LoRa Alliance chairman: 'LoRa is proving its value'

Tuesday 20 February 2018 | 10:46 CET | Background

The LoRa Alliance was formed in 2015 to standardise M2M radio technology and interoperability. The industry group supports the development of Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs), which are being rolled out around the world to facilitate IoT applications. Geoff Mulligan, chairman of the LoRa Alliance since 2015, told Telecompaper about the LoRa industry's progress. 

LoRa, or LoRaWAN, already has a flourishing ecosystem with thousands of networks live worldwide. The technology is promoted for its benefits in terms of spectrum, coverage, open source networking, energy use and simple data exchange. LoRa competes with other wireless IoT network technologies such as NB-IoT, LTE-M and SigFox.

'Nothing but benefits' 

Those are all the technical benefits LoRa offers, said Mulligan, who in addition to leading the LoRa Alliance has a long background in computing and networking. The LoRa Alliance started with a fairly technical basis, and the engineers focused on things like the protocol efficiency and battery life. 

However, the board rooms didn't understand much of this, despite some interest. As a result, the LoRa industry started talking more about capex and opex, as interest in IoT networks increased, Mulligan said. This puts LoRa in the business model of many organisations. "A logical move, as the investments are extraordinarily low and you can have a LoRa network running in a day," Mulligan said. 

LoRa networks can support IoT devices running for years and communicating over long distances of dozens of kilometres. Furthermore, LoRa networks have no single point of failure and can also offer location services without the need for a GPS chip. 

Last but not least, the LoRa ecosystem is completely open. The specifications are based on open standards (TCP/IP), the LoRa Alliance offers an open certification programme, and the organisation has an open business model. According to Mulligan, the latter means that businesses can build a network on their own, in partnership with operators and even become service providers themselves. 

Security covered

The security of the Internet of Things is increasingly hitting the news, following major incidents such as Mirai, a DDoS attack that exploited a large number of IoT devices to bring down online services such as Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and Amazon Web Services. Many expect this is only the beginning. If the exponential growth of connected devices continues, cybercriminals will have an ever growing platform for launching attacks. As such, businesses need to invest more in security for their websites and applications. Some digital security companies are even calling for legislation on security in IoT devices.

Mulligan acknowledged the problem, but stressed that LoRa's core is water-tight. The LoRa Alliance has worked from the beginning on security by design, he said. Security protocols are built into the DNA of LoRaWAN specifications, and the specifications have been tested by independent experts who found nothing fundamentally wrong. When they found the specifications left room for users to take advanatge of certain options to build less secure products, these options were immediately disabled, according to the chairman. 

Internet out-of-the-box

Thanks to the low capex/opex, LoRa networks offer a unique opportunity to build and scale IoT applications quickly, said Mulligan. This is already happening at a rapid pace, especially in specific IoT segments such as smart city and smart agriculture. 

For example, in the Netherlands M2M Services, part of the VTM Group, is using LoRa in the Westland region to track crop information. Agriculture businesses in the Achterhoek also embraced the technology early. "A 1,000-hectare farm could start a sensor network, for example for monitoring crops, for less than USD 10,000. Smart cities can set up a LoRa network more or less out-of-the-box and then scale this up as needed for the area," said Mulligan. 

More products on the market

The LoRA Alliance already counts more than 500 members worldwide, including telecom operators such as KPN and Proximus, which joined from the beginning. Dutch operator KPN achieved in the summer of 2016 the first nationwide LoRa network in the world. As a sponsor and board member of the Alliance, KPN contributes technical expertise but also security input, helping develop the LoRaWAN protocal further, the operator said. It also contributes to PR and marketing activities for the Alliance. 

In mid-2017, the LoRa Alliance announced the support of 42 new providers, or 3.5x more than a year earlier. Its members were involved in more than 250 trials and city deployments worldwide. 

The specifications are fixed and there are plans underway for new updates and releases. "LoRa is ready to build on," said Mulligan. In the coming period, the alliance plans to work more on its certification programme, in order to bring more products to market, he said. It also wants to communicate more of its success stories, to show that LoRa is good for business. 

Free Headlines in your E-mail

Every day we send out a free e-mail with the most important headlines of the last 24 hours.

Subscribe now

::: add a comment