What is LoRaWAN and what does it have to do with digitisation?

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From the wastewater pumping station to construction site equipment and cows, everything can be networked, monitored, controlled and evaluated. For this to work, suitable transmission technology for machines (and animals) is required. It must have a long range and be able to penetrate walls well in order to obtain data from the last corner. Low power consumption is also very important so that you don't have to constantly change batteries in difficult places. The major mobile phone providers are building the NB-IoT or Narrowband IoT network for this purpose - where it makes economic sense for them, and this involves transmission costs for each individual sensor or actuator. What would you say if you could determine and flexibly expand the network coverage on your (urban) site yourself, and on top of that save on transmission costs? The LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) can offer you exactly these freedoms and much more.

Here's how it works:

  • Several gateways (the connection nodes) are installed in a defined area to reliably cover the entire area
  • All things that are to be monitored or controlled receive sensors for measuring or actuators for controlling
  • IoT database and software are configured to prepare the right data for the right people or to perform automated actions

The LoRaWAN is characterised by the following features:

  • Data transmission costs nothing and takes place in the network you control
  • The LoRaWAN standard is protected against data theft and hacking by several mechanisms
  • The battery life is very long (many years depending on the application), because the standard is extremely energy-saving
  • LoRaWAN passes well through walls and has ranges (depending on terrain) of several kilometres
  • Once you have established a LoRaWAN in your area, you can quickly, easily and inexpensively add additional use cases

Thus, the LoRaWAN is optimally suited for regional or local machine networks. Here are a few examples:

Construction site networking

On the construction site, work is carried out in many places at the same time, materials and tools disappear and equipment cannot be found. Sometimes unexpected material problems occur due to temperature fluctuations, or the toilet house is full. All this causes additional costs and dissatisfaction among the employees. But that's over now. With a local LoRaWAN, the entire construction site can be easily monitored. If a device is now out of place, it can be located by a sensor. Another sensor monitors the temperatures on the construction site and reports critical values. Theft problems are also history thanks to the network. From the site fence to the containers, transmitters with alarm contacts are attached to all gates, doors and windows, monitoring them in real time. You, or the security service, will immediately receive a message on your smartphone when a gate is opened. This leaves little time for burglars. Furthermore, the networking of the construction site contributes to the safety of the employees. If you equip personnel working alone with a dead man's alarm, help can be provided immediately in the event of an accident. And even a full toilet house is no longer a problem, because a sensor for level measurement gives the signal in time for emptying. Thanks to the long-life batteries, the sensors can be installed anywhere without much effort. And because sensors can be easily added as needed, the network adapts from construction site to construction site to meet the requirements. And when a construction site is finished, the entire network can be taken to the next construction site.

Monitor sewage system without climbing into the sewer

At present, monitoring the sewage system is associated with a high expenditure of time and money. At each measuring point a construction site has to be blocked off, two sewage experts have to go down and determine the data. Afterwards the construction site is dismantled again and the determined data are noted. Thanks to LoRaWAN, this can now be done faster and with considerably less effort. Sensors are installed at the measuring points to collect and automatically transmit the water quantity, pressure, flow velocity, temperature, etc. All that remains to be done is to evaluate the data. This saves a lot of time and money and road traffic is not hindered. Here, the LoRaWAN stands out above all for its long range, because it reliably transmits its data even in deep cellars or shafts.

Networked agriculture or smart farming

Each farm can build (or have built) its own LoRaWAN at relatively low cost. Sensors can monitor fields with plants as well as animals to always create optimal conditions. One example is the health of farm animals. Until now, it has been difficult for farmers to have a constant overview of the health status of animals. Time and again, diseases only become apparent when symptoms are visible and the disease has already progressed. But even a small sensor on the animal's ear can help. Now the farmer can keep track of all the animals' data, such as body temperature etc., at all times via his smartphone. He can intervene directly if there are any abnormalities. The high range and powerful batteries make the LoRaWAN the perfect technology for this purpose, as the animals can move around the entire pasture with the sensors without any problems. And no extra power supply is required in the barn either. In addition, if the herd is expanded, additional sensors can be easily added without the need for an external supplier. More about Smart Farming we will write in the next blog.

Smart Town - building a city network with LoRaWAN

In the development of a city into a Smart Town, the LoRaWAN offers a good complement to mobile communications. All applications that do not consume large amounts of data can run over the city's own machine network. In contrast to the use of the mobile phone network, the city itself determines the area coverage and can forward the collected data to the right people, apps or offices, depending on their authorization.

The waste water data from the sensors at the measuring points are sent to the waterworks and the sewer operators. The garbage collection service is notified of the fill levels of the garbage containers, which can then optimize its routes. It is also possible to integrate intelligent electricity and water meters, which transmit the consumer data directly to the corresponding utility company. This eliminates the need for field staff and the residents no longer have to wait at home for the meter to be read. Traffic and street lighting can also be optimized, saving energy and protecting the environment. Traffic light changes can be monitored by the traffic office and the street lighting can be converted into smart lights. LoRaWAN sensors can also be used for mobile fine dust measurement. If they are attached to bicycles, for example, they reliably transmit particulate matter data to the environmental authorities while on the road.

Short and sweet - why LoRaWAN is interesting for you

Here is a brief overview of the advantages of the LoRaWAN for you:

  • Network coverage can be determined by yourself
  • Mobile and flexible in use
  • No transmission costs
  • Independent of mobile phone providers
  • high range and low energy consumption

We would be happy to work with you to determine the potential of LoRaWAN as an alternative or supplement to other transmission technologies. Learn more about the services of the ECBM here:

A guest article by Elisabeth Schloten,
Managing Director of ECBM Connected Business Models.

"Advancing digitization in Germany is my passion. When we talk about Industry 4.0, we are often talking about Cyber Physical Systems. A combination of mechanical-physical machines that can achieve more than conventional production systems through software and networking. Germany has an excellent position in mechanical-physical systems and a great history in computer technology. However, if we are not careful, we will quickly become outdated in the next few years. By companies from countries and cultures that do not work with the same perfectionism and therefore achieve results faster. With my team, I would like to help German small and medium-sized businesses and their communities to use today's technologies to solve tomorrow's problems".

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Published July 3, 2018

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