LoRaWAN. What is it?
What is LoRa?
LoRa Technology is the DNA of IoT (Internet of Things), connecting sensors to the Cloud and enabling real-time communication of data and analytics that can be utilized to enhance efficiency and productivity.
LoRa is the physical layer or the wireless modulation utilized to create the long range communication link. Many legacy wireless systems use frequency shifting keying (FSK) modulation as the physical layer because it is a very efficient modulation for achieving low power. LoRa is based on chirp spread spectrum modulation, which maintains the same low power characteristics as FSK modulation but significantly increases the communication range. Chirp spread spectrum has been used in military and space communication for decades due to the long communication distances that can be achieved and robustness to interference, but LoRa is the first low cost implementation for commercial usage.
Long Range (LoRa).
The advantage of LoRa is in the technology’s long range capability. A single gateway or base station can cover entire cities or hundreds of square kilometers. Range highly depends on the environment or obstructions in a given location, but LoRa and LoRaWAN have a link budget greater than any other standardized communication technology. The link budget, typically given in decibels (dB), is the primary factor in determining the range in a given environment. Below are the coverage maps from the Proximus network deployed in Belgium. With a minimal amount of infrastructure, entire countries can easily be covered.
What is LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) defines the communication protocol and system architecture for the network while the LoRa physical layer enables the long-range communication link. The protocol and network architecture have the most influence in determining the battery lifetime of a node, the network capacity, the quality of service, the security, and the variety of applications served by the network.
Network Architecture. Many existing deployed networks utilize a mesh network architecture. In a mesh network, the individual end-nodes forward the information of other nodes to increase the communication range and cell size of the network. While this increases the range, it also adds complexity, reduces network capacity, and reduces battery lifetime as nodes receive and forward information from other nodes that is likely irrelevant for them. Long range star architecture makes the most sense for preserving battery lifetime when long-range connectivity can be achieved.
In a LoRaWAN network nodes are not associated with a specific gateway. Instead, data transmitted by a node is typically received by multiple gateways. Each gateway will forward the received packet from the end-node to the cloud-based network server via some backhaul (either cellular, Ethernet, satellite, or Wi-Fi). The intelligence and complexity is pushed to the network server, which manages the network and will filter redundant received packets, perform security checks, schedule acknowledgments through the optimal gateway, and perform adaptive data rate, etc. If a node is mobile or moving there is no handover needed from gateway to gateway, which is a critical feature to enable asset tracking applications–a major target application vertical for IoT.