Industrial & Medical Technology

IBM, Cisco Back Semtech's LoRa Radio for IoT

14 January 2015

Several companies, including IBM, Cisco and Microchip Technology, have come together to form the LoRa Alliance and support the use of LoRa spread-spectrum radio protocol for use in wide area networks and the Internet of Things. IBM has created a C language version of the protocol that it is making available under an open-source license to try and spur the use of LoRa in client devices.

LoRa (Long Range) is a low data rate, long-distance communication protocol used by Semtech Corp. (Camarillo, Calif.) to provide industrial, home and building automation networks and for which it provides chipsets. Applications can range from smart utility metering, smart city and smart home to longer distance industrial, agricultural and environmental sensor networks.

LoRa is intended to be a low-cost wireless system that complements machine-to-machine cellular or WiFi infrastructure. It supports battery operated and mobile devices with a range of up to 50 kilometers. The long range means that large areas can be covered by relatively few basestations.

LoRa attributes. Source: Semtech Corp.

Semtech has worked with a number of partners on LoRa deployments and now some of these companies and others have come together to form the LoRa Alliance with a mission to standardize Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) by sharing knowledge and experience and ensuring interoperability between telecom operators.

Prospective initial Alliance members include leading IoT solution providers: Actility, Cisco, Eolane, IBM, Kerlink, IMST GmbH, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, and Microchip Technology, as well as telecom operators: Bouygues Telecom, KPN, SingTel, Proximus, Swisscom, and FastNet (part of Telkom South Africa).

"The LoRa technology is ideal to target battery-operated sensors and low power applications, as a complement to M2M cellular connectivity," said Richard Viel, chief operating officer of Bouygues Telecom. "The LoRa Alliance is an essential step to ensure interoperability and, therefore, mobility across Europe for our customers."

"To encourage the mass adoption of low-cost, long-range machine-to-machine connectivity, open ecosystems are critical," said Thorsten Kramp, Master Inventor at IBM Research. "In addition to IBM's support of the LoRa Alliance, we have also released the LoRaWAN in C open source software under the Eclipse Public License, which provides a solid foundation for the development of a broad range of end devices compliant with the LoRaWAN specifications."

"With LoRaWAN, entire cities or countries can be covered with a few basestations, no longer requiring the upfront rollout and maintenance of thousands of nodes as in traditional mesh networking. This has made IoT possible now, with minimal infrastructure investment," said Olivier Hersent, CEO of Actility.

"Standardizing the communication to allow interoperability between large-scale low-power wide area network (LPWAN) deployments is essential to unlock the volumes for IoT," said Erik Hoving, CTO of KPN.

The LoRa Alliance is likely to find itself in competition with SigFox SA (Toulouse, France), a startup founded in 2009 which uses a proprietary ultra-narrow band (UNB) radio technology to provide a low-power cellular infrastructure dedicted to machine-to-machine M2M communications and IoT. The UNB radio operates in license-free ISM bands and combines with software-defined radio techniques performed at the basestation to achieve high sensitivity and therefore long distance communications at efficient energy levels. The basestations are said to operate over ranges of 3 to 10 kilometers in urban areas and up to 30 to 50 kilometers in rural areas.

SigFox claims to have a network providing 80 percent coverage of France and has signed up operators in the Netherlands, Spain, UK and Russia. The LoRa Alliance and SigFox would appear to be in a race to build out IoT communications across Europe and the world.

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Related links and articles:

IHS Connectivity and IoT research

News articles:

UK Joins SigFox's Global IoT Network Play

Sansa Security Joins Thread IoT Consortium

ARM Offers Free OS for Internet of Things

TI Expands Cloud IoT Ecosystem

Huawei Buys Neul for IoT Thrust

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