The number of devices connected to the Internet grows every year. But getting them to speak to each other consistently and without fuss is difficult. Especially when manufacturers all over the world are building products in isolation. Soon devices will become common in cities, in farming and in many other industries. But if the services they offer (such as connected transport systems, monitoring of crops) are to succeed we need a global, simple, low-power and low-cost way to connect them all.
LPWAN (which stands for low-power wide-area network) is a new type of radio technology used for wireless data communication. It’s one of the new ways that the Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications will rely on to work. The official description says that this technology connects low-bandwidth, battery-powered connected devices at a lower cost with greater power efficiency than traditional networks. What this means in practice is that sensors can be installed and last longer and not use a lot of data when they communicate with each other.
LPWAN’s have a long range varies from 2km up to a theoretical 1,000km, depending on how it’s used.
Types of LPWANs
LPWAN is not actually a single technology, but a group of various low-power, wide area network technologies that take many shapes and forms. It can use licensed or unlicensed frequencies and include proprietary or open standard options. Some of the most widely known and deployed LPWAN networks include:
- Ultra-NarrowBand – The most widely deployed LPWAN network today is coming from French operator Sigfox. The company was created in 2010 and is present in 45 countries worldwide.
- LoRa – The unlicensed LoRa, specified and backed by the LoRa Alliance. This technology proports to be less prone to interference.
- NB-IoT – is a new wireless specifically designed for Industrial IoT devices including smart parking, utilities, wearables, and industrial solutions. It has the ability to efficiently connect large fleets of devices, while minimizing the power consumption and increasing the coverage range in locations not served by conventional cellular technologies. NB-IoT was standardized by 3GPP in 2016.
- LTE-M – this technology uses existing 4G phone masts to supports IoT devices . This means devices can have a battery lifetime as long as 10 years or even more, for a wide range of use cases. LTE-M also works with 2G, 3G and 4G which means it has good potential for growth around the world.
So, while you might never know what devices and services you use are relying on LPWAN, it is set to become an important part of our future. The technology will used in smart cities, smart metering, precision agriculture, livestock monitoring, , and manufacturing. If you have any questions about LPWAN? Just ask!