For the latest edition of IoT Now magazine, managing editor, George Malim, spoke with three key members of the team at Stream Technologies about the current state of LPWAN (Low-Power Wide-Area Network) technology. Nigel Chadwick, the company's founder and CEO, Mohsen Shakoor, who leads IoT-X strategic partnerships and Karina Maksimiuk who leads business development for LoRa, fielded questions about the recent emergence of an abundance of technologies and standards centred on LPWAN communications.
You can read an except of the interview below:
With the recent emergence of an abundance of technologies and standards centred on (LPWAN) low- power wide-area network (LPWAN) communications, the wireless connectivity aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT) value chain has become busier than ever before. With a deluge of new entrants into the LPWAN market, it's becoming increasingly difficult for enterprises and operators to weigh up their connectivity options and determine which technology is the best fit for their needs. To get a better level of insight into the options that are available and the considerations that need to be taken into account when choosing amongst them, the managing editor of IoT Now, George Malim, spoke to three members of the team at Stream Technologies, the company behind the award-winning IoT-X Connectivity Management Platform (CMP). Nigel Chadwick, the company's founder and CEO, Mohsen Shakoor, who leads IoT-X strategic partnerships, and Karina Maksimiuk, who leads business development for LoRa, fielded the questions
IoT Now: Mohsen, can you give as a snapshot of the current state of LPWAN technology? What are the leading protocols and how do they fit in the IoT more broadly?
Mohsen Shakoor: LPWAN has, to some extent, become one of the largest and most interesting 'things' in IoT. LPWAN emerged as a result of more and more devices being connected to IoT and the need for low-power, low-cost connectivity. The sunsetting of general packet radio service (GPRS)/2G networks has also been a factor in accelerating the growth and adoption of LPWANs. The result has been that, in a relatively short period of time, a series of LPWAN technologies have emerged both on the licensed and unlicensed spectrums.
Much of the early success in LPWAN can be attributed to Sigfox , providers of the Sigfox LPWAN, which operates on the unlicensed spectrum. With significant investment and marketing, Sigfox has been deployed across a number of nations. H owever, it should be noted that Sigfox comes with certain limitations. Since it's a proprietary solution, deployments are limited to Sigfox networks only. This means that enterprises cannot deploy and own private networks. From a technical standpoint, Sigfox's bidirectional capabilities are constrained, especially when compared to LoRa. That being said, where a Sigfox network is available, it serves as the right technology for use cases that require small bursts of data.
LoRa is another increasingly available LPWAN technology which is being deployed globally by some mobile network operators (MNOs) and especially enterprises. LoRaWAN is governed by the LoRa Alliance , an open ecosystem which has more than 500 members including Microsoft , Cisco and Stream Technologies and is supported by a ratified standard. It provides similar benefits to Sigfox; h owever, it has better support for bidirectional communications. It should be noted that LoRa only functions with hardware that's been provided or licensed by Semtech , the organisation which developed LoRa. Every technology has certain limitations, h owever, when LoRa is compared to other LPWAN options, it offers the greatest degree of flexibility. Furthermore, since LoRa is an open technology, it supports the deployment of independently owned private networks. LoRa is an excellent fit for smart cities, and use cases that require bidirectional support.
Sigfox and LoRaWAN both operate on the unlicensed spectrum, and serve a similar set of use cases with some overlap. There are other technologies available on the unlicensed spectrum, but they tend to be less frequently adopted than Sigfox and LoRa. Examples include proprietary LPWANs such as Ingenu's RPMA, and Weightless.
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