What are LoRa® and LoRaWAN®?
LoRa®, which comes from Long Range, is the physical layer on the wireless modulation used to create long-range communication links. Lora CSS modulation is a technology proprietary of a low-power wide-area network modulation technique based on spread spectrum modulation derived from chirp spread spectrum (CSS) technology, allowing to offer low power characteristics while increasing communication range against other types of technologies.
Chirp spread spectrum has been used in military and space communication for decades due to the long communication distances that can be achieved and interface robustness, but LoRa® is the first low-cost implementation created for commercial usage, offering the technology’s advantage of long-range capability, as a single gateway or base station can cover entire cities or hundreds of square kilometers.
What is LoRaWAN?
From LoRa, derived LoRaWAN® (Long Range Wide Area Network). This is the communication protocol and system architecture for the network, while the LoRa® is the physical layer that enables the long-range communication link. This makes LoRaWAN® a networking protocol designed to wirelessly connect battery-operated “things” to the internet in regional, national, or global networks, targeting key Internet of Things (IoT) requirements, like bi-directional communication, security, mobility, and localization services.
LoRaWAN®, which shares a family with well know technologies like Wi-Fi, Sigfox, Bluetooth, also offers remarkably different advantages. LoRaWAN® offers long-distance coverage (through compatible LoRaWAN gateways), low power consumption on devices, and allows to leverage networks for larger scales. This makes this open standard connectivity technology a proven leader for smart applications, optimizing operational costs, and reducing utility waste.
Discovering the network
Many networks use a mesh network architecture, where the individual end nodes forward the information of other nodes to increase the communication range and cell size of the network. While this increases the range, it also adds complexity, reduces network capacity, and reduces battery lifetime as nodes receive and forward information that is likely irrelevant for them to other nodes.
Long-range star architecture, like the one used by LoRaWAN, makes the most sense for preserving battery life when long-range connectivity can be achieved.
Low battery consumption for longer-lasting deployments
The nodes in a LoRaWAN™ network communicate when they have data ready to send whether this is due to a specific or has been previously scheduled. In a mesh network or with the asynchronous networks, such as cellular, nodes frequently have to ‘wake up’ to synchronize with the network and check for messages. This synchronization consumes significant energy and is the number one driver of battery lifetime reduction.
This type of protocol used by LoRaWAN is typically referred to as the Aloha Method. In a recent study and comparison done by GSMA of the various technologies addressing the LPWAN space, LoRaWAN showed a 3 to 5 times advantage compared to all other technology options.
One type of device for each need
LoRaWAN® has 3 different types of devices to address different needs depending on the application.
Class A devices are those which require the lowest power, as the device can enter low-power sleep mode for as long as defined by its application having no network requirement for periodic wakeups. This makes class A the lowest power operating mode, while still allowing uplink communication at any time.
Class B devices are those synchronized to the network using periodic beacons and open downlink “ping slots” at scheduled times, providing the network with the ability to communicate with a determined frequency, but at the expense of some additional power consumption by the end device.
Class C devices are those with the furthest reduction of latency, by keeping the receiver of the end-device always open. Based on this, the network server can initiate transmissions at any time on the assumption that the end-device receiver is open, and therefore having no latency. The compromise is in the power drainage of the receiver (up to ~50mW), making class C devices suitable for applications where continuous power is available.
Making security a priority
Security is extremely important for any LPWAN. In the case of LoRaWAN, two layers of security are used: one for the network and one for the application.
The network security ensures the authenticity of the node in the network, while the application layer of security ensures the network operator does not have access to the end user’s application data.
AES encryption is used with the key exchange utilizing an IEEE EUI64 identifier. Every technology offer has trade-offs, but the LoRaWAN features in network architecture, device classes, security, scalability for capacity, and optimization for mobility address the widest variety of potential IoT applications.
LoRa Alliance as the proof of the power of LoRaWAN
In 2015 the LoRa Alliance® got established. This is an open, non-profit association with the mission to standardize low power wide area networks (LPWAN) and to globally promote LoRaWAN®. The LoRa Alliance® seeks to support and promote the global adoption of this standard by ensuring the interoperability of all LoRaWAN® products and technologies, enabling a sustainable future for IoT. More than 500 companies are part of this alliance, making it the fastest growing technology alliance. Members benefit from a vibrant ecosystem of active contributors which offer solutions, products, and services, which create new and sustainable business opportunities.
All the LoRaWAN benefits
LoRaWAN® allows leveraging its extremely long-range and low-power capabilities to cover thousands of kilometers, especially in remote areas which are challenging to reach, and to install, while providing real-time data and lasting for years on one battery charge.
Sometimes devices can be greedy with the information they want to send. LoRaWAN® allows them to send bigger messages than other technologies, as its bi-directional protocol, offers enough bandwidth to include larger messages like light, temperature, humidity, location, etc.
LoRaWAN® solutions are also license-free, making them extremely easy to deploy, needing a minimal infrastructure. These devices are created bearing in mind the pass of time, with durability as a key factor, with the intention of making them cost-effective and easy to operate and scale.
All of these factors make it the perfect technology to deploy in many fields like smart agriculture, smart cities, smart logistics, smart industry, and many more, making this technology grow even further every day.