July 11, 2022

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LoRaWAN World Expo: sustainability, public networks, geo-location and a plethora of new devices

By Jim Morrish, founding partner at Transforma Insights.

The LoRa Alliance’s LoRaWAN World Expo took place on 6th and 7th July in Paris. This is the event that was initially scheduled for June 2020 but suffered from delays due to Covid. Apparently 1,200 registered for the conference and actual attendance was a little over 1,000.

So, what was interesting at the LoRaWAN World Expo 2022?

Firstly, there was a strong focus on sustainability and ‘LoRaWAN saving the planet’. But, as is often the case in the sustainability domain, it’s clear that most of the thinking is early stage. Discussion centred on interesting and idiosyncratic example case studies, rather than a more formal analysis of what the potential for LoRaWAN to enable sustainability is, what the corresponding business benefits are, and how any plan for delivering benefits might be executed on.

Transforma Insights’ own analysis suggests that LoRaWAN will have a disproportionate impact on sustainability overall. We predict that it will account for approaching 5% of all IoT connections in 2030 and will over-index in terms of impact to electricity consumption and will strongly over-index in terms of impact to water consumption (mostly due to agricultural solutions on LoRaWAN private networks). The profile of these results is mostly a result of LoRaWAN’s suitability for deployment as a private network and (currently) relatively limited availability as a public network. However, it will under-index in terms of impact to (hydrocarbon) fuel consumption, due to the dominance of cellular technology in connected vehicles.

The role for LoRaWAN as a public network is developing quickly though. One of the most significant developments in the LoRaWAN space in the last year is the progress that is being made by Everynet in deploying nationwide networks, with multiple European networks due for deployment in the second half of 2022. The company claims to have rolled-out 600 access points in the USA since deployment started in June 2021. Not only is LoRaWAN emerging as the winner in the licence-exempt Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) space, but the ecosystem is taking the battle to the cellular (3GPP) mobile network operators. Indeed, Everynet’s partner in Indonesia is a cellular operator that already had a NB-IoT (3GPP LPWA) network deployed at the point that they decided to deploy LoRaWAN countrywide.

It’s also worth calling out Acklio, which won the LoRa Alliance Innovation Award 2022 for its solution that allows IPv6 communications to be supported over a LoRaWAN link according to LoRa Alliance standards. This opens up electricity smart metering (where IPv6 communications are often a requirement of relevant standards) as an addressable market for LoRaWAN, and also many in home devices. While on the topic of in-building devices, it was interesting to see MultiTech launch a range of in-building sensors for the European market, part of their Reveal line of sensors drawing on capabilities derived from their recent acquisition of Radio Bridge. Sensors include wireless push button sensors (for example for personal security), movement sensors, leak detection sensors, temperature sensors and movement sensors. The in-building LoRaWAN space is getting crowded though. Also showcasing their smart building wares at the Expo were Browab, Climate, Controlix, Decentlab, Elsys, Mydevices, Nexelec, and Thermokon.

In other news, SemTech were demonstrating their LoRa Edge concept that allows for GPS location over a long-life battery powered LoRa device – the secret sauce being that only GPS time information is collected at the device for transmission to the cloud: the heavy-lifting to calculate location information based on the timing information is undertaken in the cloud. This concept will open up new markets for battery-powered tracking applications including, for instance, tracking cattle or shipping cages.

Taking these announcements together, we’ve seen LoRaWAN mature into a wide area wireless concept, adapt to support some useful capabilities (IPv6 over LoRaWAN, and more efficient geo-positioning) and also extend reach into a space characterised by a myriad of small battery powered in-building sensors.