There are a few different network standards available for Internet of Things devices and applications. While many chip and hardware makers threw their support behind NB-LTE last year, low power wide area networks (also known as LPWANs) are gaining traction as alternatives for devices that need to be more energy efficient.
That’s what the LoRa Alliance is hoping for. The specification is designed for wireless battery operated devices within a regional or global network. LoRa — which stands for low power long range — is one of a handful of wireless protocols vying for dominance in the IoT space. LoRa is a low power wide area network, which when used in IoT applications can help reduce energy consumption and reduce costs. It offers bi-directional communication, mobility and localization. The LoRa architecture utilizes gateways as transparent bridges over which information is sent between the IoT end devices and the central network server in the backend.
Earlier this year, Cisco announced it’ll make LPWA gateways for IoT systems that use LoRa networks. It’s Cisco’s first hardware for LPWANs. Cisco has partnered with Actility, a firm that specializes in LPWA infrastructure, for its LPWA solutions. These solutions will “open up IoT to an untapped market of billions of battery-powered devices,” said Vikas Butaney, GM of the IoT Connectivity Business Unit at Cisco. “LoRa’s ability to communicate elegantly without draining excessive power makes it suitable for deploying connected devices in the field that can provide actionable business insights over an extended lifetime.”
Both Cisco and Actility are members of the LoRa Alliance. “Operators have no need to wait for LTE-based IoT solutions,” said Actility’s CEO and CTO, Olivier Hersent. “They can address the massive opportunities in the rapidly growing IoT market today.”
Orange SA announced recently it’ll use LoRaWAN protocol for its smart city and IoT services across France, after conducting field tests of the LoRaWAN protocol in Grenoble, France. It’s the largest operator to adopt the LoRaWAN standard, and is a huge win for the Alliance. Orange last year announced it’s building an IoT network across France that’ll be used for Orange’s smart city services and solutions. Orange is hoping that cities and companies will be able to develop smart city applications and to run them on Orange’s LoRa network, without needing to build their own infrastructure. Orange has also joined the LoRa Alliance board.
“The development of the Internet of Things is expected to surge in the coming years,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, SVP for innovation, marketing and technologies at Orange. “We have decided to take an active role in driving the success of the LoRa Alliance.”
In Italy, Rome-based operator Unidata announced it has also chosen LoRaWAN for its IoT network infrastructure. Unidata is rolling out the LPWAN in Rome and other cities in the Lazio region of the country, and plans to complete the deployment by 2017. The LoRa network will support Unidata’s existing fiber networks for IoT solutions.
“The new smart cities and territories are in need of technological infrastructures for the IoT that will become the new digital highways of the future IT services,” said Renato Brunetti, president of Unidata. “According to our needs at Unidata, LoRaWAN is the most appropriate technology in terms of sustainability and effectiveness to respond to this ambitious goal.”
Unidata has tapped semiconductor maker Semtech for the LoRa technology. Unidata plans to build a “LoRa Lab” in Rome, showcases its IoT and smart city solutions that’ll use Semtech’s LoRa technology.