Unlicensed Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) such as Sigfox and LoRaWAN™ are providing much of the growth for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) despite accelerated rollouts of NB-IoT and LTE-M, according to a recently published report by IoT global research firm ON World.
Connected industrial LPWAN devices will triple over the next two years.
Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director, says:
“LPWANs are driving industrial IoT adoption by connecting stranded assets, monitoring equipment from multiple factory sites and providing continuous visibility of mobile assets with significantly reduced connectivity and maintenance costs.”
ON World’s 2018 survey with 160 industrial IoT professionals — completed with the International Society of Automation (ISA) and the LoRa Alliance™ — found that 57% are researching or developing industrial LPWAN solutions. Three quarters of LPWAN developers are targeting new industrial IoT applications that cannot be addressed with existing technologies.
Competition among LPWAN technologies has resulted in IoT innovations including multi-radio devices, radio-based geolocation, disposable devices and evolving network operator business models. The growing licensed and unlicensed public LPWAN ecosystem has resulted in services now available in hundreds of countries. With 80 public network operators worldwide, growth is accelerating for private LoRaWAN™ networks that provide rapidly deployable, dedicated networks for enterprises.
Asset tracking and locating is the fastest growing LPWAN application area with the largest total potential market size. LoRaWAN™ networks support radio-based geolocation to significantly lower the cost of mobile asset tracking within a 100-meter radius without requiring GPS. Sigfox’s recently launched Atlas WiFi service that combines WiFi infrastructure registered in the HERE location suite with Sigfox network technology, also without using GPS. In October 2018, the LoRa Alliance™ announced three specifications that support standards-based firmware over the air updates, a required feature for widespread adoption of LPWAN solutions such as asset tracking.
LPWAN hardware innovations are emerging. Examples include multi-radio devices that use LPWAN for outdoor asset tracking and precision indoor locating using Bluetooth Low Energy or WiFi. Polysense’s universal LPWAN sensor is targeted at multiple applications for manufacturing, electric power, water/wastewater and logistics. Yokogawa has created a “sushi” vibration sensor and thumb-sized gateway using LoRaWAN™. Disposable LPWAN devices is a growing trend. Sigfox has announced a 20 cent RF module prototype and the LoRa Alliance™ is currently testing a disposable asset tracker using a printed battery technology.
Established network operators such as Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Verizon and Vodafone are accelerating their IoT offerings with end-to-end solutions and disruptive connectivity service pricing. LoRaWAN™ provides enterprises with the flexibility of having dedicated, private networks with hosted network servers in the cloud or on-site as well as seamless roaming across multiple networks.
Dedicated IoT network operators have launched new business models aimed at accelerating IoT adoption. Senet offers a variety of cloud-based network connectivity and OSS and BSS platforms including Virtual Network Services that enable a variety of stakeholders to benefit from deploying IoT devices through a shared revenue model. Ingenu is delivering its Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) connectivity technology through a Platform-as-as-Service (PaaS) model.
Within the next decade, there will be 650 million industrial wireless sensing, tracking and control devices in use worldwide. LPWANs will make up 1 in 3 by this time, with the largest impact for asset tracking and locating, precision agriculture, remote equipment monitoring and smart water solutions.