LoRa in IoT

What is LoRa?

LoRa (short for Long Range) is a wireless technology that was specifically designed to be used for M2M and IoT Systems. It provides secure long-range, low power data transmission. LoRa technologies operate in different frequency bands depending on the region. The technology is being governed, by the so-called LoRa alliance, which was founded by LoRa’s proprietary owner, Semtech

LoRa in IoT?

While Semtech, the founding member of the LoRa alliance keeps its lips sealed on the details of the architecture of the physical layer specification, the metrics achieved by this technology have impressed many IoT/M2M stakeholders, which has helped immensely in terms member accumulation for Semtech’s LoRa Alliance.

The technique used by LoRa is based on CSS (chirp spread spectrum) technology. CSS utilizes linear wideband frequency modulated chirp pulses in order to encode information. The LoRa platform achieved a record-breaking communication distance: In 2017, a LoRaWAN® packet was received at a distance of 702 km. Semtech stated that a single LoRa station can interact with sensors over 15-30 miles away in rural areas.

LoRa & LoRaWAN® is likely the ideal solution for most IoT & M2M applications, as these mostly require small amounts of data to be transmitted over long distances or in hard to reach locations, such as underground tunnels, or concrete-dense, urban environments. As the IoT-enabled sensors of these systems are often located in remote, hard-to-reach locations, battery life is another crucial factor. LoRaWAN® is the answer to these demands, as it allows for the long-range transmission of data while maintaining low power consumption.

LoRa vs LoRaWAN®

LoRa and LoRaWAN® have a prosperous reputation as the go-to-technologies for future IoT systems. Despite their increasing familiarity among operators of low-power wide-area networks (LPWANS) they are frequently confused with one another.

LoRa is the PHY (Physical – i.e. chip) layer, while LoRaWan® is the data transfer layer (or MAC layer protocol) on top of the physical layer. Together they allow for a fully functioning LPWAN. The PHY layer defines how electronic signals are modulated, whereas the data layer selects the protocols to transmit this data. From here on out, the data is pushed through five other layers of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model. Namely the network layer, transport layer, session layer, presentation layer & application layer. While the attributes of the physical layer (i.e. LoRa) may vary from region to region, the LoRaWAN® link-layer specifications are identical across all regions.

LoRa/LoRaWAN® Gateways

The connected LoRa devices are not gateway-specific. This means, that consumers wishing to build their LPWAN-based IoT systems can deploy any device that is LoRaWAN® certified and can rely on the gateways’ ability to perform crucial IoT/M2M-related tasks, such as maintaining low power consumption and transmitting data.

While the deployment of LoRa and LoRaWAN® may appear futuristic to some, many gateways from a wide range of manufactures are already on the market,  ready to engage with the cloud. However, since LoRA is proprietary, companies that are looking to reap the benefits of this technology must buy LoRa-capable chips or gateways to connect to the LoRaWAN® network. From a large-scale manufacturing standpoint, this creates a higher barrier for the mass production of these gateways. If an IoT/M2M systems operator needs a LoRa chip, they will need to go through one of Semtechs authorized partners and licensees.

What is the LoRa alliance?

The LoRa Alliance is a fast-growing technology alliance, that functions as a non-profit organization with more than 500 member companies, which are all committed to enabling large scale utilization of LPWAN-based IoT systems. The alliance was founded by Semtech. Semtech acquired the developer of LoRa – Cycleo – in 2012.

Who are the members of the LoRa alliance?

Most members of the LoRa alliance are either privately held companies or public institutions, that recognize the potential benefits of IoT systems based on LPWAN. Members are mostly comprised of gateway manufacturers or stem from sectors, where there are plenty of IoT use cases such as:

  • Smart Agriculture
  • Smart Buildings / Facility Management
  • Smart Homes
  • Smart Environment
  • Industrial IoT (i.e. Manufacturing)
  • Smart Cities
  • Smart Utilities
  • Transportation & Logistics

Advancing the development and deployment of LPWAN is in the best interest of these companies and institutions. On the LoRa alliance’s official website, its members are categorized as either SponsorContributorAdopter or Institutional.

In which frequency bands does LoRa operate?

Different bands are used in different regions. In the United States, it operates in 915 MHz, in Asia in the 920 to 923 MHz & 865 to 867 MHz, and in Europe in the 868 MHz band.