10 ways LoRa networks are making life smarter

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Orange and other European operators are deploying LoRa networks to help meet the bandwidth needs of connected machines

LoRa technology works at long distances, consumes very little power, and is strong enough to penetrate walls. This makes it an ideal solution for situations in which sensors need to send small amounts of data several times each day. Where are such solutions being used?

Connected carrots

Software, robotics and connected IoT systems are transforming agricultural production. Livestock tags help manage large herds; soil sensors such as those from Arable already collect and share data about plant health, density, light and weather. Even insects are connected - Hostabee has set up connected beehive sensors, enabling never seen before productivity improvements.

Public order and CCTV

Because of its low bandwidth, LoRa isn’t suitable to transmit video signals, but it is seeing use as the command and control technology used to manage remote CCTV systems. The technology makes it possible to quickly and easily command these systems into high alert in response to events. LoRa-connected motion and environmental sensors also have consequence in this space.

Keep the lights on

You will see LoRa-connected utility meters, but the network has potential across the grid. The technology is already being used in the development of predictive maintenance solutions for utility network infrastructure, extending to connected leakage detection systems that aim to reduce water loss. Further out, there may be an opportunity to put intelligence inside the distribution chain as end-node devices become smarter. Those end node devices will share insights and usage intelligence across the grid, enabling automated asset management and flow control in response to need. More than thirty LoRa Alliance members exhibited at European Utility Week in October 2017.

Smart cities, smart lighting

How often do street lights develop faults in your area? How long does it take for repair to take place? Ubicquia offers LoRa solutions across a range of smart city-focused tasks, from advanced street lighting controls to environmental monitoring. What makes the network really useful is its capacity to deliver fault reports from these remotely placed systems. In India, Jamshedpur Utility Services Company (JUSCO) is creating a LoRa network to support over 100,000 items of city infrastructure, including street lights, utilities and parking meters. Hong Kong is already moving to deploy a city-wide network for IoT devices.

Smart garbage

Garbage disposal may not seem to be an obvious place for use of LoRa networks. However, LoRa sensors in garbage containers will analyse and share fill levels. This information will help optimize waste collection routes, enabling municipal waste authorities to keep rubbish off the streets efficiently and within budget.

Safe as houses

TrackNet makes a range of LoRa-connected home products, including object locators, person trackers, motion sensors and other home security products. These solutions exploit LoRa’s extensive range to provide insight and protection. LoRa technologies may in future be incorporated into home broadband hubs, enabling smart home users to offload smart device traffic from cable in their local area.

Smart... Beer?

Binary Beer’s smart kegs monitor fill level, location, and environmental conditions such as temperature. The idea is that systems like this enable big breweries to enable just in time delivery systems, to remotely monitor stock in the field, and to enhance stock control efficiency. The idea has attracted interest from major international brewers. It’s not just about beer, this kind of smart connected inventory management has implications across the retail supply chain.

Environmental monitoring

China has big plans for the IoT. In its first phase, it is building a 23-square kilometre LoRaWAN network in the capital of Shanxi province. This will be used for environmental monitoring, efficiently gathering data from multiple monitoring stations and enabling it to be efficiently used for scientific decision making and smart environmental management.

Emergency services

Beartooth’s hybrid LoRa/wireless RF technology is designed to provide talk, text and location communications when cellular networks fail. The technology was used during search and rescue efforts following Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The idea is that the connected network activates to help disaster victims get help and contact family members when cellular fails.

Connected industry

From tracking consignments in warehousing and shipping to sensors watching productivity and machine integrity within manufacturing industry, these low power networking solutions are seeing rapid deployment to support Industry 4.0. Actility claims companies using the family of technologies called ‘Industry 4.0’ perform ten times better, and that these solutions dramatically reduce manufacturing defects and equipment-related downtime. It claims connected industrial systems reduce hazardous leaks and improve safety in the oil and gas industries.

Save the animals

A great illustration of the use of LoRa in animal husbandry, ShadowView Foundation is placing LoRa-connected sensors inside the horns of endangered black rhinos. These sensors are used by park rangers to track animals in the park in order to help protect them against poachers. With just 5,000 black rhinos remaining in the wild, LoRa could save a species. The attempt is part of an African-wide Smart Parks initiative.

Orange is well on the way to deploying a LoRa network across the whole of France. Read about how VINCI Autoroutes is using the Orange LoRa network to improve service levels and customer satisfaction across its chain of roadside service stations. And why application developers should partner with Orange.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.