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Interview: The Rise of LoRa

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Vivek Mohan, director for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group. I originally inquired about a piece I was working on around IoT and agriculture. (I love stories about IoT and agriculture. We have several takes on it here, here and here.) Turns out they had an announcement with Chipsafer whereby cattle tags now allow ranchers to monitor vital signs and reduce cattle theft. While we discussed innovations in ranching, we also talked about the rapid growth of LoRA, a long range, low power wireless platform for building IoT networks.

LoRa has gone from inception in 2013 to over 500 members in the LoRa Alliance in 2017. What is driving so much interest in LoRa?

Clearly there was a market need for a disruptive technology, such as Semtech’s LoRa® devices and radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology), guided by a collaborative, open industry alliance which was not being addressed by existing solutions. LoRa Technology’s feature set allows for expansion and adoption at a price point that works for most consumers, be it a cattle rancher in Brazil or a shipping giant in the United States. LoRa Technology covers a wide area, requires little to no maintenance, costs less to deploy, and costs less to maintain in service.

Before LoRa, what options were there for companies and what are the other options today?

Before LoRa, the main options were Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular networks and many proprietary implementations. Those technologies don’t work best for the growth of IoT anymore and certainly don’t address LPWAN the way that LoRa does, given their network and cost limitations. LoRa Technology’s purpose is to drive the growth of IoT by making devices with a powerful feature set, making it easy to deploy and is financially viable to benefit consumers and manufacturers.

What sectors are best suited for LoRa?

LoRa Technology has many applications, including supply chain & logistics, smart cities, smart buildings and homes, agriculture, metering, environmental safety, and industrial. With its key three features – low-power, low-cost and an open interoperable standard – LoRa is desirable for any industry that want to develop an IoT solution.

You recently announced with Chipsafer that you’ve conducted three pilot programs for its cattle management solutions in Namibia, Kenya, and Luxembourg. What was that all about?

Chipsafer used LoRa-enabled devices to tag cattle to monitor their location and vital signs, and used LoRaWAN-based gateways to create a network for the ranchers. Chipsafer was able to bring IoT and valuable data to ranchers in remote locations. Chipsafer is now expanding its pilot program to Brazil and Uruguay, as well as other locations around the globe. This has a lot of practical benefits previously not available to cattle ranchers around the world and improves quality and safety for consumers.

What’s next for the LoRa standard?

The LoRa Alliance membership is growing and LoRaWAN networks are expanding constantly. Actility and LORIOT were part of LoRaWAN network expansions in China and Mexico, respectively. The LoRaWan standard gives users, developers and businesses freedom to use IoT in the ways that they need. 

What do you think the most pressing challenges are when it comes to IoT?

The most pressing challenges for IoT are: interoperability of various networks as the market is still fragmented with many technology platforms, security for billions of sensors and the data they produce, providing carrier grade quality, and reliability at consumer price points as these sensors will last for multiple years and in some cases may be hard to reach/replace. These challenges are tied together because adoption will slow down if IoT options are not available at accessible prices, and the devices will not be economically-feasible if there is little adoption. This is why the LoRa Alliance is so important; we are more than 500 members developing devices, technologies and applications under the same set of guidelines, with the same purpose of making the Internet of Things possible.

What excites you most about the future of IoT? Any examples you can give of applications LoRa will enable in the near future?

It is the seemingly endless number of applications people are finding for IoT. IoT is modernizing industries that were in dire need of an update, and promoting the importance of data intelligence across all sectors. More and more devices and applications come out every day it seems, and that is very exciting for Semtech to see. In the near future we will see more solutions leveraging artificial intelligence and Cloud computing to realize the full potential of IoT.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Our goal with LoRa is to make IoT accessible to everyone in every sector, and provide the highest quality products and service at a price that makes adoption possible. The LoRa Alliance continues to grow and we are committed to establishing a strong IoT network that our customers can leverage to build cutting-edge IoT applications.

 

*Semtech, the Semtech logo, and LoRa are registered trademarks or service marks, and LoRaWAN is a trademark or service mark, of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates.

 

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David Oro is the Editor at IoT Central

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