LPWA Live for IoT

Much of the public discussion about the Internet of Things has centered on wearable and consumer devices, although even bigger markets are expected for industrial and enterprise IoT applications. But what of the underlying networks that will support IoT?

One potential is Low Power Wide Area Network (LWPAN). To learn more about the use of LPWAN for connecting IoT devices, I decided to interview Will Yapp, VP of business development and marketing at Senet. The company provides the first, and yet only, public multitenant LPWAN based on the wireless, long-range radio (LoRa) frequency standard for the IoT market in North America. (See my previous blog, "What 'Low Power, Wide Area' Means for IoT," for an introduction to LPWAN.)

What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

What is the market for IoT?
In the next decade, an estimated 50 billion devices will need to communicate with each other, with many leading analysts predicting that LPWA networks will ultimately address over half of this total IoT connectivity market. There are various estimates floating around, but a reasonable market number would be $19 trillion (all IoT) with a 90% compound annual growth rate.

LPWAN infrastructure is in place for any industry that needs low-cost connectivity for smart devices, sensors, and actuators across a wide geographical area. These IoT business applications provide organizations with the opportunity to transform their businesses from achieving new efficiencies and savings in supply chain functions to providing more real-time data about core operating functions.

Where does LPWAN fit?
Senet is building a public multitenant LPWAN based on long-range technology modulation for sensor-based IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. LoRa-based networks offer bidirectional communication, mobile device support, adaptive data rate support, and strong security features.

What are some wireless IoT applications?
One example of a LoRa-based application running on our public LPWA network today is a heating fuel delivery automation solution deployed across multiple regions in the U.S. It leverages IoT, and is producing big savings for its customers (heating fuel dealers and distributors, including farming cooperatives) by providing long-distance, low-cost data acquisition through smart devices and sensor technology. Dealers typically achieve 30% or more in annual cost savings due to the operational efficiencies gained by being able to optimize deliveries.

Another example, in Southern California, is an early-stage trial to track water usage from an aquifer supporting the region's farms. This wireless smart metering solution is monitoring groundwater, pumping data, and connecting to our LPWAN to automatically deliver this data to local regulators. The solution significantly reduces the cost of the data collection process and dramatically improves its accuracy over the current self-reporting of groundwater use, thereby reducing total cost of ownership.

Why did you select LPWAN for IoT?
Market forecasts show that 55% of the addressable IoT market will require, and can be addressed by, LoRa-based LPWAN technologies. LPWA networks offer a number of compelling advantages over competing wireless IoT technologies for supporting and delivering commercial applications -- a low-cost network infrastructure that supports devices that require low power consumption and has considerable range and scale.

Senet's support of the LoRa Alliance's open LoRa standard means it can support the widest range of devices and applications both today and tomorrow. Senet is an active member of the LoRa Alliance, has FCC-certified gateways, and has an established North American network with real production applications running today.

Are all LPWA implementations the same? Yapp: No, there are two camps: one that supports open-standards-based technologies, which are LoRa, and the other offering proprietary, more vertically integrated solutions like Sigfox and Ingenu. These provide only unidirectional communication to a limited number of applications.

Is interoperability an issue?
Not if you use a LoRa solution.

Senet is actively working with fellow LoRa Alliance member companies (more than 300) to drive the success of the LoRa protocol, LoRaWAN, and make it the open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWA connectivity and interoperability. Through the LoRaWAN Certification Program, the LoRa Alliance provides assurance to end customers that their application-specific end devices will operate on any LoRaWAN network. The certification program includes a vigorous suite of interop testing designed to confirm that the end device meets the functional requirements of the LoRaWAN protocol specification.

Senet also recently introduced the Senet IoT Foundry (LoRa certification program), which is a suite of development services for developers of IoT sensor-based solutions. The program aims to help developers accelerate the commercialization of LoRa-based LPWAN products and solutions.

You selected to implement LoRa. Why?
First, the technology supports the broadest set of use cases and available market. Second, open standards provide for the broadest ecosystem of suppliers, thereby providing best-of-breed solutions at the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).

What advice do you have for the enterprise migrating to IoT?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for addressing your IoT needs. Cellular solutions like LTE and Narrowband IoT are ideal for use cases that require the transfer of large amounts of data in real time where battery life and power consumption are not critical to the overall cost of ownership. LPWAN solutions are ideal for lower amounts of data transfer in non-real-time, where battery life and power consumption are critical to TCO. In some cases, multiple technologies will be required to deliver the full solution.

The evaluation should start with the use case, then an enterprise should select the best technologies based on time-to-market requirements and TCO.