With the rise in IoT Development Platforms, it has become easier to monitor and control various aspects of day-to-day life. IoT is basically a network of sensors that are capable of reading the environment around it and using that data to make the necessary changes. We can use this technology to manage the functioning of an entire city. Its ability to gather data and forward it to a central location makes it ideal for automating management in complex environments. IoT Development Platforms generate opportunities to automate various features of a smart city. They create benefits ranging from environmental efficiency to cost management.
Naturally, a smart city or any IoT application would be incomplete without sensors as they are the most vital part of the system. They instantly collect data about the physical properties of an object or situation around them. The data is then processed to convert it into useful information that is necessary for the IoT Development Platform to make real-time decisions. These decisions are aimed to eliminate instances like low quality and the interrupted flow of energy. There are many sensors that provide a good fit for IoT applications, but the most popular and widely used sensors are wireless sensors. The wireless sensor network is capable enough to be self-organizing. Therefore, systems can deploy it at any moment in time without any human interaction.
LoRa and LoRaWAN Technologies
Though sensors can measure and monitor the environment, they require a great amount of network bandwidth and are able to cover only a small area. In order to implement the smart city infrastructure, low-power wide-area networking (LPWAN) technology is ideal. LPWAN is a wireless technology that connects low-bandwidth devices with low bit rates that cover long ranges. LoRa and LoRaWAN are the most suitable LPWAN protocols for the job.
LoRa is the radio layer that enables long-range communication. Whereas, LoRaWAN is both the communication protocol and system architecture for IoT networks. These technologies are ideal for smart cities because of their long signal range and minimal power requirement. LoRa and LoRaWAN wireless communication protocols overcome the challenges faced by IoT deployments in complex environments like commercial and industrial settings. These LPWAN protocols are energy efficient and provide an affordable way to implement the IoT infrastructure for smart city solutions.
LoRaWAN networks mainly use the Aloha method to communicate between end devices and their associated network servers. In the Aloha method, end devices send data through a gateway to the network server only when their sensors detect a change in the environment. After the end devices send the uplink, it waits for a message for one or two seconds. If it doesn’t get any message it goes back to sleep. End devices are asleep most of the time. During this time, they consume very less energy; less than one microampere. This method of power-saving ensures that applications can attain a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years on a very small battery.
LoRaWAN, a low-power wide-area networking protocol is designed to connect IoT devices wirelessly. It is built on the lower level LoRa protocol, that can be used on its own, but its previous work (of being used for a smart city environment) suggests that a more robust communication could be achieved by using LoRaWAN on the LoRa physical layer. LoRaWAN makes it simple for a user to deploy their own gateway. The ability to deploy gateways makes LoRaWAN apt for city-scale IoT deployments. LoRaWAN meets the key IoT requirements, such as bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility, and localization services. It is ideal for covering wide areas where trees and other obstacles might block Wi-Fi signals.
Use of LoRaWAN in Smart Cities
In a smart city, LoRaWAN promises the kind of connectivity that IoT infrastructures require. Connectivity in a smart city means a smooth operation across large distances where low capacity is required. The city uses LoRaWAN antennas that range up to 7 kilometers. The bandwidth is low, and hence it is ideal for covering a wide area without deploying too many access points. LoRa can connect to devices that are up to 30 miles apart in rural areas and can penetrate through deep indoor environments in urban areas. The connection range depends on several factors such as indoor/outdoor gateways, the payload of the message, the antenna used, etc.
Including a wide area of connectivity, LoRaWAN requires a small amount of power, thus preserving the battery life of other devices as well. LoRaWAN in a smart city uses a technique similar to GPS to compute the approximate location of a device when it is transmitting to at least three gateways. This method is more energy and cost-efficient. LoRa radio waves can also pass through obstacles and reach sensors indoors to collect the data.
Smart traffic control, waste management, energy consumption tracking, environmental metering, parking and lighting monitoring, fire detection systems and alarms — all of these are pillars of the smart city concept. And none of them require a large volume of data. It uses small data packages in cloud transportation planning software for alarm, triggering, and monitoring purposes. The technology also enables utility customers to remotely monitor and control gas and water meters along with other applications.
With smart cities on the rise, LoRa and LoRaWAN protocols provide an efficient, low-cost solution. They enable users to build their own gateway, which makes them easier to deploy. They have very low bandwidth and conserve a lot of energy making them ideal for smart cities. LoRa and LoRaWAN are internationally recognized as the perfect connectivity technologies for various aspects of a smart city. These wireless protocols play a huge role in optimizing smart cities.
Alessandra Serpes is an engineering student currently pursuing Information and Technology Engineering. She is passionate about software development. She also enjoys baking and reading novels.