What is LoRa vs LoRaWAN?
LoRa is a popular new standard for connecting wireless sensors with very long range and long battery life. The name LoRa is a shortened version of "Long Range" and uses a proprietary modulation scheme called chirp spread spectrum developed by Semtech. This modulation scheme enables excellent link margins and is thus able to communicate over long distances and through noisy environments. Much like other LPWAN technologies such as Sigfox, LoRa is typically run at lower data rates which further increases link margin.
LoRaWAN is the protocol that runs "on top of" the LoRa modulation which manages the network connectivity. In other words, LoRa can be thought of as the PHY layer and LoRaWAN is the link layer. The LoRa sensors from Radio Bridge all run with the LoRaWAN protocol and are compatible with industry standard LoRaWAN gateways.
What is a LoRaWAN Gateway vs Network Server?
A LoRaWAN gateway is a box that connects wireless LoRaWAN end devices such as sensors to the Internet or a local network. This is similar to the way a WiFi router connects WiFi devices to the Internet. Gateways are typically deployed by the end user or solution provider, and often in remote areas that do not have other types of coverage.
The LoRaWAN network server is software that manages the device connectivity and communication. The network server software may reside on the physical gateway or in the cloud. When the network server is in the cloud as it is with a managed service like Comcast machineQ, the gateway operates in what is called “packet forwarding” mode which simply passes all raw LoRa packets in the air to the network server and from the network server back over the air. In this case, all intelligence about decoding the packets, managing connectivity to devices, etc resides in the cloud which makes for easier upgrades and management of the server itself.
If you buy a LoRaWAN sensor from Radio Bridge, you can connect it to any standard LoRaWAN gateway and/or network server, many of which are sold by our partners.
Why use LoRaWAN instead of WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Cellular, etc?
2.4GHz protocols such as WiFi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth are generally poor choices for wireless sensors for a number of reasons. First, protocols that run in the 2.4GHz spectrum have very poor range and propagation through objects such as walls and floors. One might note that they commonly have trouble getting a WiFi connection on the second floor of their house when the WiFi router is in the basement and there is any type of obstruction in the way. Home automation systems utilizing protocols such as Zigbee will often find that they have trouble connecting to the very next room. LoRa devices, on the other hand, can reach distances of many miles in open air environments and perform very well through obstructions such as buildings or equipment.
Second, the 2.4GHz spectrum is very "noisy" meaning that there are 2.4GHz devices all around us competing for air time which affects link quality. LoRa runs at 915MHz in the US and thus does not have interference with local WiFi and most other wireless devices.
Third, security and key management is unreliable with protocols such as WiFi. For example, if someone changes the password on a WiFi router, all WiFi devices will likewise need to be updated. How though, does the password get updated on small battery powered devices that have no user interface? Common WiFi devices such as smartphones, TVs, laptops, etc have displays and allow you to easily change the password, but for very simple battery powered sensors this is not the case. LoRaWAN, on the other hand, provisions and secures devices differently. Instead of a single password defined at the network server, the key originates at the sensor itself and has a unique value that can be provisioned at the network server, often in the cloud. All Radio Bridge sensors have unique ID/Key pairs that allow for efficient provisioning and management of security.
Fourth, battery consumption for devices such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and cellular devices is relatively high. Not only is the transmit power high, but the devices must maintain regular communication to a gateway or base station to maintain its connected status. LoRaWAN devices, on the other hand, can enter a deep sleep mode and only wake up to transmit when necessary to communicate a new event. This allows for very long battery life on the order of 5-10 years in most applications.
Does LoRaWAN require a monthly data plan?
LoRaWAN does not require monthly data fees as would be required with a cellular device. A private LoRaWAN gateway can be purchased and deployed on a private network. That said, managed network servers requiring monthly data plans can provide a lot of value to small organizations who do not wish to reinvent the wheel and get to market quickly. For example, the machineQ LoRaWAN network service from Comcast provides a high quality, managed network server that is ready to go for new deployments. The web-based device management console from Radio Bridge provides additional value with the automatic provisioning, monitoring, and configuration of LoRaWAN sensors in the field. For large organizations with over 10,000 to 50,000 deployed devices it may make sense to develop all of these systems from scratch. For smaller deployments under 10,000 or so units, there is generally a better return on investment to utilize these managed services and get to market quickly.
Log into the Radio Bridge console to monitor and configure sensors. Set up alerts via email, SMS text message, or an API into your own server.
Radio Bridge sensors can talk to most industry standard LoRa gateways.
LoRa sensors from Radio Bridge have ultra long range which allows them to talk to gateways miles away.