IBM Research and Semtech have introduced a new technology based on low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs) that are touted as having advantages over cellular networks and Wi-Fi for providing machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.
In past years the Internet of things’ (IoT) potential for business has been challenged by technical obstacles such as limited battery life, short communication distances, high costs, and a lack of standards.
The new technology introduced by IBM and Semtech, long range wide-area networks (LoRaWAN), offers a solution. According to IBM, by using an unlicensed wireless spectrum, “the technology can connect sensors over long distances, while offering optimal battery life and requiring minimal infrastructure. This allows it to deliver such benefits as improved mobility, security, bi-directionality, and localization/positioning, as well as lower costs.”
LoRaWAN sensors can communicate over distances of more than 100 km (62 miles) in favorable environments, 15 km (9 miles) in typical semi-rural environments and more than 2 km (1.2 miles) in dense urban environments. The sensors also require very little energy and are expected to run for 10 years or more on a single AA battery
To further LPWAN technology, IBM, Semtech, and other companies have formed the LoRa Alliance, designed to support and develop the standardization LoRaWAN.
The LoRa Alliance plans 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.”
IBM Research’s master inventor Thorsten Kramp notes, “The Internet of things is already changing our world from better traffic control on our highways, to greater energy efficiency in buildings and manufacturing operations, to reduced crime on our city streets. Technology advancements like the one we’re announcing today will help significantly advance that vision by extending the range and longevity of sensors that make up an intelligent world.”