It’s possible that low-power WAN technology like LoRa could catch fire around the world, but an industry expert warns that LoRa has only a small window of opportunity.
Gartner analyst Mark Hung said LoRa’s time is short because by the first quarter of 2017, operators will have access to 3GPP technologies such as LTE Cat-M and NB-IoT.
“If time to market is a consideration, then proprietary LPWAN technologies such as LoRa and Sigfox can be considered,” he said. “But organizations are likely to wait for 3GPP technologies to prepare for next year. However, it is possible that LoRa technology will survive as a niche player for utilities, agriculture and smart cities. “
LoRa technology finds allies
Semtech Corporation, developer of LoRa technology, wasted no time building relationships. In October 2016, he announced a deal with Comcast for the cable company to deploy a test network based on Semtech’s LoRa technology during the fourth quarter of 2016 in Philadelphia and San Francisco. The pilot will focus on meters, asset tracking and other smart city applications. If successful, the network could expand to around 30 cities over the next two years.
Semtech has also been work with the network provider Senet develop a public network service based on LoRa technology. Will Yapp, vice president of business development at Senet, said they liked LoRa because it is one-way, two-way and can handle the mobility needs of organizations. “It was the only LPWAN technology that met all three of these criteria,” he said.
Marc HungVice President of Research, Gartner
LoRa also offers a long battery life of at least 10 years, in some cases up to 20. In terms of distances, LoRa performs well in dense urban environments and through multiple buildings, and LoRa sensors can connect to networks up to 15 to 30 miles away in rural areas, making it perfect for agricultural applications.
The LoRa Alliance, launched in March 2015, now has more than 300 companies dedicated to developing LoRa technology for IoT, machine-to-machine, smart city and other industrial applications.
“We love the large ecosystem of device manufacturers, chipset suppliers and system integrators developed by LoRa” Yapp added. “LoRa has a lot of Fortune 500 players involved such as GE, Bosch and Schneider Electric. “
LoRa builds a solid business case
Senet’s Yapp said that LoRa technology is completely changing the business model in the utility industry. In the past, a tank monitor cost $ 250 and the network cost $ 10 per month. With LoRa and Senet, monitors cost $ 40 and network charges are as low as $ 2 per month.
Thomas Butler, vice president of marketing at Mueller Systems, a device maker that has implemented LoRa chips in its Mi.Net products, added that he hopes the new LoRa devices will be effective for metering applications. water in municipalities. butler said Mueller Systems had deployed LoRa devices in various municipalities across the country – but, since it had only been deployed for three to six months, it had no specific benchmarks.
However, LoRa meters have significant advantages. For starters, LoRa’s battery life is a major selling point for cash-strapped municipalities looking to get their money’s worth. More importantly, with LoRa technology, municipalities can now monitor water levels 24/7; they can take readings every hour, a capability that will allow them to quickly identify leaks and track unusual peaks in use.
“It’s a huge deal,” Butler said. “In the past, municipalities had to send people out to read water meters. Typically, they only read once a month, sometimes even once a quarter.
Butler added that the ability to take more frequent readings promises to help municipalities manage their water better, whether their goal is more efficient conservation or simply to provide better customer service to residents when they experience water peaks. water consumption or leaks.
“Now if there is a leak, the system can detect it and immediately notify the customer as well as bring in a repairman to the house,” he said.
LoRa technology: big leaps and small steps
Keep in mind that LPWAN technologies are still very recent. Butler pointed out that most of the municipalities Mueller Systems works with run LoRa on a 900 MHz ISM network, but that could change in the coming months. He added that Mueller Systems products will soon support Senet and Comcast LPWAN networks.
“The real benefit for customers is that if they go through a network like Senet’s, they will be able to use other LoRa devices, such as Trimble pressure sensors, and run them on the LPWAN network, ”he explained.
Corn Suspended said the reality is that organizations are only deploying these technologies, and they are so new that people just don’t have enough information on how effective they really are.
However, LoRa has shown great promise; it has made inroads in the United States as well as in France where the carrier Orange SA deployed it.
Still, Hung said the business tends to revolve around chipmaker Semtech as well as systems and network integration partners such as Senet and Comcast. While it looks like more chipmakers will get involved, this has yet to happen.
“LoRa is sold very hard and it has merit,” said Hung, “But I think once 3GPP technologies gain momentum, LoRa will become more of a niche player. “
Yet even if it is for municipalities, agriculture, and other smart grid applications, LoRa technology could end up creating a substantial market. One thing’s for sure: over the next 12-18 months, all of those competing wireless IoTs networking technologies will emerge and we will have a better idea of which ones the market accepts.