LPWAN IoT: Why is LPWAN Necessary in the IoT World ?

LPWAN IoT: Why is LPWAN Necessary in the IoT World ?
Why is LPWAN Necessary in the IoT World

It’s becoming harder to see a future without the Internet of Things in our daily lives. We are increasingly relying on more communication-network-enabled objects, which can not only send and receive data but also perform specific tasks. Our world is filled with LPWAN IoT sensors and cameras that are transmitting diverse information, from the level of atmospheric pollution to the state of traffic to scooter and bicycle geolocation for shared use in populated streets.

The fact that IoT is becoming a norm in our daily lives means that there are elements that lead to the exponential growth of its ecosystem. On the flip side, IoT’s network connectivity – a backbone of the Internet of Things – has been mainly stimulated by LPWAN IoT technology. The prevalence of this technology in IoT development can be mainly witnessed in the industrial sector.

Market reports predict that IoT-enabled devices are bound to increase from 8.6 billion to 29.42 billion (2019 – 2030), with LPWAN IoT being a major driver of this growth. A recent market report that extensively analyzes LPWAN’s contribution to IoT growth estimates that the fastest-growing IoT communication technology within the next half-decade will be LPWAN. The same report predicts that the number of IoT devices that use LPWAN is bound to grow by 109% each year, exceeding a billion devices by 2023.

Understanding Low Power Wide Area Networks

These are radio technologies that support wireless communication over long distances. Unlike wireless technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi that transfer big packets of data over short distances, LPWANs will send smaller packets of data but over larger distances.

There are multiple ways for designing and deploying LPWANs depending on the intended application. LPWANs can be classed into two categories: non-cellular and cellular. Cellular LPWANs utilize licensed frequencies like LTE-M and NB-IoT. On the flip side, non-cellular LPWANs function under unlicensed ISM radio bands like LoRa and Sigfox. This difference makes the end application of both classes quite different.

Understanding Low-Power Wide-Area Networks

Examples of the Leading Non-Cellular LPWAN IoT Technologies

Today’s most commonly used non-cellular protocols are Sigfox and LoRa.

Sigfox utilized ultra-narrowband modulation, which is one of the most efficient data transmission methods. However, it can only send small loads of data (as much as 12 bytes of data). Since the protocol is installed all over the country, it has been instrumental in creating wide LPWAN IoT coverage across major US cities for IoT devices.

Sigfox devices don’t require access points or gateways since Sigfox-enabled devices can easily connect to the cloud through Sigfox towers – just like regular cell towers. Since Sigfox has an extremely low data rate, it is meant for communication through noisy and open-air environments. This protocol is ideal for simple sensor devices that might only need to send or receive a small number of messages daily, such as emergency event monitoring systems and security alarms.

LoRa (Long Range) utilizes a chirp spread spectrum modulation scheme for digital information transfer over long distances. LoRaWAN, which is built on LoRa, is an openly available MAC (Media Access Control) layer specification. Besides transferring larger data loads than Sigfox, LoRaWAN is also resistant to multipath fading. It requires more bandwidth than Sigfox due to its modulation scheme, which makes it ideal for supporting a large number of devices.

Non-Cellular LPWAN IoT Technologies

Notable Non-Cellular LPWAN IoT Technologies

The other notable non-cellular LPWAN standards are Weightless and Ingenu. As an open protocol, Weightless is compatible with multiple unlicensed bands. Weightless SIG, the creators of the network, had originally designed three different LPWAN standards; Weightless-N, Weightless-W, and Weightless-P. Each standard has its own unique characteristics. However, the company seems to have shifted all its focus to Weightless-P.

Ingenu RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) is the other standard. It can offer support to almost 400,000 nodes per “sector’, with all requiring minimal access points. Unlike LoRa and Sigfox, the protocol utilizes the globally accepted 2.4 GHz ISM band. It also supports two-way data transfer over wide areas of coverage. Ingenu manages the publicly-available Machine Network, which is used to provide services to 30+ US cities.

Today’s Leading Cellular LPWAN IoT Technologies

Cellular network carriers have been assessing their existing network technologies to identify how they can use them to enhance IoT functionality. Conventionally, cellular networks were classified as high maintenance and heavy power consumption networks. Today, cellular carriers have been serving narrowband applications through pre-existing cellular standards.

LTE-M (otherwise referred to as LTE Cat-M1) allows IoT devices to connect directly to the internet with the help of existing LTE networks. The network is not only less costly than traditional cell networks, but it is also more energy-efficient. It also holds the spot for today’s highest bandwidth LPWAN IoT technology.

Narrowband IoT (also known as NB-IoT) supports low-cost wide area coverage while maintaining reduced power consumption rates. NB-IoT avoids overlapping with other protocols by operating differently than other LTE standards. It also requires its own dedicated bandwidth. LTE-M and NB-IoT are products of 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and operate on licensed frequencies.

Today’s Leading Cellular LPWAN Technologies

What Makes LPWAN Ideal for IoT Sensors?

1. Wide Area Coverage
LPWAN can allow IoT device communication over long distances (3-20 km). This is an impressive feat considering its already low power requirement. However, the distance it can communicate largely depends on a lot of factors. In building-dense cities, LPWAN can communicate for 2-5 km, considering that there is bound to be interference from buildings and electricity. Areas with a clear line of sight, like rural settlements, can expect IoT device data transfer at larger distances (15-30 km).

2. Direct Connectivity to The Cloud
LPWAN protocols take advantage of the sub-GHz frequencies that connect similarly to cellular networks and provide long-range connectivity. This essentially implies that it is possible to place base stations or gateways kilometers apart from each other. These gateways allow IoT devices to connect to the cloud without the user needing to invest in their own short-range routers or mesh operations. In comparison, other short-range protocols like Wi-Fi and Zigbee require intermediate gateways to get IoT device data into the cloud.

3. Low Power Usage
The amount of data transmitted and the mode of transmission affect the power usage of IoT devices. IoT devices that run under the LPWAN protocol tend to use less power compared to the rest. Even better, IoT devices that use the protocol tend to be automatically put to sleep when not in use. This helps preserve charge, which is why devices can be used for a long time (5-10 years).

4. Decreased Costs
The overall cost of ownership for IoT ecosystems running under LPWAN is quite low. Since the protocol runs under low power, you will only need to invest in low-cost batteries. These batteries tend to last for longer, reducing the cost of maintenance. Also, a low number of gateways will be required to optimally support an LPWAN-based IoT ecosystem, which reduces the costs of deployment.

Examples of IoT Applications Enabled By LPWAN IoT

The low power and long-range capabilities of LPWAN IoT devices make them ideal for multiple applications. Some of their applications include:

Examples of IoT Applications Enabled By LPWANs

Fleet management: Companies with large fleets often have to keep tabs on their whereabouts and their current usage rates. LPWAN IoT devices LW001-BG Pro can help fleet managers track the specific location of assets, identify maintenance needs, and establish fuel economy best practices.

Fleet management: LPWAN devices can easily be used to enforce safety and security in the workplace. The IoT devices can be tagged onto assets to identify where they are and who is using them. In dangerous work environments, employers can offer employees LPWAN-powered panic buttons LW004-PB for easier communication in case of accidents.

Smart farming: IoT devices are defining the future of agriculture. IoT devices LW002-TH can be distributed within farms and greenhouses for environment monitoring. Their sensors can be programmed to set a few things in motion in case the environmental humidity and temperature are outside the recommended levels.

Smart city enablement: Smart cities are supposed to have multiple IoT devices that can communicate with each other, from driving cars to city lights. LPWAN IoT devices LW001-BG can be launched to help with smart traffic light control, smart parking, and smart waste management, to name a few possible use cases.

Home automation: People have been slowly embracing home automation, from smart home surveillance systems to smart thermostats. IoT plug MK103 can make living at home easier thanks to interconnected devices. For instance, you can switch off your home lighting remotely, control temperatures, and set your security system. This combination of functionalities makes homes secure, comfortable, and convenient to live in.

IoT-connected factory: Businesses can also use LW001-BG Pro to track and manage industrial IoT devices. The devices will help users access key metrics data, such as equipment efficiency and telemetry data. You can use this information for equipment preventative maintenance, enhancing safety and security, and improving factory efficiency, all of which can be done remotely.

Connecting healthcare systems: LPWAN IoT devices have revolutionized how easily medical professionals can track patient health remotely, especially during the pandemic. Patients can wear LW004-CT for easier health monitoring. In case of any anomaly, the devices will send out an alarm to the respective medical professional for action. It also makes it easier to track the health vitals of people with critical conditions.

IoT Is Creating a Better Future

IoT devices are defining the future of communication and automation. With technologies like LPWAN, there is no telling how far these devices can take us. Implement LPWAN IoT devices in your life or business today to enjoy the benefits they have to offer.

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