IoT Trends 2022 — LPWA IoT goes Hyperscale
Surge in Utilities, Logistics and Asset Tracking will drive hyperscale adoption of LwM2M —
Internet of Things (IoT) is a term we use to define connected devices, that with the help of sensors can collect data from their surroundings, process the data to some extend and send it to an application for further processing. This data collected from either one or thousands of devices can give the intelligence needed to take smart actions, like calling the fire department when the smoke sensor at your home detects a fire, or optimizing the route for garbage collection based on data collected from trash bin and traffic sensors. This variety of IoT applications have also a range of requirements; some need big amounts of data sent frequently, hence need a broadband connection and low latency. Some only send tiny amounts of data and only a few times an hour or a day. These can be sent over low bit rate connections with less latency sensitivity typically referred as narrowband.
Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network technologies emerged less than a decade ago to address specifically the needs of IoT applications usually involving large number of devices and wide area use cases. The requirements of LPWAN applications can be summarized as follows:
- Low Cost (CapEx & OpEx)
- Small Form Factor
- Low Energy Consumption
- Long Distance Connectivity (including challenging locations)
- High Capacity
- Strong Security
Only by meeting all of these requirements, the deployment of a large number of IoT devices will be feasible and the IoT applications will make business sense. The LPWAN technologies provide the ability to deploy a large volume of battery-powered, low-cost constrained devices covering a wide area including challenging urban and rural terrain. These IoT applications are also referred as massive IoT applications.
Even though LPWAN technologies provide necessary tools for massive IoT applications, the connectivity landscape is still very fragmented. No connectivity technology has ubiquitous coverage. When it comes to spectrum used for LPWAN we can talk about 2 options: licensed and unlicensed. The licensed spectrum is the cellular connectivity provided by the Mobile Network Operators (MNO) which own these spectrums for which they have paid billions of dollars in auctions to their governments. The LPWAN technologies used for cellular IoT applications are mainly Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT) and Long-Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) within the 4G standards specified by 3GPP and the emerging 5G New Radio (NR). As these licensed technologies took time to mature, we saw several unlicensed technologies emerge to fill the need. Unlicensed technologies typically use the regional ISM frequency bands.
On the unlicensed spectrum front, there have been many proprietary radio frequency solutions provided for various niche Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications for a long time. Within the last decade several standards have emerged as leading LPWAN technologies, LoRa being the most prolific. While other technologies such as Sigfox have been available to the market, the open standard LoRaWAN protocol has become the dominant non-cellular technology. ABI Research predicts that by 2026 LoRa will account for over a one-fourth share of all LPWA network connections and more than half of all non-cellular.
Although LoRaWAN is an open standard, it based on a proprietary wireless modulation technique called LoRa from “long range” developed by a French company Cycleo. The IP was later acquired by Semtech in 2012 and it has initially offered LoRa transceivers for IoT applications. Semtech is also the founding member of LoRa Alliance, a non-profit association, and since 2015 it is managing and promoting the LoRaWAN protocol.
While the unlicensed technologies were being deployed in controlled private networks at the beginning of their lifecycle, we have seen a shift over time toward more national deployments. According to LoRa Alliance’s 2021 End of Year Report coverage grew exponentially in 2021. LoRaWAN is now being offered by 166 network operators in 177 countries. The fact that in 2021 LoRaWAN was accepted by ITU as an international standard will further help its adoption.
This year we will continue to see build out and accelerated adoption of national LoRa networks such as the Everynet’s U.S. National Network which satisfies the long-standing need of an unlicensed LPWAN network in the US. At the same time the LoRa Alliance has continued to release technology improvements which promise easier transition of devices from network to network in order to solve some of the highest volume use cases within asset tracking.
LPWAN use cases cover many applications and verticals such as Smart Meters, Smart Lighting and Energy Management, Smart Water Management, Smart Waste Collection, Smart Parking, Smart Homes, Smart Buildings & Spaces, Asset Tracking, Smart Agriculture, etc. Licensed and unlicensed spectrum technologies will co-exist in the future as they are complementary in nature similar to Wi-Fi and Cellular data. For many IoT applications it will be necessary to work in this Multi-Radio Access Network (Multi-RAN) architecture. While the LPWAN technologies we discussed enable connectivity for constrained devices, it is a big challenge for developers to ingest data to their hyperscale cloud applications from billions of devices in a Multi-RAN environment. Tartabit IoT Bridge is putting the power of real time IoT data into the hands of every developer, which leads to innovative applications providing the power of real time awareness and IoT sensor context into the dashboards and digitized processes used by business leaders across every industry.
To get more insights into this topic I would encourage you to view the Quectel Masterclass that was produced this week. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to be a panel member of the special addition Masterclass entitled “LPWA IoT goes Hyperscale”. The panel also included Neset Yalcinkaya, VP of Products, Quectel Wireless Solutions who provides deeper insights into Quectel’s role in delivering the hardware that supports LPWA IoT. Also joining the panel was Tom Patton, Principal Program Manager Microsoft Azure IoT who presented Microsoft’s view of LPWA IoT in addition to several use cases and applications. It was a great discussion and I would encourage anyone interested to view the recorded session at:
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