IBM Research has unveiled a new wide area networking technology LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide-Area Networks) designed for the interconnection of Internet of Things devices, claiming that it can support communications rates of up to 100kbps over tens of kilometres from devices that can run for up to 10 years on a AA battery.
The unveiling of LoRaWAN follows the launch in January by IBM and others of the LoRa Alliance at the CES show in Las Vegas with the stated mission being “to standardise low power wide area networks (LPWAN) being deployed around the world to enable Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M), smart city and industrial applications.”
According to IBM, “the LoRa Alliance aims to combine hardware and software based on the LoRaWAN standard for telecom operators and network operators, enabling them to offer IoT services to both businesses and consumers. From sensors and machines to monitors and wearables, soon connecting billions of devices together could be as seamless as sending an SMS to your local telecom provider.”
Prospective members of the alliance were listed as Actility, Cisco, Eolane, IBM, Kerlink, IMST, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, and Microchip Technology along with telecom operators: Bouygues Telecom, KPN, SingTel, Proximus, Swisscom, and FastNet (part of Telkom South Africa).
Dr Thorsten Kramp, master inventor, IBM Research, said: “To encourage the mass adoption of low cost, long range machine-to-machine connectivity, open ecosystems are critical. In addition to IBM’s support of the LoRa Alliance, we have also released the IBM ‘LoRaWAN in C’ as open source 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.”
IBM claims that LoRaWAN sensors can communicate over distances of more than 100km in favourable environments, 15km in typical semi-rural environments and more than 2km in dense urban environments at data rates from 300bps up to 100kbps. “This makes them well suited for sending small amounts of data, such as GPS coordinates and climate readings, where broadband can’t reach,” IBM says. The technology uses the unlicensed (class licensed in Australia) ISM bands.
To create a complete LoRaWAN IoT system, IBM is proposing its Long Range Signalling and Control (LRSC) software and the IBM Internet of Things Foundation cloud hosted service. It says that LRSC is the middleware layer or glue enabling users to connect, manage and scale to millions of devices.
IBM says the LoRaWan technology is already being deployed. “Senet, a network as a service (NaaS) M2M operator based in New Hampshire, is currently installing 20,000 Semtech LoRa sensors with IBM’s LRSC software to track the fuel levels of propane and oil tanks located at residences and businesses on the west and east coasts of the United States.”