Harnessing NB-IoT and LoRaWAN for Efficient Heat Consumption Monitoring


Continuous prioritisation of resilience and sustainability is absolutely critical: our planet has been battling perennial environmental challenges for a decade now, and it has become pre-eminent to focus on the well-being of people and ecosystems.

Governments in many countries, companies and various organisations are striving towards this goal, using IoT technology and its innovations that open up new avenues towards better sustainability and reduced resource consumption in multiple fields of application.

For instance, NB-IoT technology offers considerable advantages with its low cost, low power characteristics and 20 dB better coverage than 2G. A typical application is the remote reading of heat meters, whose key prerogatives are battery life, bandwidth and low operating costs. Here is a detailed description of LPWAN technology, specifically NB-IoT (Narrowband Internet of Things) and LoRaWAN, fields of application and advantages.

NB-IoT technology

Nowadays, many technologies are used for data transfer, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about NB-IoT technology, also referred to as Cat-M2. While it shares some similarities with Cat-M technology, NB-IoT uses DSSS modulation instead of LTE radios. Thus, NB-IoT does not work in the LTE band, and although its implementation initially has a higher initial cost, the elimination of a gateway to transfer data from the sensors to the main server (which all other infrastructures require), lowers the overall costs considerably.

Basically, it is a data transfer solution dedicated to areas that are difficult to access: the advantage, among others, of strong network coverage makes it the ideal system for penetrating buildings, mainly in areas with low coverage, such as underground car parks. In addition, thanks to the long battery life, sensors that are not connected to the power grid are operational for at least ten years on a single charge.

In particular, NB-IoT technology is applicable in various sectors and could be an ideal solution for automatic meter reading and detecting heaters’ consumption.

NB-IoT technology would, therefore, seem to be the best option due to its ability to reach a large number of devices, but also due to the less complex infrastructure that allows for faster and easier deployment. At the same time, it was found to have unrivalled signal coverage compared to other technologies, and the low power consumption allows for better sensor autonomy.

What are the benefits of NB-IoT technology?

So what are the real benefits of NB-IoT technology?

  • Always-on coverage and connectivity: high penetration makes NB-IoT technology the ideal transmission mode for use inside buildings, especially where access to the existing indoor network infrastructure is not possible. In fact, the signal is able to pass even through thick walls and underground areas, which is a huge advantage for smart meters for electricity, water or gas.
  • Low power consumption: NB-IoT technology does not need a heavy operating system such as Linux or to perform a lot of signal processing, which, compared to other cellular technologies, makes it more energy efficient.
  • Low cost of devices: since less complex devices are required, their cost is significantly reduced.
  • Long battery life: low power consumption enables NB-IoT technology to support long battery life for various devices.
  • Security: NB-IoT technology has many similarities with 4G and includes all SIM-based encryption and authentication features.

LoRaWAN technology

LoRaWAN technology, on the other hand, is a low-power WAN network protocol based on the LoRa radio modulation technique. In practice, LoRaWAN technology wirelessly connects devices to the network and manages communication between end-node devices and network gateways. The industrial sector and smart cities are increasingly adopting LoRaWAN technology due to its cost-effectiveness, long-range two-way communication protocol, and low power consumption. In fact, the devices have a lifetime of up to ten years using only a very small battery, just like those using NB-IoT technology.

When connecting to a LoRaWAN network, a terminal has two options: Over-The-Air Activation (OTAA) and Activation By Personalisation (ABP). With OTAA, the device needs to establish a network key and an application session key to connect. On the other hand, ABP encrypts the device with the necessary keys to communicate with the network, at the expense of security for a simpler connection process.

The benefits of LoRaWAN technology

What are the benefits of LoRaWAN technology?

  • Long transmission range: LoRaWAN technology has a communication range of up to 15 km.
  • Low power consumption: data transmission and reception use less than 50 mA of current.
  • Long battery life: guaranteed battery life of up to 10 years.
  • Two-way communication: this type of communication allows use in various areas.

The implementation of NB-IoT and LoRaWAN technologies: the experience of melita.io

As one of the most ESG and sustainability-conscious companies, melita certainly plays a leading role in its efforts in Europe and the United States in offering solutions that are beneficial to various industries and the environment. We would like to mention, in particular, two of the most emblematic use cases in the implementation of NB-IoT and LoRaWAN technologies.

The first concerns the use of NB-IoT technology for heating radiator gas meters. The use of NB-IoT technology to detect and monitor radiator consumption resulted in maximum cost savings for security and, at the same time, ensured energy efficiency in line with legal regulations. Thanks to the connection to an intelligent platform, it was possible to remotely and in real-time read thousands of meters and detect the consumption of thousands of radiators in a fast, convenient and highly efficient way.

In another instance of utilising LoRaWAN technology, a small town was required to replace the majority of their water meters to adhere to updated regulations.. LoRaWAN technology made it possible to avoid heavy logistical and economic commitments. In fact, the radio signal was able to reach the devices even underground, complying with current regulations and offering an efficient, cost-effective and practical solution.

In this scenario, a web portal stored and displayed the information of the linked allocators in an unencrypted format. An employee simply needed to log into the platform to access and transmit the data to the intended recipient.

NB IoT and LoRaWAN technologies will, in the future, be able to provide concrete, low-cost and highly efficient solutions in various fields, from logistics to transport, from industry to smart cities. Using these resources will greatly enhance our overall well-being and quality of life, while benefiting the environment as the main recipient.

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