IoT Evolves: the coming of long range WAN
With Randy Benn and Ariane Ramas.
In my last blog (read here) I was excited to introduce you to LoRaWAN, an exciting new protocol for the Internet of Things (IoT). Today, I’d like to dive into a recent deployment, because who doesn’t love technical details?
First, a recap. I have a dog (a Corgi) who sports a really cool fitness tracker sold by Whistle. Just like a FitBit for dogs, it tells me where he is, and how much exercise he’s gotten today.
It’s a great product, but it does have some limitations. First, it uses the 4G network for tracking so there are some recurring fees. Second, the battery lasts only a week. Not bad, but for the IoT to reach its full potential, sensors will have to last a lot longer than that. That’s where LoRaWAN comes in.
What is LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN, or long range WAN, is a new wireless technology, built from the ground up, for battery operated devices that have a low data rate. Because the data rate is so low, a single nine-volt battery can power a LoRaWAN sensor for up to ten years and broadcast its signal up to ten miles. Truly an amazing accomplishment. You can learn more about LoRaWAN here.
A LoRaWAN use case
Recently Cisco participated in the Modern Day Marine show for the US Marine Corps in Quantico, VA. We really wanted to show the power of LoRaWAN for asset tracking so, along with my coworkers Randy Benn and Ariane Ramas, we deployed LoRaWAN sensors on all event shuttles. This let us visualize, via an easy to use interface, where each vehicle was and proved to be a simple yet very interactive way to demonstrate one specific use case for LoRaWAN: logistics.
About LoRaWAN Sensors
We used LoRaWAN sensors from two different companies, Digital Matter and Abeeway, and were able to cover many square miles of Quantico using just three antennas. This was a pretty lean deployment, and illustrates how LoRaWAN lets you get a lot of value at low cost from your logistics deployment.
LoRaWAN network server
At Cisco we have our own dedicated LoRaWAN Network server. This is basically software that lives in the cloud (or in a customer data center) where it manages the gateways and sensors. The network server let us collect data from the sensors on board the shuttles, then send it to a visualization tool to be quickly interpreted.
How to visualize LoRoWAN data
To visualize the data, we then used software created in Belgium by WMW. Their team has created an IoT platform that lets you easily manage an IoT sensor deployment. It can live in the cloud or on-premise at the customer’s location.
There are a few things that really set the WMW platform apart from others, and are why we selected it for this demo:
- WMW’s platform is already verticalized along use cases, like logistics, smart retail, or agriculture.
- The platform supports a variety of sensors from different vendors, a huge issue in IoT.
- They have APIs that enable integration into other existing systems.
Plus, if the WMW application server is unable to specifically do what you need it to today, it can easily be extended to do so in the future. Another great benefit, especially to resource strapped government entities, is its capability to support rapid deployment of new features.
The future of LoRaWAN
For the Modern Day Marine event in Quantico, we wanted to provide an easy-to-understand demonstration of the technology so we limited the deployment to shuttles only. But, as you are probably beginning to see, there are hundreds of uses for LoRaWAN. In any environment, especially military, the capability to visualize locations of key assets, and do so inexpensively, can be a game changer. And with new battery technology that can extend a sensor’s operational life to several years, coupled with extending data transmission distances significantly from feet to miles, we have a feeling LoRaWAN will go mainstream very soon.
If you’d like to be a part of the conversation on this evolving technology that will impact the IoT, leave comments below.
Article: 11 Myths About LoRaWAN
White Paper: Securing the IoT in the Public Sector
Website: Cisco Solutions for Defense
Website: Cisco Solutions for IoT