LoRaWAN Basics

LoRaWAN Architecture

Written by: Matthew Rufer

This article will give you a basic understanding of what LoRaWAN is, what makes it so great, and some use cases it has.

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a low power wide area network which allows long-range communications at a low bit rate among things, hence Internet of Things (IoT). The most common things (devices) that use LoRaWAN right now are battery operated sensors.

What makes LoRaWAN so great?

There are many factors that contribute to LoRaWAN being a brilliant solution for a variety of applications. To help better understand the benefits of LoRaWAN, I am going to go over each benefit individually below.

Ultra Low Power: Because of LoRaWANs ultra lower power consumption, you can use battery operated devices to track things like soil health and nutrient levels in the middle of a field, or even place a tracker on your pet in case they get out.

Long Range: Long range, paired with ultra lower power consumption, only adds to the versatility of the devices mentioned above. If you have a gateway on your house, or a house near you has one, you could track your LoRaWAN devices even if they are miles away.

Deep Indoor Penetration: Deep indoor penetration ensures that even if you are not operating a LoRaWAN gateway, you can still benefit from the existing network around you. Allowing you to use sensors of your own without the trouble of setting up and maintaining a gateway.

License Free Spectrum: This means that people/companies do not have to apply and pay for a license to set up their LoRaWAN network on a certain radio frequency. Because of this, LoRaWAN is cheaper and more accessible to everyone around the world.

Geolocation: This allows users on the network to view almost exactly where gateways or other devices on a LoRaWAN network are placed.

Public and Private Deployments: Projects, like Helium, can allow the public to access their network. However, if a company wants to set up a private network for themselves, they can. The image below shows a map of all the Helium hotspots in the United States.

End-to-end Security: With end-to-end security, only the devices communicating with each other can read each other’s messages. This allows for potentially sensitive information to travel across the network without the worry that a third party can steal the information.

Firmware Updates Over the Air: Developers can push software updates without having physical access to a device. This allows users to place gateways or other LoRaWAN devices where they may not be as accessible daily.

Certification Program: With the LoRaWAN certification program, customers can purchase application-specific end devices without the worry of them not being compatible with a LoRaWAN network.

Ecosystem: With the recent mass adoption of LoRaWAN technology, there has been a massive global ecosystem built that comprises many hardware and software manufacturers, network providers, and industry associations.

LoRaWAN Use Cases

The use cases for LoRaWAN are nearly endless. However, there are 5 major use cases that Helium highlights on their website. Below I will provide the brief description Helium gives for each use case and a link to their respective pages to help you better decide which use case rabbit hole you want to go down. You will soon discover just how much LoRaWAN technology is changing the world.

Smart Agriculture: “The People’s Network enables innovative and cost-effective solutions for farmers and growers, from soil and environmental monitoring to livestock and asset tracking.”

https://www.helium.com/smart-agriculture

Smart Cities: “The People’s Network enables smart city solutions ranging from public safety to resource and energy management, providing a higher quality of life for citizens along with cost-saving initiatives for decision-makers.”

https://www.helium.com/smart-cities

Environment Monitoring: “Detecting environmental issues and events (i.e., air and water quality, earthquakes, fires) quickly and accurately on The People’s Network can help limit the loss of life and property due to natural disasters.”

https://www.helium.com/environment-monitoring

Logistics & Supply Chain: “Optimize supply chain and logistic operations with real-time, reliable, and seamless indoor/outdoor sensors on The People’s Network.”

https://www.helium.com/logistics-and-supply-chain

Smart Water Monitoring: “The People’s Network enables utility providers to monitor and track water usage and quality in real time, resulting in safer water conditions and limiting water usage costs.”

https://www.helium.com/smart-water

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