The concepts of machine to machine communication (M2M) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have permanently changed the value chain of every business today. With the impending shutdown of 2G networks, organizations have been on the lookout for networks that can serve the vast expanse of industrial connectivity, which has consequentially generated a wide scope for low-power wide-area network solutions (LPWANs). LPWANs such as SigFox, LoRaWAN and others have come to gain more popularity than existing connectivity options like Ethernet, cellular, satellite, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi due to their ability to address key limitations of the conventional networking technologies such as range, cost and battery life.
The global LPWAN market, slated to surpass a remuneration portfolio of $65bn by 2025 by Global Market Insights, has been touted to gain traction mainly due to the increasing proliferation of IoT that can be credited for prompting a spate of innovations in the technology cosmos. With the deployment and implementation of low-cost sensors, businesses, consumers, cities and entire nations have the opportunity to revolutionize value creation by providing data to transform economies, markets, and outcomes. The expansion graphs of LPWAN technologies and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), in essence, are directly proportional and are bound to remain so in the years to come.
So, we take a look at some of prevalent use cases for LPWAN technologies.
Smart cities are possibly the most ambitious concept of recent times in which entire cities are planned to be bound together by IoT sensors. A smart city integrates advanced green technologies to create a sustainable environment capable of delivering high living standards while leading the way for CO2 neutrality and delivering solutions that are cost effective and efficient. It is a healthy, energy-efficient city that uses renewable energy sources as much as possible, including biomass and waste.
Deployments of the IoT and M2M within a smart city spans a diverse range of public services and infrastructure including public transport, intelligent traffic management such as parking space management, traffic volume monitoring, congestion charging and road tolls, traffic lights and enforcement cameras, environment and public safety and public space advertising.
To enable the linking of all the IoT devices, the necessity of various wireless LANs and WANs such as Bluetooth Low Energy, ZigBee, Wi‑Fi and cellular technologies are inevitable. However, now, LPWANs like Sigfox, LoRa, LTE-M and NB-IoT have emerged as IoT disruptors and are being increasingly deployed in parking, utilities, pollution monitoring and various applications that require wireless communication. According to ON World, LPWAN is suitable for 60% of the billions of connected, wireless IoT devices for smart cities.
With the rising demand for vehicles around the world, auto manufacturers are under tremendous pressure to enhance operational efficiency, guarantee product quality and deliver on-time to maintain a competitive edge which has been immensely complemented by IoT and other digital technologies. A considerable number of global automotive industry players have already boarded the digital transformation bandwagon leveraging trends such as connected and autonomous cars, vehicle telematics, fleet management or driver assistance.
Though LPWAN is still a relatively new realm for auto manufacturers, it is one of the key IoT enablers and a potential transformation engine. Geared for cost efficient telemetry data communication from numerous, battery-operated sensors at the edge, LPWANs are set to empower a new layer of operational transparency and efficiency enabled by advanced cloud analytics for the automotive industry.
Smart meters are essential features of smart cities and beyond and are generally deployed in smart buildings building energy management, home automation and connected power solution, factors that are critical to the digital transformation of the utility industry. Given the very nature of smart meters, they are often used for non-cellular forms of LPWAN connectivity. In fact, utilities have been estimated to be the second largest IoT market by Forbes, and therefore it is evident why smart meters are expected to emerge as one of the key drivers of for the expansion of LPWAN connections.
Oil and gas and mining industry
The mining and oil and gas sectors are the ones that require remote site location of connected devices. IoT‐enabled LPWAN wearable devices and technologies can transform mining operations and help in improving safety conditions by monitoring performance across the value chain . As part of ongoing efforts to this end, LoRa LPWAN technology has come to be deployed to connect mines in hazardous remote areas which were previously considered too challenging or expensive to mine effectively. A LoRaWAN gateway, with its unique penetration capability, deployed relatively faster and inexpensively on a building or tower, can connect to sensors more than 15 km away or to water meters deployed underground.
The technological strengths and capabilities of LPWAN are rapidly coming to be recognized worldwide. Developers and systems integrators, who need to identify and respond to customers' needs for the operational, process and return on investment (ROI) improvements, have come to realize the criticality of IoT solutions for their continued success.
Aided by the contribution of core manufacturers and end-use industries alike, the adoption of the LDWAN technology will likely continue to grow in the years to come.