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Get 10 years from 9 volts: The power of LoRaWAN

- September 15, 2017 - 5 Comments

Here it is, my second blog post.

I think I’m slowly getting the hang of this blogging thing, surveying the state of the Internet of Things  and making bold predictions about the future. To recap, I’m an engineer for Cisco in our federal group, working on the architectures for IoT. I live in the Washington, DC, area, with a wife, a kid, and a dog.

Corgi standing in water dish.

Remember Frisky?

In my first blog post I introduced our family dog, Frisky the Corgi. I mentioned Frisky because he is really awesome, but also to talk about the Whistle, a product that lets us track activity of the dog, see how much exercise he gets day by day, and where to find him if he gets out. It has 4G, Bluetooth, and Wifi connections.

The Whistle is great, but it has to be charged every few days. This is the big problem with most wireless devices – battery life. My idea of the killer app is anything extends the battery life of these things — not just Whistle, but all of the things that we connect to the network these days.

So let me introduce a technology called LoRaWAN – a specification that applies to battery-powered objects in a Low Power Wide Area Networks. This is a new protocol built from the ground up for battery-operated things that have a low data rate. Want to be amazed? A single nine-volt battery can power a LoRa sensor for up to 10 years, broadcasting its signal up to 10 miles.

One more time: 10-year battery, 10-mile range.

The obvious use cases for this are things like smart water meters and smart gas meters. They are often located far from reliable network coverage.

But that’s not all they can do. At a military show in June, Cisco Federal did a quick demo of the technology with Intel Corp. that showed how the sensors could be used for troop protection from chemical agents. (Read more about that here.) There is really no limit to what the LoRa technology can be used for, but the sweet spot leverages the range and battery life advantages.

There are several layers of encryption to keep the data secure, so federal and defense agencies can deploy LoRa with confidence.

A Cisco LoRaWAN interface module.

A Cisco LoRaWAN interface module.

Cisco is a sponsoring member of the LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit organization, and is promoting the standard throughout the industry. The LoRa Alliance has established a certification process for device manufacturers to ensure devices adhere to security and capability standards.

The LoRa Alliance has more than 500 members, and is involved in about 400 trials and deployments around the world.

There are many, many more benefits to this new technology. Here are just two: First, the sensors themselves are really cheap, and the infrastructure is inexpensive since you don’t need high density on the gateways. Secondly, you can get fairly accurate geolocation using triangulation, with no need to use the GPS network.

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about what LoRaWAN could mean for my customers, and the IoT space in general. As LoRaWAN prices go down and the technology becomes commonplace, we will see it used more and more for locators like Whistle.

The promised bold prediction: In the very near future, you won’t lose dogs or other things of value anymore.

Find out more about the Cisco LoRaWAN solution.

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5 Comments

  1. Interesting and informative blog Mike.

  2. Thanks for sharing Michael

  3. Very informative, and a very cool industry initiative. Very glad to know that Cisco is highly engaged. This is transformative. Thanks, Mike, and give Frisky a biscuit for me.

  4. I want one :-)

    Thank you for sharing this laudable invention. I am also very excited about what LoRaWAN could mean for my customers, and the IoT space in general. Thank you.

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