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Finally understandable: LoRa (and LoRaWAN) explained simply!

LoRaWAN stands for Long Range Wide Area Network and means or enables energy-efficient transmission of data over long distances. This is specifically designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With LoRaWAN, it is possible to manage several hundred sensors within a network and process sensor data. Sensors can operate for up to 10 years without changing batteries, which significantly limits maintenance.

A LoRaWAN consists of at least three components: a node (sensor), a gateway, and a LoRa server. The gateway forms the interface between the energy-efficient LoRa radio transmission and the high-performance connection to the server. We have summarized what you need to consider when positioning the gateways for you in the blog post For maximum LoRaWAN range: Positioning gateways and sensors correctly .

The node uses LoRa to send data to all gateways in its environment. They record the data, pass it on and pass it on to the server. From this point on, the data can be further processed, visualized and/or stored individually. You can find more information about the advantages of the technology and areas of application in the field of IoT at LoRa Funk.

LineMetrics LoRa Sensors

LoRa Sensors

Send measured values via LoRa to Gateway.

LineMetrics LoRa Gateway

LoRa Gateway

Sends data to servers via LTE/LAN.

LineMetrics LoRa Server

LoRa Server

Processes data, manages devices, etc.

LoRa vs. LoRaWAN – what’s the difference?

LoRaWAN describes the entire network structure as well as the communication of the individual components with each other. This ensures that any LoRaWAN-enabled device can be easily connected to an existing network.

LoRa refers to the radio technology developed by Semtech, which enables extremely energy-saving and long-range data transmission. LoRa is only used between the node (sensor) and the gateway.

An analogy for better understanding: As humans, we use vocal cords and hearing to communicate. This creates sounds and can be heard by the other person – which would therefore correspond to LoRa. But only the common language and grammar enables us to communicate with each other and would thus correspond to LoRaWAN.

Application example: Networking of an industrial hall

If you want to network an industrial hall with different sensors, a scenario could look like this:

First, sensors (nodes) are placed to detect the desired operating parameters. This could be the indoor climate (temperature, humidity, CO2 pollution) in the hall or machine parameters (power consumption, number of units, etc.). Of course, there are many more use cases.

Usually, the range of a LoRa gateway is sufficient to cover all sensors in the hall. This gateway is now connected to the Internet via LAN or LTE and registered on the LoRa server.

Now the communication between the sensors and the server has been established and the sensor data can be further processed. This makes it possible to monitor the indoor climate or the utilization or malfunctions of the machines. Based on this data, fact-based decisions and optimizations can be made. When critical values are reached, an alarm can be triggered.

Battery life of sensors in practice

Many manufacturers of LoRaWAN sensors claim a battery life of 10 years. However, this is the maximum runtime and is very much dependent on the following parameters:

  • Transmission rate/interval: The more often a sensor transmits messages, the more energy is consumed. Typical transmission intervals for a LoRa sensor are 15 minutes to 24 hours. Some sensors can transmit event-based at longer, non-equidistant intervals, which benefits runtime. For example, a humidity sensor can “sleep” until it has registered moisture – and thus a potential leak.
  • Reception strength: LoRaWAN automatically tries to select the most energy-saving transmission parameters. However, the message transmission of a sensor far away from the gateway requires much more power than that of a nearby one. As a result, the power consumption is also dependent on the distance or shielding obstacles (e.g. reinforced concrete walls) in the radio connection.
  • Amount of data: Since power consumption is considered over a period of several years, the amount of data transmitted also affects battery life. Depending on the amount of data, the fluctuation can be several milliseconds, which are also required for data transmission. Summed up over a battery life cycle, even these small changes have a significant impact on the runtime.

More information about battery life – including whether the runtimes promised by manufacturers are realistic – can be found in this blog post.

Comparison with other wireless technologies

Only very few technologies meet the advantages of data transmission with a long range and low power consumption. Common sensor solutions based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Zigbee have a maximum range (under optimal conditions!) of approx. 100 meters. In practice, this is often not sufficient for the industrial hall in the example above and too little for a larger outdoor area.

In the case of Wi-Fi, the power consumption must also be taken into account. Wi-Fi requires about three times as much power as a conventional LoRa module.

However, there are other Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) in parallel to LoRaWAN. These include Sigfox and Nb-IoT. The biggest difference to these technologies is the structure of the network. In this case, telecommunications companies provide the necessary network and a user only needs one compatible sensor – as long as the network coverage in their own region is available and sufficiently good. The pricing model is in the hands of the network operator, which means that the user incurs costs per message sent.

You can find more information about the advantages of the technology and areas of application in the field of IoT at LoRa Funk.

Applications

Examples of the application of the sensor in practice. You can find all use cases here.

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