LPWAN catches the attention of different players

LPWAN catches the attention of different players
LPWAN or low-power wide area network has become increasingly popular, especially in the age of IoT whereby certain user needs can be addressed by low-power devices transmitting small amounts of data over wide distances. While people tend to associate LPWAN with some of the better known technologies in the market, for example Sigfox, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT, there are other players who have recognized the potential of LPWAN and developed their own technologies to satisfy user demands.
 
One example is the Wi-Fi Alliance, developer of the Wi-Fi HaLow LPWAN technology. According to the alliance, the technology operates in the 900MHz portion of the radio spectrum (as opposed to 2.4GHz and 5GHz for regular Wi-Fi), transmits data at a low of 150 kilobits per second to 18 megabits per second, and has transmission range of up to 1 kilometer.
 
The setup of a HaLow network is basically the same as setting up Wi-Fi. A sensor integrated with the Halow technology, for example in the form of a HaLow module, is connected to a Wi-Fi access point which could be triband, supporting 900MHz, 2.4 GHz and 5GHz channels. Data is transmitted to the access point and is then propagated to the Internet. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, it is precisely because of this that the alliance is confident about HaLow’s future: it can seamlessly interoperable with existing or future deployments of Wi-Fi, which is ubiquitous throughout the world.
 
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, applications are wide-ranging and can include both indoor and outdoor projects, working well in challenging RF environments with the presence of walls, concrete and other obstructions. One user scenarios cited by the Wi-Fi Alliance is underground parking garages with parking sensors, which can transmit data via HaLow to the Internet, letting people know various data about the garage for example how many spaces are available or which ones are empty.
 
RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) is another LPWAN technology developed by Ingenu, offering data in the 2.4GHz spectrum. “Ingenu’s RPMA technology is a low-power, wide-area network technology which is ideal for low data rate applications. It is currently deployed in the following markets: smart grid, asset tracking, agriculture, smart city, transportation/logistics and other industrial applications,” said Ted Myers, Chief Technology Officer of Ingenu. “Ingenu is constantly refining its RPMA technology, with the caveat that it will ALWAYS be backwards compatible. This means that the network that is installed today will remain operational for years, even decades.”
 
Weightless meanwhile is another LPWAN technology developed by the Weightless SIG. According to the group, the technology offers data in the 169/433/470/780/868/915/923MHz channels at rates from200bps to 100kbps, with a range of 2 kilometers in an urban development.
 
HaLow, RPMA and Weightless add to Sigfox, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT to form the more dominant technologies within LPWAN. According to most of the organizations or alliances that we spoke to, there is room for these technologies to exist in the LPWAN arena which is unlikely to see a consolidation of technologies or a “winner-takes-all” scenario.
 
Rather, it’s up to the user to determine what is the right technology for them, which should be based on various factors for example how long is the range, how much data is transmitted by the devices at what intervals, or is the battery life measured in months or years.
 
“Users should choose the technology that best suits IoT applications. The technology should be cost effective, able to scale, and have the longevity to support many of the IoT devices that can operate for over a decade,” Myers said. “Additionally, a network that has been designed to serve machines only typically uses a fraction of the data that other networks consume. Most IoT applications (nearly 85%) use less than 3 MB of data per month, so this should be considered before investing in a network that may be overkill for a typical application.”


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