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Cisco’s LoRaWAN Solution 2.0 Boosts Capabilities to Accelerate Adoption

June 12, 2017 - 10 Comments

How are copper spools, garbage bins, a cool wireless technology, and Cisco related?

Answer: Cisco’s LoRaWAN Solution 2.0!  I know that may sound cryptic – let me explain this better.

The ability to track the location of things like copper spools, garbage bins etc., also called ‘Asset Tracking’ is important. Tracking the location of assets can help prevent thefts, retrieve stolen assets and make sure assets are used efficiently. Consider copper thefts – a single copper spool can sell for as much as $70,000. This makes stealing copper spools from utility substations, construction sites, or rail yards attractive to thieves. Consequently, copper theft is costing businesses in the U.S. some $1 billion a year.  Or consider waste management – garbage trucks make millions of rounds gathering garbage from empty bins, inflating costs and unnecessarily impacting the environment.

How do you prevent this?

By installing location sensors for assets like copper spools to geo-fence them, i.e. restrict them to a certain location or site. Or by using sensors that transmit the location of waste bins which are full, to make garbage collection more efficient. But, sensors that use GPS technology to determine location are expensive. They also consume a lot of battery power and have to be charged often – in some cases weekly. This makes sensors using GPS suboptimal for usage in large scale, city wide IoT applications.

The answer: Cisco LoRaWAN solution 2.0

Cisco is releasing new capabilities for its LoRaWAN products to address problems such as the above. Support for native geolocation now allows Cisco’s LoRaWAN gateways to approximate a sensor’s location. Sensors using LoRaWAN are inherently more cost-effective as they no longer depend on a separate GPS subsystem. They consume only a fraction of the power, with batteries lasting years. As a result, sensing and location tracking becomes more cost-effective to deploy and more practical to operate.

At the same time, Cisco introduced new software that enables its LoRaWAN gateway to operate as a standalone unit.  The standalone solution is designed for customers with existing access networks, whereas the Cisco IR809/IR829 gateway based solution provides optimal backhaul flexibility for new network buildouts.  Further, Class B end-point support now allows gateways to poll sensors for information as and when needed. This provides the operator of the LoRaWAN network with the flexibility to control the polling of sensors to optimal durations as well as on-demand, and in order to manage communications and power consumption effectively.  Lastly, Cisco added capabilities to group sensors and talk to each group separately to reduce communication time with sensors and make them more responsive.

NNNCo is impressed with Cisco’s LoRaWAN solution” said Eric Hamilton, CTO at National Narrowband Network Communications. “It combines the classical Cisco environment with the cutting edge capabilities of LoRaWAN in a rugged, easy-to-install and manage environment. Cisco’s LoRaWAN Gateway is the flagship of our network – we rely on Cisco to provide us with a scalable solution that gives us computing power at the edge when our customers need it.” NNNCo is Australia’s LoRaWAN operator that offers an IoT end-to-end scalable service at low cost with a secure ecosystem.

LoRaWAN is considered an LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) Wireless technology, and this technology category generally fills the gap between short-range wireless and cellular communication technologies and is purpose-designed for low power, low rate, long range data collection IoT use cases.

“LPWA technologies hold great appeal for lightweight, pervasive IoT applications”, said Carrie MacGillivray, Vice President for Mobility & Internet of Things at IDC.  “Among them, LoRaWAN appears particularly promising due to its efficient usage of free spectrum, superior power efficiency, and strong multi-vendor support.  As one of the founding members of LoRa Alliance, Cisco has played a pivotal role in pioneering LoRaWAN and taking it from concept to customer PoCs and success”.

The Cisco LoRaWAN solution 2.0 enables rapid deployment and accelerates time to value for new IoT applications. Adoption is underway in areas ranging from asset management in industrial areas to smart parking in cities to smart agriculture, and many more. The cost-effective, small form factor LoRaWAN gateway delivers the secure, carrier-grade, long range connectivity at the heart of Cisco’s new LoRaWAN solution 2.0. With new geolocation capabilities, the Cisco solution creates new market opportunities for both enterprises and services providers that can track assets to improve logistics, reduce congestion, prevent theft and enhance operational efficiency. LoRaWAN is an open standard and has a strong and growing eco-system to provide choice and investment protection.

Technical Description of New Capabilities

  • Geolocation support through Time Difference of Arrival (TDoA) and Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) for GPS-free end-point location tracking at lower power consumption levels
  • Listen Before Talk (LBT) compliance with Japan local regulation
  • Class B end-point support with scheduled receive slots for server-initiated end-point polling
  • New software for the Cisco IXM gateway to operate as a standalone unit or as an interface of the Cisco IR809/IR829 routers

The LoRa Alliance is hosting its 8th LoRa Alliance meeting in Philadelphia, this week from June 12th-14th, 2017, where Cisco has a booth and will be presenting its Cisco LoRaWAN solution 2.0. The LoRa Alliance membership has grown to over 460 members worldwide with 250+ ongoing trials including city deployments, and has gained 200 new members since March 2016. LoRa Alliance also offers a certification program to guarantee interoperability worldwide.

To learn more about these exciting new developments, please visit Cisco Low Power Wide Area Wireless Solution and LoRa Alliance.

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  1. In response to the last question. It is not that the sensor is being told that it is out of the area, it is that when the sensor reports, (whatever information it is sending on the LoRAWAN network), the report/transmission is heard by multiple Gateways. The time difference between when the gateways receive that report/transmission can be used to determine the location of the sensor.

    • Thanks. I have a few more questions:

      1. Assuming you are referring to an accelerometer, if the accelerometer breaches a parameter does this then trigger a series of transmissions until the accelerometer stops breaching the parameters? Or are you referring to another type of sensor?

      2. How do you manage false positives in this scenario. I.e. if there are many sensor events, do you send a message with each sensor event even if the device is within the geofence?

      3. What is the minimum time interval between transmissions?

      4. Can a mobile device communicate directly with another mobile device or only with a gateway? I.e. can a device compute its location using the relative location of other mobile devices?

      • Patrick, 1. Usage of an accelerometer to trigger location updates is a viable scenario. It conserves power in that the device/sensor does not need to unnecessarily wake up and transmit to the gateway when there is no movement. Under which conditions the location updates are suspended in this scenario is implementer’s choice; the LoRaWAN specification does not prescribe this. A common implementation might be based on accelerometer value plus timer expiration. 2. For a simple endpoint implementation, yes – but there are of course tradeoffs. If the endpoint only needs to sense and report to the gateway but not natively compute, it will translate into endpoint BOM cost and power conservation benefits. On the other hand you may be transmitting more than you need to (what you referred to as “false positives”), so the main tradeoff is that the wireless medium is not optimally utilized. An alternative implementation might allow the application (through the network server and the gateway) to convey back to the endpoint what its estimated location (or location differential) is. 3. Practically speaking, since LoRaWAN is a low rate technology you might be constrained by the spreading factor (SF). At the lowest bit rate (SF12) a single packet of maximum payload size will be on the air for 1,400 msec, versus only 28 msec for the highest bit rate (SF7); you will probably recognize this is similar to Wi-Fi and other communication systems that support a fairly wide range of physical layer rates. 4. No, LoRaWAN is based on star topology.

  2. How the materials can be screened to track.What about the implement plan ?
    Idea is no doubt a digital transformation idea.

    • LoRaWAN provides a framework to connect and manage cost effective battery powered sensors (~10 year battery life) that can be applied to variety of assets you want to track (copper spools, manhole covers). Cisco’s LoRaWAN solution now includes geolocation capability which can geo-fence an asset to a predefined location. If the asset is moved outside of that location, an alert can be triggered to provide the location to track and retrieve the asset. Sensors, gateways and network server software are key components of a LoRaWAN implementation solution.

      • Hmm. How does a battery-powered LoRaWAN device “know” that it has moved outside a geofence?

        • Depending on the type of sensor used, it transmits a signal, its geo location can be determined through multiple gateways (determined by difference of timestamps). Whether it is inside or outside a geofence area is determined through network server software. Rules within the network server software can be set to send alerts e.g. if an asset is moved out of geofence area, or after hours, and locate the asset.

          • “Depending on the type of sensor used”

            What kind of sensor would tell a battery powered LoRaWAN device that it is outside a geofence?

  3. Great article !!
    What’s the accuracy of LoRaWAN Geolocation ? Can it achieve the same accuracy as GPS on a sensor?

    • With the current state of the technology, typically in the range of 20 to 100 meters. It depends on a number of factors, including the physical environment, the time-stamping accuracy of the gateway, and the number of gateways which can receive the signal from the LoRaWAN device. Rural deployments with clear line of site and good gateway deployment geometry will achieve better accuracies. Multipath issues inherent in urban environments will provide accuracies more towards the higher end of the scale.