John Koon

While we are waiting for the coming of 5G, everyone is trying to cash in on LPWAN using 3G and 4G (LTE), other technologies. The question is not whether you can make money. It is how fast. The growth of IoT and LPWAN is unstoppable. So where are the opportunities?

IoT Applications

It is interesting to note the top IoT applications, as shown in the survey of 640 industrial IoT projects done by IoT Analytics GmbH, a Germany based IoT market research firm, to be Connected Industry, Smart City and Smart Energy. 44% of these projects are in America while 34% are in Europe. The Asia / Pacific region is particularly strong in Smart Energy projects (25%). IoT has become a worldwide phenomenon. Why is everyone so enthusiastic? In short, it makes us more productive in a meaningful way. Using the cloud /wireless connectivity, IoT provides users with insight which was not available before. But why low power?

What is Low-Power IoT?

In many IoT applications it is important for the remote devices to have long battery life as in the case of wearable health devices, smart agriculture, smart meter and industrial applications in remote areas. There are many names for LPWAN. Low-Power IoT, LPWA, Low-Power WAN and more. What technologies are behind LPWAN? Two types. Cellular and non-cellular. Cellular technologies include Low-Power LTE which has various flavors (refer to the Digi article in this issue). Behind the non-cellular technologies are the LoRaWAN and SigFox. What is LPWAN and who are the players? In short, it is a Low-Power technology which enables devices to have a battery life longer than 10 years in some cases. Other features include very low cost for low speed applications. Contrary to highspeed network designed for video streaming, LPWAN targets applications requiring kilobit per second speed to send packets but cost is a key consideration as IoT devices/sensors are becoming cheaper by the day. There are three popular entities supporting LPWAN today. The first group includes the major carriers like Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile in America. Group 2 is LoRa Alliance. It is a non-profit consortium promoting the open specification on LoRaWAN (Long Range and Wide Area Network) (see interview). The driving force behind this group includes tech giants like Cisco, IBM and Comcast. The last one is SigFox which is a French-based company with presence in 32 countries attempting to develop an international “standard” to compete with LoRa and the like.

What is the future like?

It has only just begun. Verizon launched the M1 roll-out with partners. Members of LoRa Alliance has now climbed to 450. Opportunities promise to be great and competition will be fierce. Challenges including counter cyberattacks and increased security, safety and privacy will be at the top. We are constantly reminded how serious the cyberthreats can be. As recent as May 2017, the ransomware, code name WannaCry, has attacked 150 countries, the worst attack ever.

What is next?

To give you a quick understanding of this fast-growing market, the lead article will discuss the Verizon M1 roll-out and its mighty partner support. Additionally, we have invited experts to explain the meaning of various LTE network technical terms like Cat M1, what LoRa is all about as well as how to defend the network.