power Consumption - multiple years of battery-powered operation
  • Low bandwidth, low data rate services
  • Security – LoRaWAN is 128bit end-to-end encrypted

However, LoRaWAN may not be a good solution for higher bandwidth applications, such as:

  • Voice communication
  • Image transmission
  • Video streaming

Data processing is moving increasingly to the network device edge, driven by the growth of IoT and the desire to process and prioritize data closer to the collection point for faster response.

In contrast to centrally located, regional cloud computing architectures, edge computing architectures using SENs bring high-performance computing capabilities directly to the device edge of the network. This local, high-speed processing offered by edge-located SENs foster a new domain for IoT innovation, enabling LoRaWAN applications to flourish through the use of next generation analytics.  These analytics,  powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) software running in LoRaWAN-enabled SEN-powered edge networks, allow for more advanced and robust IoT solutions.

A SEN-enabled LoRaWAN solution can be deployed in an edge network as a private, local autonomous processing element or as a gateway to cloud-based processing resources.  The SEN’s use of software container technology allows the processing applications to be run locally on the SEN or on an upstream cloud service, as the business and use case warrants.

A LoRaWAN Container architecture using a SEN provides for a total LoRaWAN solution as shown in Figure 1.  This illustrates a single SEN instance. However, scalability through meshing is a SENs strong point. Multiple SENs can be meshed, either wirelessly or wired, to form a larger processing and connectivity platform at the device edge of the network.

(Figure 1 LoRaWAN Container Architecture)

With the exception of the LoRa ED, all of the functional elements shown in Figure 1 can be run locally within a secure Docker container on a SEN, offering a complete, integrated autonomous or cloud-connected LoRaWAN solution. Flexibility and scalability are inherent in this SEN-based, container-driven approach. 

Some of the key attributes with the LoRaWAN SEN-enabled Container architecture are:

•       Rapid response

  • Completely integrated in a single SEN-based system for simpler management and lower cost
  • Greater security through data localization
  • Ability to locally run analytics dashboards

•       Cloud-optional

Smart Edge network computing enables applications to be run and executed at the network device edge, eliminating the need to connect to an offnet data center or service provider. 

SEN-powered LoRaWAN systems enables control and security over your data, while at the same time enabling a digital transformation at the network edge, opening the door to all-new services and solutions.

About the Author

Clint Smith is a Senior System Architect with Veea focusing on next generation secure edge computing solutions.  He is a solutions-focused senior technologist with success in wireless telecom and engineering management. His broad areas of expertise include product development, technology management, software design, innovation, due diligence, mobile devices, and tech company start-ups.

Clint holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickson University. He is a licensed professional engineer in NY and NJ and has also been an Adjunct Professor at SIT since 2002. He is also an active Volunteer Firefighter.

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