networked data

Alliance proposes low-power wireless protocol for IoT

A group of computer and networking firms have formed an alliance to standardize on the use of low-power wide-area networks, or LAPWANs, to drive development of Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine and smart city applications.

The LoRa Alliance is dedicated to using protocols derived from LAPWAN, including LoRaWAN, to ensure interoperability of IoT applications between telecom operators and other firms who have joined the effort.

The  LoRaWAN technology is considered suitable for IoT and M2M applications because it extends much farther than cellular technology and often operates in small sensor-type devices that can last for months on the power of a small battery.

LoRaWAN also lets public networks link multiple applications using the same network infrastructure, which will help enable new applications for IoT, M2M, sensor networks and industrial automation applications, according to the group.

Device manufacturers and developers are also using the technology to propose solutions at a lower total cost of ownership and with longer battery life that often do not need a powerful cellular connection, according the Alliance’s announcement.

“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, a French mobile phone service provider.

Olivier Hersent, CEO of Actility, a French energy management and IoT services firm, said the low power technology protocol enables M2M applications to scale across long distances on low cost networks.

“With LoRaWAN, entire cities or countries can be covered with a few base stations, no longer requiring the upfront rollout and maintenance of thousands of nodes as in traditional mesh networking,” he said.

“This has made IoT possible now, with minimal infrastructure investment.”

Open technologies are also a key enabler of M2M connectivity, according to Thorsten Kramp, master inventor at IBM Research, another member of the alliance.

To that end, IBM has released the IBM protocol – LoRaWAN in C – as open source, he said, “which provides a solid foundation for the development of a broad range of end devices compliant with the LoRaWAN specifications.”

“To encourage the mass adoption of low cost, long range, machine-to-machine connectivity, open ecosystems are critical,” Kramp said.

Gartner analyst Nick Jones told IDG News Service’s Stephen Lawson that the IoT technology market is “in what you might call a land-grab phase. Everyone is trying to get ahead to establish their presence.”

Prospective alliance members include Actility, Cisco, Eolane, IBM, Kerlink, IMST, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, and Microchip Technology. Telecom operators so far include Bouygues Telecom, KPN, SingTel, Proximus, Swisscom, and FastNet, from South Africa. 

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