LoRa & LoRaWAN: Vertical Solutions for the Real World

In our previous article, we have covered the basic concepts behind and differences between LoRa and LoRaWAN. Today, we are going to do a deep dive into their applications and how LoRa and LoRaWAN technologies are being integrated to solve real-world problems!

Recap: LoRa & LoRaWAN

LoRa, which is short for Long Range, is one of the major long-range and low-power wireless communication systems developed by Semtech Corporation. While LoRa & LoRaWAN are commonly mistaken to be the same thing, they actually represent different components of a LoRa-based communication system.

LoRa is a radio frequency carrier signal based in the physical (PHY) layer that converts the data it receives to signals. On the other hand, LoRaWAN is a protocol located in the Media Access Control (MAC) layer that promotes LR signals to wider applications.

Source: Semtech

In simple terms, you can understand LoRa to be a type of hardware that supports long-range wireless communication, whereas LoRaWAN refers to a network protocol based on LoRa.

How does LoRaWAN work?

The LoRaWAN architecture contains four major parts:

  1. End Nodes – Represents edge devices or sensors
  2. Gateway – Collects data from several end nodes
  3. Network Server – Consolidates data from gateways for upload to application server
  4. Application Server – Processes or displays consolidated data

In this manner, we can see how LoRa and LoRaWAN allow extremely wide and dense networks of edge devices to be connected. This allows us to capture and monitor data from thousands of devices in a systematic and manageable way.

Source: The Things Network

Features & Benefits of LoRaWAN

There are many benefits of using an LR & LoRaWAN system as compared to traditional solutions like GPRS, WiFi, or Bluetooth. Most significantly, LR technology features unparalleled long-range transmission while maintaining extremely low power consumption. In addition, LoRa is very flexible and is capable of maintaining strong connections in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Source: Semtech

Supported by a diverse ecosystem of hardware and software developers, network providers and industry associations, as well as the LoRa Alliance®, LoRa technologies are increasingly accepted and easier to implement worldwide. Hence, anyone choosing to get started with LoRaWAN can expect to rely on extensive documentation and community support with platforms like The Things Network (TTN).

LoRa & LoRaWAN in the Real World

Unlike other technologies being promoted on the market, LoRa & LoRaWAN are established systems that are already being deployed in numerous real-world scenarios like Smart City Applications, Agriculture, and Healthcare. In this section, I’d like to share some of the ways in which LR is already changing the world!

Smart Cities: Smart Bin Level Monitoring

When it comes to building greener, cleaner cities, most people often don’t think of smart waste bins. However, waste management is a key area of development, especially if we want to improve the liveability of our cities even as human populations increase. This post on TTN suggests that we can use LoRaWAN-capable devices to monitor a waste bin’s fill level and other conditions, to notify bin management services when maintenance is required.

It shares that bin maintenance in typical cases refers to replacing bins when they are full. However, it may also comprise situations where there is too much moisture, heat, or smell. In this manner, bin maintenance will not only be more timely and effective; long-term data can also be used to better understand waste disposal patterns and for infrastructure to be adjusted accordingly.

With hundreds or even up to thousands of bins in major cities around the world, LoRaWAN is the perfect candidate for connecting and collecting data from a vast number of edge devices.

Smart Cities: Air Monitoring Insights from LoRaWAN Networks

In cities where traffic flows are heavier, air quality is also a key metric that is measured in an effort towards a greener and cleaner future. This other post on TTN discusses the use of a LoRaWAN network of air quality sensors in an urban area to measure the amounts of harmful particles in the air.

The unique aspect of this discussion is the unique mesh characteristics offered by sensors in the LoRaWAN network. Although the project proposes to use cheaper and thus poorer quality sensors, the mesh network can still provide valuable data from differentiating air quality between different locations, and at a reduced cost!

Agriculture: Smart Poultry Farming

As a traditional industry, agriculture is comparatively less digitized than most other pillar industries. Despite this, did you know that environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, light and atmospheric composition play critical roles in poultry in farming? Because of this, LoRaWAN brings value to the equation with a network of environmental sensors to monitor farm conditions.

Source: Betagro Group

In fact, Kinghoo AgroTech is one of many companies that have chosen to utilise Seeed’s SenseCAP Wireless LoRaWAN sensors and modules to improve the effectiveness of their agricultural operations! To read more about this case study, read our full coverage here.

Agriculture: Natural Drying System in Post-Harvest Agriculture

The applications of LoRaWAN in agriculture do not lie strictly in farming only. In fact, the greatest loss in value of agricultural products occurs post-harvest. This project on Hackster aims specifically to use LR-enabled sensors and nodes to monitor the conditions in coffee bean drying houses to improve production quality.

Source: Hackster

By connecting his LoRaWAN Gateway to TTN, Ahmad was able to also visualise data in real time. As the project is still a work in progress, he shares that there is also the possibility of performing machine learning on environmental data to predict microclimate conditions. This is truly a smart IoT solution enabled by LoRaWAN!

Healthcare: Remote Health Monitoring

All of us will grow old eventually. Even at present, numerous elderly are already living alone with no one to care for them. Given this, accessible healthcare through remote platforms is becoming increasingly important. Eivind Holt on Hackster has developed a long-range, low-cost, low-energy health monitoring device using LoRaWAN, TTN, Azure IoT Central, openEHR, FHIR and Google Healthcare!

Source: Hackster

The use of LoRaWAN in this case circumvents several issues with other technologies:

  1. Readily deployable yet easily monitored in ad-hoc scenarios (eg. Homecare, COVID-19)
  2. Wearable, wireless indoor monitoring where existing wireless coverage is unreliable (eg. in hospitals)
  3. Ease of data integration with existing municipal or primary health record systems

Supply Chain & Logistics: Vehicle & Driver Condition Tracking

With its long range capabilities, LoRaWAN holds great potential in supply chain and logistics where items of interest are transported across large distances. For example, LoRaWAN is already seeing uses in asset tracking, fleet operation, preventive & predictive maintenance and theft prevention.

Once again, LoRaWAN is able to bring immense value when it comes to long range remote tracking of assets on a large scale, followed by the consolidation of information which allows for big data analytics and even machine learning. Ultimately, businesses can leverage LoRaWAN to reduce costs, optimise operations and make better decisions!

Top LoRaWAN Products

After sharing so much about the benefits of LoRaWAN and how it is helping business to build smarter and larger systems, I’m sure you’re curious about how to get started. Well, look no further for here are my recommendations!

WM1302 LoRaWAN Gateway Modules

Our new WM1302 modules are the next-generation of mini-PCIe form-factor LoRaWAN gateway modules that have been carefully designed to unlock greater possibilities in long-range wireless transmission. Powered by the brand new Semtech® SX1302, the WM1302 series features improvements in sensitivity, power consumption and thermal management over older models with SX1301 and SX1308 chips!

Product Features:

  • Powered by the Semtech® SX1302 baseband LoRa® chip, bringing extremely low power consumption while delivering high performance.
  • Mini-PCIe form factor with standard 52-pin golden finger for space saving and seamless integration with various gateway devices.
  • Operates at ultra-low temperatures, with no requirement for additional thermal management to keep your LoRaWAN gateways compact and space efficient.
  • High sensitivity down to -139dBm @ SF12 with SX1250 TX/RX front-end; Transmission power of up to 26dBm @ 3.3V.
  • Certified with CE, FCC, and TELEC to simplify your product development and certification processes.

To learn more about the WM1302 LoRaWAN Gateway Modules, visit their product page on the Seeed Online Store!

Wio-E5 & Wio-E5-LE (STM32WLE5JC) LoRa Module

For those who want to custom design your LoRa-powered PCBAs, I highly recommend checking out our STM32WLE5JC-powered LoRa modules: the Wio-E5 and Wio-E5-LE, which are the world-first combo of LoRa RF and MCU integrated in one single tiny module! Coming with CE, FCC, TELEC certifications, and built-in AT Command, these two modules are production-ready to scale up your LoRa products.

Highlight features:

  • STMicroelectronics’ STM32WLE5JC embedded
  • Built-in AT command & ST SDK for further development
  • Ultra-low power consumption down to 26 mA In transmit mode
  • Equipped with a variety of GPIO interfaces (UART, I2C, and ADC) for peripherals expansion
  • Ultra-long transmitting range up to 10km (Ideal value in open space)

Visit the Seeed Online Store to learn more about the Wio-E5 LoRa Module today!

Wio-E5 Development Kit

The Wio-E5 Development Kit consists of the Wio-E5 Development board, an antenna, a USB Type C Cable and a 2*AA 3V Battery Holder. The Wio-E5 Dev Board is embedded with the Wio-E5 STM32WLE5JC module with LoRaWAN protocol compatibility on the global frequency band. In addition, it supports various data protocols and interfaces, such as full GPIOs, RS-485 and Grove!

Product Features:

  • Ultra-low power consumption and high performance
  • Easy testing and rapid prototyping
  • Full GPIOs that lead out to rich interfaces, including RS-485, Grove, and etc.
  • Global LoRaWAN® and LRfrequency plan supported
  • Long-distance transmission range to 10km (ideal value in open area)

If you’re keen to pick up the Wio-E5 Development Kit, visit the Seeed Online Store now!

Grove – Wio-E5 (STM32WLE5JC)

If you want to use LR with an SBCs like the popular Raspberry Pi 4, or a microcontroller like the Wio Terminal, the Wio-E5 Grove module will be your best bet. Featuring full LoRaWAN capabilities in the modular simplicity of the Grove ecosystem, the Grove Wio-E5 lets you bring your existing devices into your LoRaWAN network with just a few simple steps!

Core Features:

  • Wio-E5 (STM32WLE5JC) embedded
  • Support LoRaWAN protocol on EU868/US915 frequency band
  • Ultra-long transmitting range up to 10km (Ideal value in open space)
  • Easy control by AT command via UART connection
  • Rapid prototyping with plug-and-play Grove interfaces
  • Ultra-low power consumption and high performance

Visit the Seeed Online Store to learn more about the Grove Wio-E5 Module today!

Note: A full LR system will require four key components: End nodes, gateway, network serve and application server. For our full list of products for each category, please visit their corresponding links!

Summary & More Resources

LR & LoRaWAN are powerful technologies that are driving and supporting the global movement of digitalisation and transition to IoT. While we have shared numerous uses of LoRaWAN networks in this article, the possibilities will only continue to grow as we continue to see advancements in edge computing and even edge artificial intelligence!

To learn more, kindly visit the following resources:

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April 2021