As recently as 2013, the term low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) did not exist, but now the adoption and use of LPWA technologies is becoming a competitive necessity for many industries and is a key component of today’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology wave.

A growing web

Without doubt, LPWANs are transforming the way things are monitored and measured. They're contributing to a new wave of IoT innovation, which is pushing the boundaries of innovation and technology to create solutions with new business models and new revenue streams that otherwise would not be possible. In fact, the characteristics of LPWAN technology support such an extensive set of applications across a combination of traditional and new markets that analysts have forecasted over half of IoT connectivity requirements will entail low-power, wide-area networks by 2020.

Changing the field

For several years cellular and Wi-Fi have been preferred networks for IoT applications, but because of the high-cost of cellular and the limits of localized Wi-Fi connectivity, solution development has been limited. While these technologies successfully meet the goals of many proprietary, single-use applications, they do not adequately address the goals of next-generation large scale commercially deployable IoT solutions which are demanding long range capability, long sensor battery life, bi-directional communication, mobility, geo-location, enterprise-grade security and low cost.

“This gap introduced between cellular and local area networks has opened the door to LPWAN technologies.”

This gap introduced between cellular and local area networks has opened the door to LPWAN technologies. LPWANs, specifically those supporting the LoRaWAN protocol, are constructed with open and proven technology that excels at enabling low-power, long-range sensor applications where only small amounts of data are required.

Community investment

Sensor-based solutions using LoRa technology are in various stages of maturity and resultant value. In order to accelerate the market, companies are investing in delivering services that help solution vendors learn about their options and rapidly move from concept to production and deployment. Some organizations are providing end-device manufacturers and enterprise solution providers with market education and technical services and are actively involved in establishing local innovation hubs and partnerships.

The future of connectivity

This combination of LoRaWAN network and sensor technologies, coupled with a rapidly emerging IoT ecosystem, are beginning to deliver results across a variety of new and sometimes surprising IoT end-uses such as sustainable energy, food production and distribution, environmental monitoring, smart buildings and cities, health care, transportation and more.

The openness of both the LoRaWAN specification and the LoRa-Alliance is building the momentum of IoT deployments around the globe. In this context, organizations now have greater access to overcome the fragmentation of closed, vertically-oriented IoT systems, architectures and applications — allowing more things to participate in the IoT revolution.