LoRaWAN and the IoT

April 5, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, new technology to foster its growth also emerges. One example is LoRaWAN.

 

LoRaWAN was developed by the LoRa Alliance as a way to standardize the global deployment of low-power, wide-area networks (LPWAN) to enable the IoT. LoRaWAN is a LPWAN specification designed for wireless, battery operated devices in a regional, national or global network. The focus of LoRaWAN is fulfilling key requirements of the IoT with secure, bi-directional communication, mobility and localization services.

 

LoRaWAN is a media access control (MAC) payer protocol made for large-scale public networks with a single operator. This specification allows for interoperability between smart Things without complicated local installations, which offers more freedom for users, developers and businesses, and enables easier implementation of the IoT. The low power wide-area networks used in the LoRaWAN specification are able to provide low data rate, low cost, long battery life and long range – all of which is ideal for IoT devices. Plus, the simple star network architecture means there are no repeaters and no mesh routing complexity.

 

How does it work? LoRaWAN is a star network and the way it operates is somewhat simple. The gateway communicates messages between the end-devices, and vice versa, through single-hop wireless communication. There is also a network server in the background that is connected to the gateway via a standard IP connection. With this standard, end-point communication is usually bi-directional, though LoRaWAN also supports mass distribution messages to decrease on air communication time. Communication between gateways and end-devices is distributed between different data rates and frequency channels, which helps to avoid interference. Data rates with LoRaWAN range from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps. The LoRaWAN server manages the data rate and RF output for each device with an adaptive data rate scheme, this maximizes battery life of the end-devices and network capacity. LoRaWAN also provides extra security with several layers of encryption, which is necessary for nation-wide networks designed for IoT use. These layers of protection consist of a unique network key (EUI64) for a secure network, a unique application key (EUI64) for end-to-end security on an application level and a device specific key (EUI128).

 

There are three different classes of LoRaWAN end-point devices:

 

  • ·       Class A - Bi-directional end-devices: This class of end-devices are capable of bi-directional communications, this means the after the uplink transmission of each device there are two short downlink receive windows. These end-devices follow an ALOHA-type protocol where the transmission scheduled is mostly based on the communication needs of the end-device, with some times chosen randomly. The Class A operations system provides the lowest power option for applications that only need downlink communication from the server after an uplink transmission has been sent by the end-device.

 

  • ·       Class B – Bi-directional end-devices with scheduled receive slots: Class B devices unlock additional receive windows at scheduled times, in addition to random receive windows like Class A. To open the receive window at a scheduled time, the end-device receives a time synchronized beacon from the gateway which alerts the server of when the end-device is listening.

 

  • ·       Class C – Bi-directional end-devices with maximal receive slots: Class C end-devices have receive windows that are almost always open, only closing when a transmission is in progress.

 

As IoT use increases, LoRaWAN provides a low data rate, low cost option making it easier to connect Things locally or globally, all while providing long battery life and long range.

 

The Full Spectrum of Wireless Communications Protocols and Standards

March 1, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

The IoT is the driving force behind most wireless technology today. Everything including cars, smart homes, businesses and cities will be connected by the IoT. Plus, an estimated 300 million smartphones are slated to have artificial neural network (ANN) learning capabilities that would enable functions such as navigation, speech recognition and augmented reality.

 

With all the wireless technology rolling out and market demand for wireless communications applications continuing to grow, the development of different wireless technologies is also exploding to meet that demand. In fact, there are so many new technologies emerging that some directly compete with one another and frequencies overlap.

 

Many protocols are in accordance with IEEE 802.11 standards. The IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (LMSC) develops the most widely known wired and wireless standards, which encompasses local and metropolitan area networks. The fundamental IEEE standard of 802.11.n had of a minimum of 31 amendments through 2016, with more in the process. These cover everything from Ethernet, wireless LAN, virtual LAN, wireless hot spots, bridging and more.

 

Other IEEE standards include:

 

-    IEEE 802.15.4 for Simplified Personal Wireless and Industrial Short-Range Links

-    IEEE 802.15 Wireless PAN

-    IEEE 802.16 Broadband Wireless (WiMAX)

-    IEEE 802.22 for Wireless Regional Area Network (WRAN), with base station range to 60 miles

-    IEEE 802.23 for Emergency Service Communications

 

802.11 wireless technology began when the FCC released the industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands for unlicensed use. The ISM bands were then established in 1974 by the International telecommunication Union (ITU).

 

These are the frequency allocations as determined by the ITU:

 

Min. Freq.

Max. Freq

Type

Availability

Licensed Users

6.765 MHz

6.795 MHz

A

Local Acceptance

Fixed & Mobile Service

13.553 MHz

13.567 MHz

B

Worldwide

Fixed & Mobile Service except Aeronautical

26.957 MHz

27.283 MHz

B

Worldwide

Fixed & Mobile Service except Aeronautical & CB

40.66 MHz

40.7 MHz

B

Worldwide

Fixed, Mobile & Earth Exploration/Satellite Service

433.05 MHz

434.79 MHz

A

Europe

Amateur & Radiolocation Service

902 MHz

928 MHz B

B

Americas

Fixed, Mobile & Radiolocation Service

2.4 GHz

2.5 GHz

B

Worldwide

Fixed, Mobile, Radiolocation, Amateur & Amateur Satellite Service

5.725 GHz

5.875 GHz

B

Worldwide

Fixed-Satellite, Radiolocation, Mobile, Amateur & Amateur Satellite Service

24 GHz

24.25 GHz

B

Worldwide

Amateur, Amateur Satellite, Radiolocation & Earth Exploration Satellite

61 GHz

61.5 GHz

A

Local Acceptance

Fixed, Inter-satellite, Mobile & Radiolocation

122 GHz

123 GHz

A

Local Acceptance

Earth Exploration Satellite, Inter-Satellite, Space Research

244 GHz

246 GHz

A

Local Acceptance

Radiolocation, Radio Astronomy, Amateur & Satellite Service

 

In addition to IEEE standards, other technologies have broken away from IEEE and made the move to special trade organizations and even changed their names. Plus, there is a slew of short range communications standards vying for dominance, including ANT+, Bluetooth, FirstNet and ZigBee. No matter what your wireless communication application is, rest assured that there are plenty of standards and protocols to refer to when designing your wireless network.

 

The IIoT and Manufacturing

February 22, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing many industries, including manufacturing. With the introduction of the Industrial IoT (IIoT) and all of its benefits, manufacturing is being transformed by value-add opportunities and smart technology. In fact, manufacturing, transportation and utility industries are forecast to make the largest IIoT investments. However, there is a lot of work that goes into IIoT implementation. Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at how the IIoT is changing manufacturing.

 

Traditionally, manufacturing companies focused on large operations that required a large capital layout with the goal of consistency and repeatability. Organizations adopting IIoT technology must not only dedicate capital to technological improvements, but also change the way they do business. Return on investment is driven by connected operations, smart preventative maintenance and predictive analytics. As IIoT implementation accelerates the speed of business, companies must increase the speed of their internal processes to keep up the pace. Introduction of the IIoT has also shifted customer expectations. Customers expect companies to be nimble and adaptive, and so the manufacturing processes must evolve to meet those expectations.

 

With all of the changes that come along with the IIoT, completing a successful rollout is a challenging task. Security is an issue to consider, if your systems are breached, production can come to a halt. Another challenge is the slow adoption of standards and interoperability. It can be expensive to upgrade your equipment. Also, many manufacturers prefer to use their own proprietary technologies, which may not meet IoT standards. Correctly interpreting the analytics to create the best outcome is a challenge, it takes time to understand how to best integrate the IIoT as a part of the manufacturing process and into your specific business model. Resistance to change also can slow the adoption of the IIoT and its overall success in the industry. For smaller operations, implementing the IIoT and everything that goes along with it, may seem like an insurmountable task. Thus, many of the companies leading the way are large, complex, industrial operations that can absorb large projects, such as an IIoT rollout. 

 

The IIoT offers an array of benefits to the manufacturing industry, but integration of this revolutionary technology is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

 

The Downside of Big Data

February 8, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

Big Data is all the rage right now and is the driving force behind a lot of new technologies breaking barriers today, including data science, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). Even though big data may help us to achieve medical breakthroughs, explore far away galaxies, plan and prepare for natural disasters and even feed the hungry, there are still some downfalls. Along with the insights and opportunities that come with all this data being collected, there are some significant issues that need to be recognized.

 

The first issue is privacy. The big data being collected contains a good deal of personal, private information about our lives and we are entitled to keep that information private. With so many apps and services being offered that use big data, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine who should be able to access to our data and how much we should divulge. Finding a balance between accessing the benefits of big data while still maintaining some type of anonymity is an issue worth discussing.

 

Secondly, data security concerns are growing as fast as the big data industry. The high-profile data breaches last year brought to light how important it is to secure our data. Can we truly trust anyone to keep our data safe? If a trusted source is breached, sensitive information ending up in the wrong hands can deeply impact our lives for years to come. Plus, is the legal system equipped to regulate data use at this large scale and if our data is compromised, can appropriate legal action be taken?

 

 

One more area of concern is data discrimination. With all this data available, how will it be used, and will people be discriminated against based on the data collected? For example, credit scores are used to determine who can get a loan and we’ve seen that those can be compromised, which can have devastating effects on people’s lives. The insurance industry also relies heavily on data to determine coverage and rates, meaning people could be charged more or denied coverage based on these reports. Increased detail in the data collected will also increase scrutiny from companies. Steps might need to be taken to ensure that resources or opportunities aren’t taken away from those who have fewer options and less access to information.

 

Overall, big data is making a lot of big advances in the technology industry. Care might need to be taken that this data is used in the proper way, that private matters are kept private, that people’s data is secure and that regulations are in place.

 

Antennas & the IoT

January 11, 2018 at 8:00 AM

 

With all the excitement surrounding the development of the IoT, there is one important part that can’t be overlooked – the antenna. Antennas are integral to implementation of the IoT. Connecting all of the physical objects that make up the IoT requires antennas transmitting a massive amount of data. Thus, without antennas, there would be no IoT.

 

As IoT use increases, so does the demand for more antennas that meet the needs of IoT applications and meet the expectations of users. Thus, antenna manufacturers and designers have had a voice in the development of IoT devices and are meeting the call for antennas that are up to the task.

 

Here are some of the ideal traits for antennas designed for IoT applications:

 

Small Form Factor – One of the biggest trends in IoT antennas is smaller form factors. As IoT devices are being implemented in more industries, manufacturers are looking to shrink device footprint. And as devices get smaller, so must the antennas. These small form factor antennas include embedded antennas, PCB antennas and chip antennas.

 
High-Performance – Designers have been working to deliver small antennas without sacrificing performance capabilities because demand for speed and capacity is also growing. Even if the device is the size of a coin, its antenna still needs to meet high-performance standards.
 
Cost-Effective – Adding antennas onto all of these devices can be costly. As device demand increases, manufacturers have begun looking for antennas that will be economic to use on the devices. 
 
Beyond being small, powerful and cost-effective, there are some other areas of antenna technology that are emerging with the development of the IoT. These include:
 
Two antennas – While two antennas will not be necessary for MIMO communications with lower category LTE devices, two antennas will be needed for Cat4 and above in order to meet requirements for higher speed and throughput systems. LTE cellular networks will also continue to use two cellular antennas to fully achieve high-speed performance.
 
MU-MIMO – Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) has breathed new life into Wi-Fi by allowing multiple devices to communicate with the access point at the same time. This has made a significant improvement to wireless network throughput and impacted dense, high-capacity networks.
 
Low-Power – Low-power technologies, such as ISM-band solutions, are being developed to provide longer battery life for devices and allow long-range communications at a low-bit rate. Plus, smartphone technologies such as Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) are being adapted to be utilized in IoT applications.
 
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