LoRa : When IoTs talk with a distance
In technological scenario, especially in the area of ICT, The World is changing. Life, now, is not just the simple acquisition of intended and relevant data and its processing for a specific work area or sector, now it is fast coming down to the best possible ingredients and derivatives for intelligent decision making that based on acquisition of data from many sectors at a time and, may be, sometime many of those seems irrelevant for that particular time … The World is now moving on with AI, ML, Data Analytics with the plethora of data warehousing all over the World via Internet… and with this changing demand, the ‘Things’ of ‘Internet of Things’ are changing their arbitrary attributes to be Omni-present as the core component of intelligence.
Internet of Things or IoT, a combination of a Sensor, a Communicator and a Processor, is the ultimate information Collector or Executor of directed Intelligence without Human intervention. Though, in India, now IoTs are serving in many conventional, Industrial and in some extent in domestic area but it yet to start serving in many challenging area where establishing a communication system for IoT network is a bit challenging and non-economical.
As of now, generally the IoTs are working in a communication network of either Ethernet, WiFi or Cellular 3G/4G/5G which are though growing with their data rates but not in distance, making it not always viable as well as affordable for the sectors where spread, distance, low power, low maintenance and low data is a mandate. Hence, we are still lagging in using IoTs in many sectors, those are remote, difficult to access and geographically spread, like Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Mines, Transport, Warehousing, Education, Law & Order, Urban and Rural Development etc.
Scarcity in skillsets for development of specific IoT devices is not a problem, problem is in unavailability of a suitable communication medium that create a physical network with long distance coverage with very low power consumption and low maintenance cost, albeit with a low data rate that would suffice the operative objectives of IoTs and bringing them over Internet.
As said, The World is changing, so are the ‘Things on Internet’… LoRa is an evolving communication technology that changing the operative attributes of IoTs all over the World, bringing them into the World Network of Things… ‘The Things Network’ or TTN; An open environment infrastructure consortium aiming at providing a free World-wide LoRa network coverage for researchers and developers on IoTs and communication.
The short form LoRa stands for ‘Long Range’, as it is named, actually is meant for a long range communication, is an Radio Frequency modulation technology for low-power, wide area networks (LPWANs), derived from existing Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) technology. LoRa, operates in a fixed-bandwidth channel of 125 KHz for uplink channels (End Nodes to Gateway) and 500 KHz for downlink channels (Gateway to End Node). LoRa provides for long-range communications: up to 5 to 10 kilometers in urban areas, and up to 20 kilometers or more in rural areas. A key characteristic of the LoRa-based communication solutions is ultra-low power requirements, which allows for the creation of battery-operated IoT devices that can last for up to years together.
In the following picture, we can see the differences between LoRa and other network technologies that are typically used in IoT or traditional machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity solutions:
Deployed in a star topology, a network based on the open LoRaWAN protocol is perfect for applications that require long-range or deep in-building communication among a large number of devices that have low power requirements and that collect small amounts of data.
LoRa is purely a physical, or “bits” layer implementation, as defined by the ISO-OSI seven-layer Network Model.
When it comes to capacity, a LoRaWAN network can support millions of messages. A single eight-channel gateway can support a few hundred thousand messages over the course of a 24-hour period. In a time sharing protocol, if each end device sends 10 messages a day, such a gateway can support about 10,000 IoT devices. If the network includes 10 such gateways, the network can support roughly 100,000 devices and one million messages. If more capacity is required, all that is needed is to add additional gateways to the network.
The LoRa Alliance® is an open, non-profit association established in 2015. It supports development of the LoRaWAN protocol and ensures interoperability of all LoRaWAN products and technologies. Today, the LoRa Alliance has over 500 members around the globe…and its growing, growing very fast.
Though some parts of the World uses this LoRa technology privately, till now this technology is largely being used as public network for IoT application and research platform with well adopted protocols and norms with apt security features. The TTN community has fixed different Frequency channels for different parts of the World and India has been allotted a carrier frequency channel of 865 – 867 MHz. The following table shows the allocation of carrier Frequency channels for different part of the World.
And then, obviously, there is the cost factor. Given the capabilities of LoRa-based End Nodes and Gateways, only a few Gateways, configured in a star network, are required to serve a multitude of End Nodes. An Arduino/Raspberry Pi/ESP32 Microcontroller based LoRa Gateway costing around a few thousand rupees and a LoRa module for End Node costing a small fraction of a thousand rupees for integrating with a purposeful IoT device, we can see a drastic slide in implementation cost of IoTs in many untouched area, with a much bigger gain.