Published on 04 nov. 2019 In: Techno
LoRa, LoRaWAN, private network, network operated, telecom operators, how to navigate. Although the 5G is at the top of the bill, this mobile communication technology is not the only one to be among the favorites in the development of connected objects. Indeed, the LoRaWAN protocol has not escaped the radar of telecom operators who for nearly 10 years have redoubled their efforts to offer players in IoT Industrial dedicated offers and responding to their business issues.
LoRa communication technology has been created in 2009 by a French company, and has been owned by the American company Semtech since 2012. This technology has developed at an international level, thus enabling to cover more than 140 countries worldwide to date. In order to standardize this communication medium for connected objects, the LoRa Alliance has developed a protocol called LoRaWAN. Such a communication protocol allows any company to deploy its LoRaWAN tags and thus, to carry small data packages over several kilometres such as positions, temperatures or credentials on private or operated / public networks. The French providers Orange and Bouygues (Objenious) have deployed their own IoT network across France, and by 2019, more than 120 operators are available worldwide.
In order to help you better understand this communication technology and choose the network that best suits your needs, we would like to point out how LoRa works from a technical point of view, we also want to compare public and private networks, and finally we will introduce some specific application types.
LoRaWAN (Long Range Radio Wide Area Network), is a low speed, long range network protocol based on the LoRa radio (modulation) technology. This standard and open protocol has been promoted by the LoRa Alliance since 2015, and operates within ISM frequency bands (which is of about 868 MHz in Europe), using the spread spectrum modulation technology - a variant of chirp spread spectrum modulation to be more precise.
A LoRaWAN network consists of several devices (connected objects) which communicate via LoRa, using gateways that transmit data to the servers via a 3G, Ethernet, WIFI or other type of connection. The server then sorts the information in order to send only the relevant data to the Human-Machine Interface (HMI). Such a network is called a star network.
In such type of functioning, the entire network intelligence relies on the server that basically:
Technical operation of LoRaWAN protocol
Cybersecurity issues have emerged with the increasing number of connected objects. Nowadays there are over 22 billion devices connected to the Internet worldwide; that is the reason why the IoT market a perfect target. To address such cybersecurity issues, LoRaWAN provides two AES-128 encryption in order to guarantee both network and data security.
In order to ensure an optimal network security and to prevent third parties from accessing the data, the application key is managed by the application provider only. The network operator is in charge of communicating the network key to authorized application providers.
To be able to communicate throughout the LoRaWAN network, all equipment must obtain the two above-mentioned security keys. For this purpose, two methods are available: the OTAA method and the APB method.
NB: The OTAA process is more complex to implement than the APB one, but it provides a higher level of security. For large-scale deployment, we highly recommend you to use the OTAA method, ensuring a greater level of security and flexibility.
Like communication technologies such as 3G or WIFI, the LoRaWAN network may be either public and thus rely on antennas deployed by telecom operators, or it might remain private. Any company can indeed create its own LoRaWAN network if needed. However, it is essential to keep in mind that regardless of the nature of the network, it is crucial to follow the duty cycle, even though the frequency bands are currently available. So what are the advantages and constraints of both options?
In France, both network providers Bouygues and Orange cover almost the entire country by using the public LoRaWAN network (known as "operated network"). Thanks to this network infrastructure, connected objects are able to share data over very long distances of up to several kilometres. In urban landscapes that include many constraints, connected equipment can send a message to a terminal located at a distance of about 1 kilometre, whereas in rural areas this distance can be increased to 20 km.
Bouygues Network coverage
Orange Network coverage
Despite the fact that France usually provides a good-quality public network, many companies still favour private networks. Companies that do not really need mobility in managing their sensor fleet may be tempted to install a private network. The main advantages are the following: information security, since it is a private network, the company indeed can connect its internal system to the network with no need for using the Internet; the acquisition cost, since the company does not need to pay any subscription to a provider. In this context, the company is in charge of installing the entire network infrastructure by itself (devices, gateways, servers, business applications), but this may result cheaper in terms of scale, i.e. in case of a large amount of connected devices.
To overcome the above-mentioned issues, it is possible to choose a so-called "dedicated" network. This hybrid network provides the advantages of both private and public LoRaWAN networks. Companies that choose this system can use their own tailor-made infrastructure for unlimited use, as well as the national network. This solution provides users with an optimum service quality while ensuring their independence.
Due to its very long transmission range, LoRa communication technology suits to many different types of applications. Whether in the field of smart building or of geolocation, LoRa sensors and tags indeed may be adapted to many industrial business applications. However, please remember that due to battery management constraints, connected LoRaWAN objects only emit data on a periodical basis; either once an hour, once a day or once a week, depending on the type of application.
Considering smart buildings, temperature, humidity, light and motion sensors can provide better energy management for buildings. This may apply to remote monitoring of the boiler rooms temperature in different buildings located several kilometres apart.
As for geolocation, tags connected through LoRaWAN make it possible to locate equipment situated several hundred kilometres away. This may prove useful for geolocating dumpsters or trucks evolving on several square kilometre logistics sites.
LoRa communication technology and its LoRaWAN protocol are constantly developing at a global level, and this process has started to revolutionize certain industrial sectors such as logistics, due to the possible international tracking of trucks and equipment. You still need to choose between private network, operated network and dedicated network. To do so, it is essential to assess the infrastructure needs and the related costs, but also the need of managing installation and maintenance at an internal level.
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