Global Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) Market: Market Driver and Restraint
Connecting the Internet of Things
The emergence of LPWANs has fundamentally changed the IoT landscape. LPWANs are designed for sensors and applications that need to send and receive small amounts of data over long distances a few times per hour, or maybe only once a day. By collecting and transmitting only the data that is needed to optimize specific applications or operations, LPWANs offer value that cannot be achieved with other network technologies, including:
The market opportunity for LPWA-based solutions is rapidly emerging and is quite significant. Because of the unique characteristics of LPWA technologies, of the 50 billion devices estimated to be connected to the IoT by the end of 2021, it is expected that more than 60 percent of these devices will be connected with LPWANs.
LPWA Communications: Standards, Differentiation, and Deployment Models
The gap left by high-cost, high-function cellular and low-cost, localized Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity will be dominated by public LPWANs, and not surprisingly, LoRaWAN has emerged as a leading LPWA communications technology for IoT by virtue of its open ecosystem and technical superiority.
LoRa networks are built using open standards, which provides a broad vendor community to support applications – an essential aspect of driving the adoption of any successful network technology. This open ecosystem is instrumental in overcoming markets’ natural resistance to new technologies, while technical advantages allow LoRaWAN to address more use cases than legacy networks and competing LPWA solutions.
Cellular networks, for example, are built for the needs of smartphone users, delivering faster connections to support more data. While the idea of piggybacking off of an existing cellular infrastructure may seem appealing, the price to keep up with the evolution of cellular technologies doesn’t make sense for most industrial and commercial IoT applications. Wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, ZigBee, and Bluetooth are also available for IoT applications, but these legacy technologies are characterized by short-range, low-power communication capabilities, thus restricting their usage to limited coverage areas. As compared to proprietary LPWA networks, networks supporting the LoRaWAN protocol foster unparalleled business continuity and deliver extreme flexibility. Selecting LoRaWAN not only provides application portability and network provider choice, but its operation can be conducted on a public network, in a semi-private style or completely private depending on the market and application requirements.
In addition to the benefits of LoRaWAN being an open standard, there are critical security, reliability, and scalability benefits provided by the architecture. The LoRaWAN protocol was designed with end-to-end security as a fundamental element of the architecture. Communications on the network between end nodes and the application server are secured with AES-128 encryption. This end node ‘VPN-like’ service ensures data integrity and security for sensitive application data.
Network reliability is supported by the ability to deploy redundant gateways in a very cost-effective manner, minimizing communication disruption in the event of a localized outage. In addition, end nodes are capable of sending readings more often than required and can resend messages to increase reception outcomes. Messages can also be sent requiring acknowledgements, assuring the desired outcome is achieved.
Scalability is key to any commercial and Industrial IoT (IIoT) solution deployment. The coverage provided via LoRaWAN gateways can easily be right sized for the desired application. Commercially available Macro Cell Gateways provide 10-20 miles of wireless coverage and connectivity for tens of thousands of devices per gateway, while Micro Cell Gateways provide 1-2 miles of coverage and hundreds of devices per gateway. Through flexible and scalable deployment options, LoRaWANs deliver the coverage and scalability necessary for a diverse set of monitoring and control applications across agriculture, supply chain, asset tracking, smart city, and other demanding markets and use cases. Smaller Pico Cell Gateways are designed to support residential or commercial applications and provide coverage for tens of devices per gateway. This option is ideal for a range of intelligent building applications and even consumer solutions such as home automation and assisted living.
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