LoRa is a radio technology based on the LoRaWAN protocol, which in addition to 5G is suitable for the development of cities towards smart cities. In some applications, LoRa network is even more suitable than the often-mentioned new mobile radio standard.
Many with the goal of developing into a smart city. The idea of an “intelligent city” (Smart City) is not new. The aim of implementing smart city technologies is to improve the quality of life for residents, create efficiency, shorten waiting times, meet the need for services and use the city’s resources and thus tax money more efficiently. A recent study shows that smart cities can save $ 5 trillion in costs by 2022.
The Internet of Things, IoT for short, plays an important part in this. It penetrates almost all areas of life and changes practically every company and every branch. In view of the possibilities of the next generation of 5G mobile communications, the question arises whether this technology is not the natural solution to existing smart city problems? But there are other technologies that may make more sense for certain applications in smart cities – such as reducing energy consumption through intelligent lighting, meters, etc. One of them is LoRa.
What is LoRa Network?
The quick answer: Long Range Radio. The LoRa technology for long-range wireless (radio) data communication is made possible by semiconductor ICs that use very little power. Depending on the function and functionality of such a radio transmitter, a battery can supply it with electricity for years. This should make it possible to run for 10 to 20 years without changing the battery. This enormously reduces the maintenance effort.
In contrast to 4G or 5G, LoRa network operate in an unlicensed spectrum. This enables bidirectional communication without the regulatory and auction costs required to build a network on state-licensed spectra. Specifically, LoRaWAN uses regionally different frequency ranges in the ISM band and SRD band. In Europe, the ISM band region 1 from 433.05 MHz to 434.79 MHz and the SRD band Europe from 863 MHz to 870 MHz. In North America, on the other hand, data transmission takes place on the ISM band region 2 from 902 MHz to 928 MHz.
Working together on an open, uniform protocol is intended to create added value and increase coverage.
LoRa Network in urban use
LoRa technology offers technical and economic advantages for smart city applications. LoRa and LoRaWAN provide intelligent monitoring and control infrastructure. This enables Städt to efficiently collect and analyze data from thousands of networked devices and systems. With this information, for example, they should be able to better decide which services are suitable for their plans.
For densely populated metropolitan areas, it is advantageous that LoRaWAN signals penetrate relatively deeply into urban areas. Smart city technology is changing the way cities, authorities and citizens interact.
Street lights in Boston
The example of Boston in Massachusetts shows what is possible with LoRa. The city has more than 67,000 street lamps. They illuminate busy streets, historical sights, and main streets. With over 1,600 switch boxes and 32,000 manhole covers, maintaining this infrastructure is a considerable communal effort – especially when the lamps are under heavy use in the winter months.
LoRa sensors and gateways
So how does smart lighting work in a city like Boston? With LoRa network, sensors can be integrated into any street lighting system that controls lighting and collects usage data. And the LoRa technology collects the data of all the nearby street lights through LoRa alliance. The gateway then sends the information to a public or private cloud server, which analyzes the data, eventually controls the lighting and automatically generates warnings about lights out and other failures if necessary. Warnings about burned-out lamps and other malfunctions if necessary.
Users can even add over-the-air (OTA) updates to switch between public and private networks if necessary. The bidirectional communication of the LoRa technology makes this possible. The range of applications for LoRa technology in smart cities is extremely diverse and does not end with lighting. The technology can be used in different ways:
Parking: Intelligent parking lot monitoring displays city parking lots to reduce traffic congestion when drivers are looking for a parking space. Studies show that drivers spend 17 hours a year looking for a parking space.
Traffic flow: Helicopters for traffic monitoring could one day be a thing of the past. Traffic congestion is a major challenge and disturbing for city dwellers. Intelligent traffic systems that monitor both vehicle and pedestrian traffic can guide cars and pedestrians much better. This is done using intelligent traffic lights that record traffic and coordinate the light phases. In the future, intelligent traffic systems could even include communication between traffic light signals and sensors in vehicles.
Maintenance of traffic lights: The monitoring of traffic lights enables city / municipal administrations to react quickly to burnt-out lamps, defective light poles (due to an accident) or to faulty signaling systems. This helps with traffic jams, possible accidents and other dangerous situations.
Predictive maintenance: Smart building systems can provide data that uses a predictive maintenance system to ensure that facilities are properly maintained. These systems can monitor vibrations and other physical conditions in buildings, bridges and historical monuments, so that the administration can take action before major repairs are required.
Waste disposal: The collection of waste is an essential area of responsibility for the city administration. Too often, however, unnecessary resources are wasted, e.g. to empty half or little-filled waste bins. It is even worse if waste containers are overcrowded due to the lack of tracking options. Intelligent waste management systems can help identify waste levels in containers to optimize waste collection routes to improve efficiency, costs, and cleanliness.
Noise and air pollution: as more and more people move to cities, noise and air pollution are becoming an even bigger challenge. Smart noise and air pollution monitoring can provide data to improve the well-being of citizens and show the links between systemic health problems.
LoRa and LEDs: A case study with port cities
In 2017, Tallinn’s marina on the west coast of the Kopli Gulf on the Kakumäe peninsula (Estonia) tested LoRa technology. The port has extensive facilities, including pontoon docks, a floating hotel, administration buildings, dining facilities and a sailing school for children, making it a modern maritime center in this Baltic Sea region. In order to keep up to date with the latest port technology, the lighting must be modernized in addition to the infrastructure.
The LoRa installation is tested in all lamps in the port that can be remotely controlled via a LoRaWAN network. The lamp controller is connected to the LoRaWAN gateway through a radio system belonging to the port. Other gateways nearby also support this connection. The secure IoT hub platform visualizes encrypted data from the terminal nodes through the LoRaWAN backend.
LoRa network lighting system
The networking of lamps via LoRa enables autonomous operation with preconfigured lighting profiles so that the port records lower power consumption and has a cost-effective solution for the lighting system. Although the port is still testing the solution, the controller operated through LoRa has shown improved real-time control and lighting uniformity. The ability to monitor light intensity, operating mode and movement means that unnecessarily operated lamps can be avoided and thus unnecessary costs can be avoided.
With the implementation of this new lighting system, the port is setting the course for what future ports could look like. The security is not endangered. In addition to the transmission of data via the completely secure platform, In addition to transmitting data over a fully secure platform, access control systems enable more flexibility and real-time notifications as well as warnings about possible unauthorized activities. To address security concerns, Semtech’s technology ensures that no one has access to the root key, that the system cannot be copied, and that only the actual user has access to the sensor data.
The technology can also run on private networks, giving the provider more control, visibility, and security over the data. The technology can also be operated in a private network to give providers more control, visibility and security over the data. The implementation of intelligent systems that automate and simplify infrastructure processes (e.g. lighting) is one of the first steps towards smarter and more reliable processes in ports.
Less maintenance due to high energy efficiency
LoRa network is particularly advantageous if the added value of an application is increased and the investments in infrastructure and maintenance are to be reduced. The flexible, energy-saving LoRa technology supports the establishment of public or private networks over long distances. Imagine thousands of sensors installed in street lamps and you would have to replace the batteries in these sensors several times a year. Due to the extremely low power consumption of LoRa, batteries in sensors can enable years of operation, which significantly reduces the time, cost and personnel expenditure for maintenance.
In addition, the flexible and scalable architecture of LoRa, which is based on a non-licensed spectrum, enables a public or private network with a long-range to be set up quickly and easily – from ports to cities to parking garages. Sensors can even be installed on existing cell towers. This reduces the investment required to set up a network infrastructure that is to support IoT applications.
Together with sensors that offer a long-range (up to 50 km in rural areas) or over kilometers in densely populated urban areas or indoor areas, the advantage of LoRa is immediately apparent. Smart city technologies can offer new solutions for smarter and improved urban applications. Building a scalable, flexible, and secure long-range IoT network can make some infrastructure investments unnecessary and reduce maintenance costs. LoRa and the LoRaWAN specification are a suitable basis for successful smart city solutions.