A combination of Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN can expand IoT use cases – report

24 Sep 2019

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Advocates for Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN technologies have released a white paper illustrating how combining the two could enable new IoT opportunities.

A new white paper released today (24 September) by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) and the LoRa Alliance illustrates how a combination of Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN can open up a variety of new internet-of-things (IoT) use cases.

Titled Wi-Fi & LoRaWAN Deployment Synergies: Expanding Addressable Use Cases for the Internet of Things, the report shows what mobile operators, enterprises, cities and other IoT players can gain from combining these connectivity technologies.

“Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN are two important technologies utilising the unlicensed spectrum, and they already address a large proportion of IoT use cases,” said Tiago Rodrigues, general manager of WBA.

“The Deployment Synergies paper highlights the ways in which these technologies are impacting private-public business models and enabling IoT services, while also identifying ways in which the technologies complement one another and can be used to further expand the internet of things.”

LoRaWAN and Wi-Fi: The differences

The LoRaWAN protocol is an open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) connectivity. Thanks to its technical flexibility in IoT applications, it has already been deployed by major mobile network operators globally, with expansion expected to continue.

Wi-Fi connectivity covers short and medium-range use cases at high data rates and may require more power, making it the preferable technology for people-centric mains-powered applications such as real-time video and internet browsing. Meanwhile, LoRaWAN covers long-range use cases at low data rates, making it the preferable technology for low bandwidth applications, including those in hard-to-reach locations such as temperature sensors in a manufacturing setting or vibration sensors in concrete.

As such, Wi-Fi networks are traditionally built to support critical IoT while LoRaWAN is typically used to support low data rate massive IoT applications. But the WBA and LoRA Alliance see business opportunities in the merging of the two.

The power of two

Co-written by members of the WBA IoT Work Group and the LoRa Alliance, the white paper was developed with input from mobile carriers and telecoms equipment manufacturers. It outlines a number of deployment models and goes into detail on front-end and back-end integration, and security processes.

‘It is collaborative initiatives like this one with Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN that will drive innovation to solve important issues’

The paper identifies a number of IoT use cases that can be optimised with a combination of Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN networks, including in smart transportation and smart buildings.

In a residential setting use case, Wi-Fi connects personal and professional devices, while LoRaWAN is used for home security and access control, leak detection, fuel tank monitoring and other applications.

This paper recommends deploying LoRaWAN picocells that leverage Wi-Fi backhaul to the user set-top box to expand coverage of home services to the neighbourhood. These ‘neighbourhood IoT networks’ can then support new geolocation services, while also serving as a communication backbone for demand-response services.

“The reality is that no one single technology is going to fit the billions of IoT use cases,” said Donna Moore, CEO and chair of the LoRa Alliance. “It is collaborative initiatives like this one with Wi-Fi that will drive innovation to solve important issues, leverage an even broader range of applications and, ultimately, ensure the success of global mass IoT deployments in the future.”

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.