LoRa (short of Long Rage) is spread spectrum low power wide area network technology (LP-WAN) which is designed for Industry 4.0 i.e. Internet of Things (IoT) and smart sensor applications. In long range applications, sensors are deployed in remote areas so their power and data transmission capabilities are highly at a stake. In New Zealand perspective, long range transmission capability and less power consumption of LoRa can open huge perspective for reliable IoT applications in farming, mining and conservation etc.
As you might have noticed with your home WiF, its signals drop so badly and sometime there are blank spots having no internet in some walls away from your router. The same goes to all other wireless applications, where distance is an important factor for successful communication. If you want to communicate over longe ranges, you need to inject more power into your signal which means more battery requirement of your device. This is a big problem for remote sensing and wide spread IoT applications.
Lets imagine you are a progressive Kiwi farmer and you want to monitor your kiwifruit farm and for that you have installed some sophisticated sensors. If you need a realtime snap of your farm parameters like temperature, moisture and state of flowers, your sensors have to relay this to your home or office computer which could be many KMs away. The same applies in smart mineral mines where you want to keep track of gases, health and safety of miners and other indicators through electronic sensors. High power sensing devices eat a lot of energy in sending point to point data message over traditional channels. Moreover these channels become so noisy and unreliable when more sensors are added to the network. The answer to this problem is LoRa.
In LoRa based IoT applications, a message from a sensing device which is sitting in the middle of a remote farm is relayed to single or multiple receivers. These receivers are connected to a central network where the message is routed to appropriate node for further processing. Different IoT applications reside on server/cloud and they listen to their associated messages. There are many architectures and configurations that ensure reliability and serviceability of the receiving servers.
Spectrum and communication
LoRa devices operate in License Free ISM bands 433, 868 and 915MHz with bandwidth of 125KHz, 250KHz and 500KHz. The modulation technique is Spread Spectrum which is great for its sensitivity. The data rate is roughly 50kbps which sounds nothing in comparison to 5G but considered the low bandwidth requirements of non-visual sensors, it serves most of the contemporary IoT applications over a range of 20KMs.
LoRa devices are small circuits having sensor, signal processor/converter and an antenna. These devices are categorised among 3 classes; A, B and C. Class A stands for “ALL” which is intended for battery operated no latency devices. Class B devices are called Beacons as they are designed as energy efficient communicator over latency controlled channel. Class C devices work in Continuous mode and are normally operated using main power supply. In order to communicate to each other, all devices have to be on same network.
LoRa devices are connected to main LoRaWAN network through a gateway. LoRa gateways are designed for long range data exchange through LoRa network terminology. In short it is like your home router that connects your computers/phones to your Internet Service Provider.
Advantages of LoRa WAN
- Long battery life and less maintenance time
- Cheap hardware
- Free frequency spectrum
- Up to 20KMs of coverage
- Secure network
- Very easy to program
- Remote operation and controlled access
- Efficient architecture
LoRa Applications in NZ
Smart Farms: LoRa will be primary technology in farming applications together with Internet of Things like:
- Smart sensing
- Air, temperature and moisture control
- Air quality and pollution monitoring
- Smart agriculture and assets management
- Facilities and infrastructure management
- Fire detection and management
- Waste management
- Herd/Crop inspection
Industrial Applications: As an industry 4.0 technology, LoRa suits a range of industrial applications.
- Quality control application
- Radiation and pressure monitoring
- Smart sensing
- Product detection and tracking
- Asset/Fleet monitoring
- Health monitoring devices and management
- Wearable technology
aiWORX and LoRa
With the outspread of industry 4.0, billions of new devices will join the cyber space and classical approaches for process monitoring will be replaced by artificial intelligence. For example, in near future, the realm of truely smart farming is possible. Every element of your farm including its gates, sprinklers, quad bikes, water pumps, coffee machine and pollination devices; all will be connected to your cloud. Multiple streams of sensory data from IoT devices are processed into artificial intelligence equiped monitoring applications because classical deterministic algorithms tend to fail on data rich applications. Modern machine learning and deep data models are greatly helpful in data classification, abnormal behaviour detection and predictions.
In future, our sensory networks have to support billions or even trillions of smart devices. LoRa and artificial intelligence have to go in hands for providing a smart, low cost and highly efficient sensing solution. AiWORX NZ is particularly focusing on the fusion of LoRa enabled IoT and AI to contribute, improve and implement smart sensing and prediction in New Zealand’s farming, healthcare and mining industries.