LoRa-based smart gas monitoring: interview with eLichens and Semtech

InterviewAs Enlit is taking place tomorrow in Milan (Italy), we have met with Maxime Vincent, Sales & Marketing Manager at eLichens and Remi Demerle, Director, Developer Ecosystem, WSP LoRa Alliance and Community at Semtech to discuss how their LoRa-based smart gas monitoring solution can help prevent gas leak accidents.

IoT Business News: In field trials, or live applications, how well have the eLichens sensors performed in reducing gas leakage? Have they hit targets, or outperformed other methods?

Maxime Vincent, eLichens

Maxime Vincent, eLichens

Maxime: eLichens sensors have been validated by reference laboratories in the U.S. and outperformed the competition in terms of accuracy and selectivity (no false alarms). Moreover, eLichens gas leak detector has been selected to be one of the two the reference devices for the U.S. market.

IoT Business News: No drift seem an important advantage, how often other sensors need to be recalibrated?

Maxime: Gas sensors usually need to be recalibrated every 1-2 years, or the best ones on the market can barely reach five years. eLichens sensors doesn’t require any recalibration over their entire lifetime (>10 years).
IoT Business News: What other gas the sensor can allow to detect?

Maxime: The sensor embedded inside avolta is highly selective to methane, to avoid false alarms. However, we can provide avolta with other versions of our sensor: butane, propane, refrigerant gases (R32 among others), or even CO2.

IoT Business News: The sensors apparently have a battery life of 10 years, which sounds a long time, but they will ultimately need to be replaced. Are sensors with longer battery life being developed, or can sensors be powered by the flow of gas itself?

Maxime: We (eLichens) are constantly working on improving the power consumption of our sensors, and we already have prototypes able to increase the battery life to a lot more than 10 years. Our sensors have the lowest power consumption on the market for safety applications, so powering them with energy harvesting could be an option, yes.

IoT Business News: What are the advantages of the LoRaWAN communications protocol? Are there any applications where it cannot be used?

Rémi Demerle, Semtech

Rémi Demerle, Semtech

Remi: The advantages of LoRaWAN for our application are its low power consumption, long communication range, high security level and its non-proprietary characteristics, which opens a wide range of applications.

IoT Business News: Are the sensors equipment compatible with hardware from other manufacturers?

Remi: Yes, the sensors are compatible with any device that uses LoRaWAN. Developers can also now create smart devices featuring LoRa devices for all utilities applications, including smart metering for electricity, gas or water. The openness of the LoRaWAN standard makes it possible to integrate with existing technology including DLMS and M-Bus.

IoT Business News: And what about software, is it compatible with monitoring platform?

Maxime: eLichens maintains our own monitoring platform, but customers can connect our device to any monitoring platform, thanks to our API.

IoT Business News: Network operators often balk at the cost of installing sensors, when they are uncertain of the cost benefits that will flow down the line. What would be Semtech’s response, or the experience of some of your clients?

Remi: The cost of a gas incident in a residential area will always be more than the cost of installing one sensor per building.

IoT Business News: Is the price of installing a sensor networks going up – as they add functionality and features – or is it reducing, due to economies of scale?

Remi: In this field there are always economics of scale, and especially when open networks like LoRaWAN are installed. Once such a network is installed, it opens the possibility to connect additional sensors, hence opening the path to more safety and more services.

IoT Business News: Do gas network operators typically install sensors as part of maintenance programmes or other scheduled works, or as a standalone investment project?

Remi: It depends mainly on local regulations. However, we see lots of movement in this field right now, regulations are already in place in some U.S. states, and regulations are coming in several countries.

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