Saving on connections to and in the field

LoRa Alliance is made up of more than 500 member companies working toward large-scale deployment of the Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) by promoting the LoraWan open standard.

“We have a technology standard so you know that a device you’re working on will work anywhere in the world on any network. It’s based on two things, including the specifications that are set, and secondly having certified products,” said Emma Pearce, marketing director of the LoRa Alliance.

LPWAN is a type of wireless telecommunication designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate among connected objects such as sensors and gateways.

The technology is most useful in rural areas because monitoring networks that span kilometres can be quickly set up in areas without cellular service.

Pearce said the alliance recently made a certified test tool available to members so they can get more devices to the network in a faster, more cost effective way.

“Having certified devices is going to be critical for large scale deployment,” Pearce said.

The alliance is set to launch a LPWAN showcase, an online catalogue of every product and service of all participating companies, to help customers find products to fit their needs.

Also new, is the ability for devices within the LoRa Alliance to do over-the-air firmware updates.

“So rather than having to recall all the devices, which is what some of the technologies would force you to do, we update remotely over the air,” Pearce said.

Anne van Gemert of the LoRa Alliance said the primary uses of the network in agriculture are around cattle monitoring and irrigation management.

“(LPWAN) based sensors will be introduced into the soil in the form of soil probes, rain gauges, weather stations, water and fuel tank monitors in order to efficiently measure what is going on in terms of the weather and how we can run irrigation more smoothly,” Gemert said.

She said the technology also enables growers to quickly detect mistakes in their irrigation systems, which saves time troubleshooting and downtime.

Soil monitoring sensors deliver real-time readings of soil temperature, volumetric water content, air temperature, rainfall, temperature changes, wind conditions, air pressure, humidity, nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium levels in soils, which helps growers time planting and fertilization.

“We can implement a full end-to-end solution that goes from sensors to gateway and cloud applications so that farmers get real-time updates as to what is going on in their field,” Gemert said.

The network is also used to monitor cattle, including tracking their position and measuring their temperature, health, and fertility.

LPWAN networks are capable of sending small bits of data, in remote locations and for years without maintenance, depending on use and battery capability.

Farmers can use the system to track machine locations, gates, doors in buildings and tank storage levels, but would be unable to use it for production data produced by farm machinery.

“Unique to LoraWan is it’s a bidirectional communication. That means that you can send some actions back to the sensor or the device. So you might want to shut off irrigation in a certain place. You can be proactive with the messaging. So not just receive the data in, but actually push back,” Pearce said.

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