I attended LoRaWAN Live Orlando this past spring. That seems like an eternity ago, as fall approaches and ushers in two of my favorite things—college football and cooler weather—in my home state of Texas. At the Orlando event, I had the opportunity to conduct three fireside chats with LoRa Alliance working group leaders and moderate a panel discussion.
In this post, I want to share some of the details from the event, along with my insights on where I see LoRoWAN technology heading. (LoRaWAN stands for “long-range wide-access network.”) For starters, I’ll provide a short introduction to the narrowband IoT platform for those who are not familiar with LoRaWAN and how it aims to support a significant effort—global sustainability.
What is LoRaWAN?
The LoRaWAN specification is a low-power, wide-area wireless networking protocol. It originated in 2010, when Cycleo was founded by three engineers in France. (As a cyclist myself, I love the name, which is a fitting one, given how much France loves cycling, too.) Cycleo’s idea was novel, leveraging chirp spread spectrum (CSS) modulation that was already being used in maritime sonar and aviation radar to send data instead of only receiving it. Semiconductor maker Semtech saw the potential for the technology and acquired the company two years later; in 2015, the LoRa Alliance was formed to promote the specification’s global adoption.
Today, LoRaWAN has matured into an IoT modality that supports bidirectional communication, end-to-end security, mobility and location services. It’s a testament to the utility of the platform—and the LoRa Alliance ecosystem—that so many compelling use cases have been blueprinted in the past eight years, and that adoption has blossomed. To take one prominent example, networking equipment giant Cisco is building LoRaWAN gateways and routers hardened for industrial environments. Many other companies are also leaning into LoRaWAN to develop software stacks and sensors with lifespans of a decade or more, opening up possibilities for further compelling use cases.
Sustainability use cases for LoRaWAN
By combining low-power sensors and wireless infrastructure, LoRaWAN has found its true superpower in supporting sustainability initiatives that enable the conservation of precious resources such as water and electricity. As mentioned above, at LoRaWAN Live Orlando, I was able to sit down with the heads of three different working groups to discuss the impact that LoRaWAN is making in sustainability and civic services across three domains: cities, utilities and buildings.
“Smart” is often overused in the tech world, but its relevance within the LoRaWAN ecosystem is abundantly evident. On the topic of smart cities, Boris Stockermann and I discussed how LoRaWAN enables a host of functionality, including traffic management, air quality monitoring and the pesky challenge of finding a parking space in densely populated urban areas. In another session, Remi Demerle and I discussed smart utility applications, how LoRaWAN enables new operational efficiencies for utility providers and customers and how the IoT platform is improving the resiliency of power grids in extreme heat and cold. The latter is particularly compelling given the extreme heat this summer in many parts of the world and the “snowmageddon” event we experienced in Texas in 2021. Finally, in a remotely recorded session, Byron BeMiller and I discussed how LoRaWAN is being used to enable smart building use cases, including office hoteling, employee safety and wellness and new efficiencies related to cooling and overall electricity consumption. At a high level, these discussions demonstrate the current impact and future potential that LoRaWAN connectivity promises to bring to society.
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The building intelligence panel discussion that I moderated at LoRaWAN Live Orlando brought the event to a fitting end as the final session. It touched on the definition of an intelligent building, specific LoRaWAN implementations and lessons learned. The session was a great example of the value the LoRa Alliance delivers to its membership and the ecosystem. It is also worth mentioning that the non-profit has curated a wealth of assets on its website in a resource librarythat includes recordings from all of its events along with case studies, technical specifications, developer resources and more.
I continue to be impressed with the technical maturity of LoRaWAN and its global adoption. From my perspective, the protocol should continue to gain momentum given a close competitor, Sigfox, has stumbled financially. In my opinion, LoRaWAN has the proper combination of technologies, market presence and focus on sustainability to give it a compelling and disruptive value proposition. This value prop also has the potential to make IoT in general a profitable endeavor—something that has eluded the broader IoT market historically.