The LoRaWAN is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol established to wirelessly connect battery operated ‘things’ to the internet in global, national, and regional networks. LoRaWAN offers low-power transmissions of data over long-range, with a flexible model allowing for both public and private networks.

LoRaWAN and IoT technologies are important parts of whole new era, enabling end-to-end supply chain monitoring and highly efficient fleet telematics over long distances at low cost.

LoRaWAN: advantages

With increased amount of smart devices and services, a long range connectivity becomes crucial.  LPWAN (low power wide area networks) and LoRa(WAN) are non-cellular forms of LPWA (low power wide area) technologies, that are fit exelent for various applications, including IoTsmart agriculture, environmental monitoring, smart cities, smart industries and more.

One of the great LoRaWAN advantages is the long range capability. Some of the other ones could directly be extracted from the image below: compare to LAN and cellular networks, LPWAN benefit from higher cost efficiency and lower power consumption.

The network architecture and protocol are most valuable features that determine  the quality of service,  security, battery lifetime of a node,  network capacity and available range of supported applications. We will consider the LoRaWAN network architecture further in this review.

LoRaWAN: network architecture.

LoRaWAN is essentially a MAC layer of LoRa, that is is implemented on top of LoRa physical layer, as demonstrated on a figure below.  MAC is generally a layer responsible for moving data packets to and from one Network Interface Card to another across a shared channel.

LoRaWAN defines the communication protocol and system architecture for the network. The LoRa physical layer on its turn enables the long-range communication link.  LoRa physical layer is robust to channel noise because it occupies the entire channel bandwidth. It as well reduce the external noise by performing frequency hopping on each transmission. LoRa physical layer enabling a wider coverage while preserving same level of power consumption as other communication systems operating with even higher higher-frequency carrier.

Typical LoRa network includes network servers, application servers, gateaways and nodes. The LoRaWAN protocols are defined by the LoRa Alliance and formalized in the LoRaWAN Specification which can be downloaded on the LoRa Alliance website.  In LoRaWAN networks topology, the gateways transmit messages between  the central network server and end devices.

Gateways are connected to the network server by means of a standard IP connections. The end-devices use single-hop LoRa communication to one or many gateways. Generally, communication is bi-directional. However, uplink communication from an end-device to the network server is expected to form the predominant traffic.

Each gateway will forward the received packet from the end-node to the cloud-based network server via some backhaul. The intelligence and complexity is pushed to the network server, which manages the network and filters redundant received packets, performs security checks, schedules acknowledgments through the optimal gateway, performs adaptive data rate, etc.

LoRaWAN: current situation and challenges

LoRa is assumed to provide long-range communication of up to a few kilometers while maintain low power consumtion and high cost efficiency. LoRaWAN enable efficient IoT applications and high quality connection with a large amount of potential IoT devices.

However, there are still many questions needed to be sorted out, such as communication range for combined environments, national regulations, and necessity of further scheduling and data processing algoritms development. The extent of LoRaWAN network coverage globally is significant and continue expanding rapidly. Currently, there are 133 network operators in 58 countries, as presented on the map above.

LoRaWAN for Fleet Management: actual solutions

LoRaWAN enables low-power transmissions of data across long distances, with a flexible model for public and privatre networks.

By combining fleet tracking solutions with LoRa technology, smart sensors and LoRaWAN protocol, businissess and organizations could establish new pathways towards increased fleets efficiency and reduced logistics costs.

LoRa based solutions already available on the market. For instance, Semtech offers solutions, enabling connectivity, reporting, real-time analytics and various additional functions including geolocation.

One posible Semtech solution scheme contains LoRa technology enabled sensors to collect location data, LoRa based gateway, specific application server in Cloud, and application server that sends reports / alerts to driver or supervisor via computer / mobile device.

Digital matter offer a range of LoRaWAN based solutions, including Oyster –  compact, rugged battery GPS tracking device that has been designed for various tracking applications, including container tracking, tracking trailers, skip bins, and other assets where super-long battery life is required without sacrificing the frequency of updates and performance.

Another example is zCar by ZANE systems – a LoRa based GPS tracking device with a long range outside LoRa antenna, optimized for tracking vehicles. It is powered by a cigarette lighter-DC connector adapter (12..24V DC). The accelerometer chip is able to detect if the unit moves. If no movement is detected, the tracker sends keepalive packets to the gateway every 60 minutes by default (this period can be set from 5 minutes to 1 day).

There is also The Portal by Fleet, that claiming to be the first fully integrated Satellite / LoRaWAN gateway providing fast deployment, low-cost IoT, global coverage and  enabling to connect more devices for less.

References

  • Aroosa Umair, Muhammad Gufran Khan. Communication Technologies and Network Protocols of  Automotive Systems. Advances in Networks. Vol. 6, No. 1, 2018, pp. 58-65. doi: 10.11648/j.net.20180601.15
  • Dong-Hoon Kim et al., Experiencing LoRa Network Establishment on
    a Smart Energy Campus Testbed. 2019.
  • Mehmet Ali Ertürk et al., A Survey on LoRaWAN Architecture, Protocol and Technologies, 2019.
  • https://www.thethingsnetwork.org/docs/lorawan/architecture.html
  • A technical overview of LoRa and LoRaWAN, LoRa Alliance Technical Marketing Workgroup.
  • https://lora-alliance.org
  • David Meaney, LoRaWAN. ECS Inc. International
  • https://www.digitalmatter.com
  • https://www.decentlab.com
  • https://www.semtech.com
  • https://www.fleet.space/portal