The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connecting devices together to let users, and each other, know what’s going on.
What is my temperature? Where am I? What is the gas level? How are the acoustics near me? What level of vibration am I experiencing? And on and on and on.
While the range of devices that need to communicate their status varies greatly, there can be some commonalities. These devices are often in an area where connecting to mains-supplied power is not an option, so they will probably be either battery-powered or use scavenged energy to power themselves.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are use cases for things like self-driving cars and telemedicine that require much more detailed conversations between devices and exchange much more data, but for the majority of IoT devices, they really don’t send a lot of data at any one time. They just need to ‘phone home’ occasionally to report their status or an event.
For these types of devices, Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) wireless technologies will be key. The LPWA space is in its infancy, as is the IoT. As the IoT grows, so will technologies that use and depend on LPWA. This is because LPWA devices are tailor-made for the IoT and a majority of its use cases.
In the LPWA space, there are several different technologies that serve the purpose, but only two market leaders according to prominent analyst IHS: NB-IoT and LoRa®/LoRaWAN®. IHS predicts that by 2023, LoRa & NB-IoT will account for 86% of total LPWA connections. While there are distinct differences between the two technologies that are commonly thought of as competitors in the LPWA space, they can be used in a complementary fashion as well.
Recently the LoRa Alliance® published a white paper on this very topic. It covers the two technologies from an overview perspective, discusses use cases where one might be a better fit than the other, and also highlights where the two are complementary in creating solutions for the IoT.
While there is no single technology to cover all LPWA use cases, LoRaWAN and NB-IoT are able to cover the lion’s share of them. Between the two, developers should be able to create exciting connected IoT solutions that will help to make the IoT real.
I’m looking forward to it!