Creating Effective Network Coverage for Deploying IoT Applications at Scale

Instrumenting the world with low-cost sensors is beginning to enable businesses, cities, and countries to change the way value is created. How they achieve this at a meaningful scale is starting to take shape.

Today, sensor-based Internet of Things (IoT) applications are driving advancements across commercial and consumer markets where they are being used to streamline operations, enhance productivity and support the creation of new services. They are also powering global economic and environmental change through resource conservation and sustainability efforts, enabling businesses and citizens to make the world a better place.

With analysts predicting 25 billion connected sensor-enabled devices and $1 trillion in total market value by 20251, the Internet of Things may represent more innovation and change than any other technological development in our lifetime.

An Inflection Point in the IoT Market

For several years cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were considered the most viable technologies to support IoT deployments, but the high cost of cellular components and connectivity plans, and the limited range and manual configuration requirements of localized connectivity solutions have limited the adoption of IoT applications at scale.

In addition, the forced refresh cycles of cellular connectivity are now creating challenges for early adopters. According to recent research, the sunsetting of 2G and 3G will affect more than 50% of all existing cellular-based IoT devices2. Mobile network operators are addressing this with low power technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M, yet adoption of these technologies has been underwhelming, with less than two million devices deployed in the U.S. by the end of 20193.

5G has been hyped as the next best connectivity option for IoT at scale, with operators and system integrators eager to showcase use cases and feature it in new product offerings. However, enterprise adoption has been minimal. ABI Research estimates there are only 290 publicly disclosed private 5G network deployments globally4. Even if several times that number has yet to be disclosed, it’s a very small share of the IoT market.

While cellular and Wi-Fi may have met the goals of early proprietary or single-use Machine to Machine (M2) applications, they do not adequately address the needs of today’s large-scale and repeatable IoT solutions.

To be successful, today’s IoT deployments demand a combination of low-cost, long-range network connectivity, long sensor battery life, enterprise-grade security, and SLA-backed carrier-grade network service. These needs are now being met by technology much newer than cellular and purpose built for IoT.

Low Power, Long Range LoRaWAN® Networks for Massive IoT

Comprised of more than 500 member companies, the LoRa Alliance, a non-profit association, is committed to enabling large-scale deployment of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) through the development and promotion of the LoRaWAN open standard. (Image source: Senet)

Of the billions of IoT sensor-enabled devices expected to be connected over the next few years, more than half are estimated to operate using Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) supporting low bit rate communication over long distances. Designed for sensors and applications that need to send and receive small amounts of data just a few times per hour or maybe only once a day, LPWANs are transforming the way things are monitored and measured.  LPWAN technology is contributing to a new wave of IoT innovation which is supported by business models and producing revenue streams that otherwise would not be possible.

Of all LPWAN technologies, LoRaWAN® (the open LPWAN specification supported by the nonprofit LoRa Alliance) has emerged as the leading technology for the broadest range of outdoor and in-building applications. LoRaWAN is differentiated by its open ecosystem, low power consumption, long-range, strong security specifications, and scalability for capacity. LoRaWAN offers value that cannot be achieved with other technologies, including:

  • Substantially lower cost in both capital and operational expense
  • The ability to deploy sensor-based solutions with a lifespan of over 10 years
  • Long-range and dense wireless network coverage provided by a small number of gateways
  • Strong propagation characteristics with the ability to penetrate walls and provide coverage in hard to reach places
  • Flexible connectivity options, including public, private, and hybrid network deployments
  • A large global ecosystem of device and application partners

In addition, there are critical security, reliability, and scalability benefits inherent in the LoRaWAN protocol. The protocol was designed with end-to-end security as a fundamental element of the architecture. Communications on the network between end nodes and the application server are secure using AES-128 encryption. This end node 'VPN-like' service ensures data integrity and security for sensitive application data.

Leading LoRaWAN Use Cases

Not only is LoRaWAN disrupting the economics of network buildout, but the efficiencies of operating and maintaining LoRaWAN networks are highly optimized and support more use cases than other connectivity technologies.

These commercial IoT use cases can be served either by private network access, public network access (for indoor and outdoor coverage), or a hybrid combination of deployment models as uniquely offered by network operators like Senet.

One of the first scaled and most successful use cases for LoRaWAN is water metering. Because water metering and infrastructure monitoring applications have relatively low data payloads and seldom require low latency, the water market is being disrupted by LoRaWAN solutions which are rapidly displacing legacy systems and being deployed on 15 to 20 year terms. The natural gas market is following close behind with LoRaWAN being piloted in large-scale field trials by multi-utility service providers interested in improving metering, leak detection, and delivering service enhancements.

With a dense LoRaWAN network in place to support energy and utility metering and infrastructure monitoring, businesses, cities, and counties can leverage the same network to deploy and expand their IoT initiatives. Beyond metering and monitoring, LoRaWAN solutions are available today for a host of applications, including but not limited to:

  • Environmental and building monitoring
  • Asset tracking
  • Waste management
  • Smart parking
  • Street lighting
  • Pest management
  • Public safety

The evolutionary trajectory from limited-capability M2M services to LoRaWAN networks designed and deployed for massive scaled IoT solutions has created new opportunities for communications infrastructure providers, enterprise organizations, industry solution providers, and municipalities. Those recognizing the potential of this technology are on the leading edge of achieving unmatched outcomes.

About Senet

Senet develops cloud-based software and services used by Network Operators, Solution Developers, and System Integrators for the on-demand deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) networks used to connect hundreds to hundreds of millions of sensor-enabled IoT devices. For more information, visit www.senetco.com

References

1 - GSMA IoT Revenue: State of the Market 2020

2 - James Brehm & Associates, “IoT Results & News Roundup thru Q3 2019”

3 - James Brehm & Associates, “State of the Market”, 2019

4 - ABI Research, “Shared Spectrum and Private Networks Tracker”, 3Q 2021

About this author

Image of Ken Lynch

Ken is an accomplished marketer with proven success building value for high-growth companies in emerging technology markets. Ken has 30 years of marketing and product management experience in the wireless and Internet of Things (IoT) markets, including Division Marketing Leader within Trimble’s Advanced Devices sector and at several startups including MachineShop, ThingMagic (Trimble), BlueSocket (ADTRAN), PanGo Networks (InnerWireless) and ConnecTerra (BEA Systems).  Earlier in his career, Ken held product management, marketing and finance responsibilities at PictureTel, one of the first commercial videoconferencing product companies, achieving peak revenues of over $400 million. Throughout his career, Ken has been responsible for building high-performance marketing teams, creating brand strategies, building sales pipeline, and managing business and technology alliances.

More posts by Ken Lynch, VP of Marketing, Senet