The name of Semtech’s radio modulation technology of low-power, wide area networks, “LoRa®” comes from the extremely long-range data links the technology enables. The distances LoRa signals can travel exceed 700km. Generally, however, LoRa communications range from up to three miles (five kilometers) in urban areas, and up to 10 miles (15km) in more rural areas.
Operating at the physical layer, LoRa enables devices to translate data into RF signals, sending messages over the air using chirp spread spectrum communications and the license-free sub-gigahertz frequency bands. A key characteristic of solutions built for the Internet of Things (IoT) that use devices built with LoRa chipsets is their ultra-low power requirements. Sensors and other devices built with LoRa chips can last for up to 10 years on a single battery.
In turn, LoRaWAN® is fast becoming the de facto standard for LPWAN deployments. Managed by the LoRa Alliance®, the LoRaWAN standard is an asynchronous software protocol which uses the LoRa physical layer. By using LoRa and LoRaWAN, very large-scale flexible networks are possible.
The LoRa Ecosystem
Currently supported by many mobile networks around the globe, the Internet of Things is changing our world. This video explains how to engage in a fast and affordable manner.
LoRa Modulation Technology and LoRaWAN Protocol
Learn about the LoRa modulation technology and how it is used in conjunction with the LoRaWAN protocol to create very large-scale networks and deploy an IoT solution.
What Can I Do with LoRa
LoRa allows you to create IoT solutions for a wide variety of use cases
Solutions with LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN® protocol have deployed in a wide variety of use cases around the world. In Africa, they are being used to combat the poaching of wildlife, while in Calgary and Glasgow, they are being used to manage entire cities, in regard to everything from monitoring air quality to public transportation.
On a smaller scale, LoRa and LoRaWAN are being used to maximize the efficient use of office space. These solutions are even being used to simply determine the number of people in a given location, answering such questions as: “Is there room on the bus for more people?” and “How long is the line in the cafeteria?”
Elsewhere, LoRa and LoRaWAN are being used for smart water metering. In still other places, they are being used to manage traffic congestion related to people looking for a place to park, be it on the street or in a private garage.
So, what can you do with LoRa? Almost anything!
To see LoRa in action, watch the demo from the 2019 Annual Members Meeting of the LoRa Alliance®, which took place in Berlin, Germany.
How do I Implement LoRa?
1. Identify and understand your use case.
What you want to achieve with your solution will influence how you build and deploy it.
2. Understand the technology.
A very-long-range communications technology, LoRa devices can connect thousands of devices (such as sensors, actuators, and tags), both deep indoors and over very long distances, all while supporting an incredibly long battery life in those devices – up to ten years or more.
For a quick introduction to the protocol, watch The LoRaWAN® Network Protocol Overview video (Duration: 0:56)
For more information about the technology and how it works, check out the Learning Center. Here, you will find a wealth of education and training opportunities.
If you're just starting out with LoRa and LoRaWAN, work through the free LoRaWAN Academy™, which offers a foundational understanding of LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN networking protocol.
If you're already familiar, and want to start building solutions, check out our Hands-on Labs. Here, you'll find step-by-step walk-throughs to help you get your solutions up and running quickly.
3. Select the right hardware for your region and use case.
When it comes to radio gateways, you will likely want to deploy pico cells for indoor applications, and macro cells for outdoor applications.
When it comes to integrated circuits, Semtech’s LoRa Core™ SX127x family of chips is established and has proved its worth. Installed in more than 80 million devices, the LoRa Core SX127x chips are region-specific; however, they are also flexible enough to also support other, proprietary protocols. In contrast, Semtech’s LoRa Core SX126x chips are fully optimized for applications based on LoRa, and are half the size of the LoRa Core SX127x chips, and can be used worldwide.
For more information about selecting a chip, watch Semtech’s video Selecting the Right LoRa IC for Your Application (Duration: 12:29)
4. Prototype and build your devices.
This is where our Hands-on Labs are particularly useful. For example, the Build an End-to-End Solution Using the LoRaWAN Protocol and LoRa Edge™ LR1110 lab guides you through setting up a system based on the LoRaWAN protocol, from hardware to data visualization dashboards, using the LoRa Edge LR1110 Development Kit and demonstrating how to leverage the features of Semtech’s LR1110 chip. You'll probably also be interested in the How to Build & Deploy a Network Using the LoRaWAN Protocol lab, which walks you through the end-to-end deployment of a LoRaWAN network, from building a device and a gateway that feature LoRa, to building and deploying a network using the ChipStack network server, which leverages the LoRaWAN protocol.
Furthermore, Semtech now offers the free Semtech Network Server, which allows you to connect up to three gateways and ten devices so that you can easily get your IoT ideas off the ground. You can connect up to 10 devices and three gateways, giving you a hosted environment to build and test your solutions before you go into production.
Best of all, it’s completely free!
Of course, you can always start from scratch, adding a chip and an MCU to a circuit board and building from there, or you can start with one of the many reference boards from a variety of manufacturers, all available through the Semtech LoRa Developer Catalog.
For more information about building a sensor, watch LoRaWAN Sensors (Part 1) (Duration: 2:47), and for information about joining a device and communicating with your network, watch LoRaWAN Sensors (Part 2) (Duration: 4:52))
For more hands-on videos, visit our video library.
How Do I Test LoRa?
Testing LoRa-based Devices
As Sebastien Lebreton explains in his blog post (Expert Series: Testing Devices Featuring LoRa® [How To]), “decent test coverage can be obtained with only a few tests. Rest assured, it will not be all that expensive or time-consuming.” For an in-depth understanding, read on.
Additionally, Semtech is proud to offer the Sensor Application Conformance Test Bench as a means of testing your devices prior to getting them certified by the LoRa Alliance®. To use the test bench, see the Sensor Application Conformance Test Bench User Guide and the companion Design Guide.
Getting Devices Certified
The LoRa Alliance only promotes those LoRa®-based devices that have been LoRaWAN® CertifiedCM.
To be certified, LoRa-based devices must pass a comprehensive and rigorous suite of tests to ensure they meet quality and performance standards. There is now a way to prepare devices to meet these standards prior to sending them for formal certification.
The LoRaWAN Certification Test Tool (LCTT) is available to LoRa Alliance members across the globe. The LCTT is a “pre-test” tool designed to be used by device manufacturers to ensure their devices meet the requirements for performance and compatibility with LoRaWAN networks. The key benefit of this tool is that full testing devices, including regression testing and debugging, can be done prior to submitting for formal certification. Device manufacturers can save time and money by pre-testing their devices before sending them for certification.
Once the pre-testing is complete and devices are ready for market, it is important that device manufacturers have their devices officially certified. Fortunately, there are several LoRa Alliance Authorized Test Houses around the globe that can validate and certify devices for sale as LoRaWAN-compatible.
For more information about certification, contact the LoRa Alliance.
In addition to the LoRaWAN Certification Test Tool, Anritsu offers a couple of tools that can be very helpful in testing LoRa-based devices: