Better Together: Why IoT Works Best When Powered by Multiple Technologies
April 28, 2022
Take a look around you and you’ll see that now more than ever, the Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. From the 18-wheeler transporting food and goods to your local coffee shop and smart lighting applications within your office to medical devices in hospitals, IoT plays a critical role in powering everyday devices and applications that make our lives easier.
The driving force behind every IoT device or application is its wireless data transmission technology. While there is no one-size-fits-all protocol when it comes to connecting IoT devices, users must weigh the trade-offs between power consumption, bandwidth, and range.
For example, Semtech’s LoRa® devices offer longer communication range with low bandwidths compared to other technologies. LoRa is able to send small packets of information over long distances, making it a suitable technology for situations where a stream of data needs to be shared continuously. This includes everything from monitoring supply chains and industrial settings, to transportation, retail, and smart homes.
Here are a few benefits of LoRa-enabled IoT devices:
- Deep penetration: LoRa-enabled devices are able to communicate with a gateway up to three miles (five kilometers) in urban areas and up to 10 miles (15 kilometers) in rural areas. Alongside long distance communication, it is able to penetrate dense building materials such as steel or concrete to connect devices located in basements or underground. Networks integrated with LoRa, such as LoRaWAN® open networks, have a communication range further than 5G’s mmWave variant.
- Long battery life: Due to their low-power nature, LoRa-enabled devices have a prolonged battery lifetime of up to 20+ years, minimizing battery replacement costs and maintenance. This is extremely beneficial for sensors placed in hard-to-reach areas.
- Standardized geolocation: LoRa-enabled devices operate on a standardized network, opening the door for interoperability with other devices, flexible installation, and global availability of LoRaWAN networks. LoRaWAN networks provide a passive geolocation solution, allowing the end user to pinpoint the exact location of an asset for supply chain, retail, and logistics management. GPS works best where high bandwidth info is needed, but for instances where data needs to be transmitted over large ranges, LoRa is a more effective low-cost, low-power alternative.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Most people don’t realize that LoRa can also work in coordination with short-range personal area networks (PANs) like Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE). PANs are used for connecting personal devices to a larger network to communicate over a short distance. When users combine both long and short range connectivity, it creates synergies that maximize efficiencies while maintaining a low-cost infrastructure.
LoRa and BLE are two common technologies used for IoT deployments. Each has their pros and cons, making the best deployment one where the two work together.
Logistics and Supply Chain
LoRa is widely used across the logistics and supply chain vertical because of its ability to track valuable goods traveling on a container or pallet using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) location scanning. By combining LoRa and BLE, enterprise IoT deployments are no longer limited to one geographic location. Instead, by building LoRa into existing BLE infrastructure, a company can extend indoor location coverage to more accurately track and locate the precise location of an asset.
In the event that a sensor is unable to send data in an area with low coverage, backup BLE can be used to access the data. With backup access and control, the combination of the two technologies provide fail-safe connectivity and prevent the loss of valuable information. This is true across verticals and is not limited to logistics and supply chain.
Like LoRa, BLE can operate on batteries alone for an extended period of time and requires little maintenance. This is applicable in hospitals where IoT devices are used for a variety of use cases from monitoring wheelchairs, infusion pumps, and even the safety of patients.
Hospitals can also use these technologies to better engage with patients before, during, and after each visit. Using sensors to track patient health, the data can be transferred to an app or hospital-specific platform that tracks and monitors patient information. For employees, BLE and LoRa-enabled staff badges can automatically authenticate and log staff in and out of the system based on proximity.
Outside of hospitals, logistics, and supply chain is a plethora of verticals that leverage LoRa and BLE-enabled IoT technologies that are seamless and easy to integrate into existing architecture.
The beauty of these technologies is their ability to simplify processes while keeping individuals safe and protecting the environment at the same time. Interoperability in IoT will continue to drive the adoption of devices and applications across industries.
Ultimately, integrating LoRa and short-range PANs will help reduce the cost and complexities of making this a reality.