February 2016 saw the announcement of a next generation reference design platform for its LoRa RF gateway that will enable upgraded features, including Global Positioning System (GPS)-free geolocation for asset tracking applications, and is compatible with existing LoRa network infrastructure and existing deployed LoRa end-points.
The Things Network is a group of IoT enthusiasts, working on implementing and improving the IoT network through LoRaWAN. Their first project mentions of implementing such a system in the city of Amsterdam. According to their website, they were able to cover the entire city and implement LoRaWAN in the time period of six weeks. The technology allows for things to talk to the Internet without 3G or Wi-Fi. So no Wi-Fi codes and no mobile subscriptions.
Some of the successful implements of the technology are the, Oxford network for flood warning and Japan for tsunami and earthquake warning. “Once you get through the initial phase of deployment, it gets easier to work with the system.” Says Mr. Rishabh Chauhan, Global Community Manager, The things Network. “The response has been slow but gradually people have picked it up. A lot of people are using the technology and trying to evaluate which use case works for them and adopting the network.”
The end points are the user devices, connecting to the gateways. These gateways have a very long range and hence the city of Amsterdam was covered with only ten gateways at the cost of US$1200 each. Such low cost networks do not necessarily rely on Multi-National Corporations (MNC’s) and other major corporations, but can be crowdfunded easily. The network can hence be made public without any intervention of subscription and payment to connect to the network.
“Money can be made on this network only by providing valuable services. We compare the network with the street you walk on. You don’t pay for walking on the pavement, but you pay for the great pizza that’s sold on that street.”
PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING AND MISCONCEPTIONS
“Earlier we had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and such systems, but we couldn’t connect everything, non computer to the system. Here we have a very simple sensor, that can be attached and then we can connect the hardware to the system” says Chauhan. He further adds, “The initial challenges have been in making the common person understand the use cases. But after that is over, the public response has been overwhelming. The implementation of such systems does not involve MNCs and is more user oriented.” “Strict licensing terms in some countries are also to be considered”
A common misconception is that only Semtech can produce LoRa chips. While it is correct that Semtech owns the LoRa IP, there are clear signs that the company is willing to license the IP to other chip manufacturers who can then use it in their own products.
At present the system employs the sub-GHz band for transmission. The issue to allocate a specific dedicated spectrum to the data transmission under LoRaWAN has been raised and talks are underway. The community is at a young stage with growing support from several big vendors of technology equipment manufacturers. If and when the talks go through of allocating a dedicated spectrum to LoRaWAN, It would be possible to work through the LoRa Alliance to have specific channels set aside for specific uses.
Creators are the backbone of innovation. They don’t stop, they keep going, innovating, and in yet another innovation, a roaming framework is under development. It would allow private LoRaWAN applications on public LoRaWAN networks. This would allow users to setup their own private systems under the allotted spectrum and function as an independent unit. The system is expected to be made available to the public from mid to late 2016. “With many projects in the pipeline, and the large scale roll out of the hardware, by mid 2016, many new networks will be in place,” says Chauhan. The future seems to be very bright and a lot is happening very rapidly for IoT. With LoRa, this will further provide an added advantage in implementing it.