Powelectrics Embraces LPWAN Communication Technologies for IoT

Posted on 11 Jun 2019

Powelectrics offer you 25 years’ experience in connecting sensors, firstly through radio telemetry, then GSM/GPRS and now through a broad range of communication technologies, depending on the application. Here we look in a little more detail at the Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) that are most relevant to our IIoT customer base.

A low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) is a type of wireless telecommunication network designed to allow long range communications at a low bit rate among connected objects, such as sensors operated on a battery. As the name suggests, they have low power draw and provide coverage to wide areas.

LPWAN technologies fill the gap between mobile (3G, LTE) and short-range wireless (e.g. Bluetooth, WiFi and Zigbee) networks, and are designed for machine rather than human communications, particularly for IoT devices and applications, which generally need infrequent low levels of data transfer with low mobility.

Sigfox

The most widely deployed proprietary LPWAN technology is Sigfox, established in France in 2009. There are now networks in around 60 countries, with Sigfox deploying themselves in France, Germany, Spain and the US and working through partners elsewhere.  The UK operator, WND, should soon reach 2000 base stations, covering 95% of the nation’s population.

Powelectrics offer a range of Sigfox devices that are battery powered, weatherproof and incredibly easy to deploy. Typical applications include remote electricity, water and gas meter reading for billing and waste/leakage detection. Sigfox is also used for temperature and humidity monitoring and a broad range of pulse counting and contact counting applications, including people counting and trespass alerts.

Battery life lasts up to 10 years, for readings every 2 hours, depending on the amount of energy required by the sensor(s). Data can be sent every 10 minutes if required by the application, although daily readings are more common, greatly extending battery life.

Powelectrics have fully integrated Sigfox telemetry into MetronView, Powelectrics standalone cloud with customisable dashboards, reporting and alerts. Data and alarms can be received by authorised users on any web-enabled device. Customers can have unlimited users, each with their own access profile … so an individual can be authorised to see the data for just one sensor, for a department, a whole site or all sites.

MetronView supports over 140 protocols and Sigfox data can sit alongside data from other telemetry devices, including Powelectrics well-established Metron range.

MetronView is a highly secure and scalable IoT solution, currently processing millions of readings every day, whilst only using a fraction of its processing capabilities. There is more information on MetronView and its common API below.

LoRa

LoRa/LoRaWAN is an open standard with a certification programme to guarantee interoperability that is governed by the LoRa Alliance.

Any company can buy LoRa hardware and deploy its own network without paying fees to a centralised authority, but the LoRa chip needed to implement a LoRaWAN network is proprietary to Semtech.

The LoRa Alliance is an open, non-profit association with over 500 members globally among telcos, system integrators, start-ups and manufacturers. A single gateway can communicate with several hundred thousand devices up to 20 miles away in unobstructed environments. In urban environments LoRa can penetrate buildings and achieve a range of several miles.

A big difference between Sigfox and LoRa is that for LoRA you need to build your own network or be fortunate to have an existing LoRa network in your locality that allows you to subscribe. The Sigfox network is provided.

LoRA also needs to have devices added to a network i.e. You need to tell the hub what units are connected to it. With Sigfox, if an outstation can talk to any hub, the data will get to the Sigfox server. Powelectrics then collect it via an API.

With LoRa there are restrictions on packet sizes and how often units can transmit. You could expect an average of 30 seconds uplink time on air, per day, per device and no more than 10 downlink messages per day, including the ACKs for confirmed uplinks. This is because, in order to achieve longer range, data packets must be sent slowly, which takes longer, so the fewer uplink messages you can send.

LoRa is being discussed in relation to SMART cities, where councils or water companies, for example, want to monitor many devices. For them, it is a great investment to install some base stations and avoid ongoing license fees.

More detailed information on LoRa can be found here:

https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/forum/t/limitations-data-rate-packet-size-30-sec-up-and-10-messages-down-p-d-fair-access/1300 :

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.08011.pdf

NBIoT

NB-IoT specifically targets low throughput IoT application. The first NB-IoT standard was finalised in June 2016 after a group (3GPP or 3rd Generation Partnership Project) was set up to merge Huawei’s Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT) technology with the NB-LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology put forward by Nokia, Ericsson and Intel.

Release 13 saw the introduction of Cat M1 and NB1. Both these communication technologies are much slower than the 4G we are used to with our smartphones and therefore offer less power and greater range, which suit IoT applications.

Powelectrics are in the final test phase of our new telemetry device, Metron4. This will support 4G, LTE Cat M1 and NB1 and still supports 2G, so it will be exceptionally versatile. This new device can be deployed globally with confidence, giving connectivity both today and in the future, regardless of local networks strategy.

Powelectrics offer IoT hardware, software and know-how. We connect the world of sensors and the Internet of Things, offering 25 years’ sensor experience, our own award-winning range of telemetry devices and extensive experience integrating third party hardware.

Our MetronView data platform is a standalone cloud, with a standard API, which means data can be simply collected by other clouds. MetronView can be used as middleware, to interface with bespoke application-specific platforms/portals or existing software such as Navision, SAP, SCADA and platforms such as IBM Cloud (Watson), Microsoft  Azure, AWS and Miimetiq

We would welcome a call to discuss your application on +44 1827 310 666