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LoRaWAN

Discover the greatest revolution for the Internet of Things (IoT)

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a technology for communicating small electronic devices used in the Internet of Things (IoT).

How it works?

It uses the frequencies of 433 MHz, 868 MHz and 915 MHz as well as different transmission speeds. LoRaWAN is responsible for communication and LoRa is the base communication technology.

Arduino

It is easy-peasy to conect your Arduino or Raspberry PI project to a LoRa gateway that collects the data or sends it updates.

LoRa vs Sigfox

Sigfox is another LPWAN communication technology but it is a proprietary technology and under license of use.

What is LoRa and LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a specification of Low Power, Wide Area networks (LPWAN). As far as OSI levels are concerned, it would be level 2 (network). This is what is known as MAC (Media Access Control). That is, LoRaWAN is responsible for joining different LoRa devices managing their channels and connection parameters: channel, bandwidth, data encryption, etc.


Whereas, LoRa technology is categorically considered in level 1 of OSI. This technology allows the sending and receiving of point-to-point information. What characterizes a LoRa device is its inherent long range with a minimum device. It uses the spread spectrum technique, where the sent signal uses more bandwidth than is theoretically necessary, but this allows a reception of multiple signals at the same time, although they have different speed.


LoRa is patented and acquired by Semtech, which also has developed this wireless data communication technology. Now the LoRa Alliance, an open and nonprofit association, is responsible for the development of standards and their evolution.

What do we call "long range"? According to some many sources we are talking about distances of up to more than 20 km (under very favorable conditions).


The communication frequencies that LoRa uses are mainly those which operate with ISM band, although the technology can operate at any frequency below 1 GHz.


The use of these frequencies is due to the fact that while the emission values are respected, any person or company can make use of it without needing a license.


Thus, LoRa usually operates in the bands 433 MHz, 868 MHz and 915 MHz. Depending on the country, these bands may be restricted. For example in Europe you can not use the 915 Mhz.





How it works?

The communication parameters that are characteristic of LoRa:

  • Channel within the band. Central frequency which represents the channel. Channel 10 within the 868 MHz band has a value of 865,200,000 Hz.
  • "spreading factor" (SF): it defines the number of bits used to encode a symbol. The higher the SF, the lower the transfer rate, although the greater the immunity to interference.
  • "coding rate" (CR): it indicates the way to code for error correction. That is, according to the specified technique, it adds control symbols to know if the data is correct or not and can even determine the correct values.
  • bandwidth (BW): indicates the frequency width that we are going to use.

On decodingLoRa you can learn more about how it works on a physical level. The interesting thing is to know that due to the orthogonality of modulation and the use of expanded spreading, multiple signals can be decoded despite using the same frequency. This feature provides LoRa with "virtual channels".

Establishing a point-to-point communication thorough LoRa is fairly simple. There is no problem with short distance (less than 1 km). 


Things gets a little tricky when it involve larger distances. Besides being necessary antennas with greater gain and that are visible to each other without obstacles in between, it is fundamental to correctly configure channel, speed, etc.


This is where LoRaWAN steps in, ranking up and also responsible for encrypting the data so that others do not use them.


The only thing we have to worry about is registering and identifying our device within the network.


The Things Network uses LoRaWAN and is setting up a large network of IoT devices around the world.


Arduino and maker world

Bit by bit, LoRa has a stronger market presence and it is already possible to carry out projects on electronic platforms such as Arduino or Raspberry PI.


There are several companies that commercialize shields and modules to integrate from LoRa to LoRaWAN.


In summary, all these solutions integrate the Semtech radio chip into their base. The main ICs used are the SX1272, SX1276 and SX1278


Most integrators add additional circuitry so that it is a plug-and-play development with LoRa.


The communication with the microcontrollers works with SPI


Among the main products we can find:


  • SX1278 LoRA + ESP32 (WiFi/Bluetooth SoC), ideal to start and practice en LoRa world. It has a OLED screen which can be programmed with Arduino Software (IDE). Approximate cost: €20.
  • Libelium Waspmote LoRa, a quality, well finished and great value for money product. Available for Arduino y Raspberry PI. Approximate cost: €59.
  • LoPy, SoC with WiFi+Bluetooth 4+LoRa, ideal for prototyping in Python (Micropython) projects and experimenting with LoRa. Approximate cost: €60.
  • ModTronix inAir4/9/9B, module that requires a certain assembly but is not at all complex. Easy to integrate in a breadboard. Its is a low-cost product, with an approximate cost of €15.
  • HopeRF, a more complex module to integrate, since the ideal is to integrate it into PCB. It is an economical product, it does not reach €10.
  • Open Source LoRa Gateway. Ideal option if you are looking for simpleness when intercommunicating LoRa devices, as well as you have the right to modify it in the future. Approximate cost: €100.


There are many solutions that directly introduce LoRaWAN (not being possible to access low level). Solution like Microchip, RN2483

If you get one of these modules you will see that there are several libraries available onGitHub


In this post,  A DIY low-cost LoRa gateway, you can be guided thorough your first contact with LoRa and you can also build different elements such as nodes and gateways. This post also explains how to connect some of the modules described above.


A gateway is a LoRa element that has an interface with another communication technology. Usually, this will be an Internet interface. It is key element that gives LoRa the capacity of Internet of Things (IoT).


Here we can see an example to "Hello World" (simplified) for Arduino:


void setup() {


    sx1272.ON();

    sx1272.setMode(1);

    sx1272._enableCarrierSense=true;

    sx1272.setChannel(DEFAULT_CHANNEL);

    sx1272.setPowerDBM((uint8_t)MAX_DBM); 

    sx1272.setNodeAddress(node_addr);


}


void loop() {


    sx1272.CarrierSense();

    sx1272.setPacketType(PKT_TYPE_DATA);


    sx1272.sendPacket(DEFAULT_DEST_ADDR, "hola", 4);

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There is no excuse for being part of the IoT revolution

Not only we have tested some kits but also have developed PCB with Semtech modules.
If you want to quickly try out this technology, this Kit with SoC ESP32 (WiFi/Bluetooth 4) is made for you. It is convenient to get 2 units so you can do all the tests you want.

LoRa vs SigFox

In addition to LoRa, there are other LPWAN technologies in the market. Technologies such as SigFox, which charges $1 per device and year connected, and where all its technology is private. They describe themselves as the world’s leading IoT cellular connection technology provider. It is one of the most promising companies in France.

Its operation is based on ultra-narrow bandwidth (UNB) technology. A device can send up to 140 messages a day of up to 12 bytes.


Both LoRa an Sigfox aim to connect your IoT projects to their communication network. Which one do you prefer?

Do you want to do a LoRa project?

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