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Justin Blows

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN)

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Here is an interesting low cost low energy LPWAN  technology competing with SigFox, which is being rolled out by Dutch Telco KPM.

An interesting aspect is it has a location function, which could be used to track transported item.

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Sierra Wireless in the USA are driving hard to create technology platforms for the IoT.

The following two links will take you to one of their blog discussions on LPWN (Low Power Wide-Area Networks):

https://www.sierrawireless.com/iot-blog/iot-blog/2016/07/what_is_lpwa_for_the_internet_of_things_part-1_the_thre_-cs_of_iot/

https://www.sierrawireless.com/iot-blog/iot-blog/2016/08/lpwa_for_the_iot_part_2_standard_vs_proprietary_technologies/

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Hi all,

We are currently looking at a low power wan solution for some of our clients, but they are after reassurance they will have required coverage. Has anyone managed to source a signal tester or similar? We are looking high and low for one but coming up short. In particular looking at SIGFOX.

 

Regards,

Reuben

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Hi Reuben

When Sigfox (Anat) visited us in Adelaide last year she had with her a little Sigfox-enabled temperature measurement device that she used to demonstrate connectivity to the Thinkstra base station on top of a tall building in the CBD. Our factory is in the foothills, so the transmission path was in clear air across the Adelaide plains to a high point in the city.

So my message is that

a) Sigfox can probably help you with a transmitter that will allow you to scout the terrain and assure yourself that you will get the needed coverage. (We always did this before installing our Sigfox-like radio systems more than a decade ago. No transmission path, no sale)

b) this only works if the Sigfox base stations are already in place, and

c) you can't beat the physics; look up the meaning of the "Fresnell Zone"

Regards

Andrew

Edited by Andrew at MEA
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Thanks for the reply Andrew. We have contacted a few companies and it seems that there are some devices that will be available soon (in the coming months) to do this sort of testing.

Unfortunately for us we have to survey about 100 locations for sensors, some of which are slightly underground, which if not reachable by SIGFOX we will have to fallback to 3G/4G.

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Hi Reuben

3G/4G network connections work fine for ground-based applications because Telstra/Optus and their ilk go to the trouble of placing their base stations (cell towers) up high, at high density and with over-lapping spacing. So you are essentially transmitting through an 'air path', which is optimal for radio transmission distance.

They are also allowed to use much higher transmission powers than ordinary mortals, so that helps.

The difficulty (as Geoff Sizer has pointed out elsewhere) is that 3G/4G energy budgets are seriously heavy duty, making primary battery operation problematic. The modems themselves rarely cost less that $40 apiece.

These conundrums will be answered somewhere around 2018 when the Telcos switch on Narrow-Band IoT services over these same cellular networks (its just a software tweak for them, apparently). You get all the advantages above but with an energy, monetary and data budget better suited to the IoT.

The alternative is to go with a meshed network of your own, with the routers up high and the 'end-point' devices at ground level. If you can make it work!

There is a tendency afoot to take radio connectivity too lightly, as though it is some sort of self-healing magic that will solve all your problems.

Don't believe it! Check all the connections, no matter what effort is required. We still do this with every Plexus installation.

If you just hope it will all work out, you will find your client breathing down your neck after you deliver the system, insisting that you fix all the 'off-air' nodes, and at your expense.

Good luck

Andrew

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A recent article in Electronic Design magazine by contributing editor Lou Frenzel is an excellent summary of technologies available for Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs). The article is called “Long-Range IoT on the Road to Success”

http://www.electronicdesign.com/embedded-revolution/long-range-iot-road-success

There’s discussion on some new long-range Wi-Fi technologies called White-Fi and HaLow, as well as a useful table comparing the nine different technologies outlined.

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