HomeChipsetsSemtech claims major LoRa meter rush; Helium tees-up blockchain-based LoRa gear

Semtech claims major LoRa meter rush; Helium tees-up blockchain-based LoRa gear

US manufacturing company Vision Metering is ramping up production of LoRa based smart energy meters connecting on LoRaWAN networks. The South Carolina firm claimed it has been “quickly onboarding” municipal utilities across the US and Latin America with its metering hardware and software at a rate of two to three per week.

Elsewhere, French IoT maker Kerlink has been appointed to provide LoRa hardware for Helium’s blockchain-based LoRaWAN network (see below).

A press statement from Semtech, which owns and licences the LoRa technology and LoRaWAN protocol, cited Vision upgrade contracts with Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-Op to connect 47,500 electric meters over a nine county area in Northeast Michigan, and with the Ferry County Washington Public Utility to connect remote meters in the local catchment of the Cascades mountain range. 

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-Op is conducting a full system deployment for its rural electric cooperative to replace its monthly member-read system. The Ferry County project is projected to save the utility $20,000 in its first year, by eliminating 100-mile round trips for meter read-outs, said Semtech.

Vision, which supplies smart electric meters and meter interface units for water and gas meters to go into advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), said it is increasing LoRa deployments in both rural and urban areas, in the US and Latin America. Vision is offering support for utilities to install their own LoRaWAN networks, alongside ‘plug-and-play’ AMI tools to manage their systems – “avoiding costly third-party connectivity contracts”, said Semtech.

Randy Austin, president and chief executive at Vision, commented: “Semtech’s LoRa devices has been instrumental in our development and successful rollout of a new completely modular system for any combination of electrical, water and gas utilities. Our cooperative and public owned utility customers are saving all kinds of money by upgrading legacy systems to Vision’s fixed, long range AMI solutions that eliminate traditional manual meter reading methods and expensive truck rolls to turn services on and off.”

Marc Pegulu, vice president of IoT for Semtech’s wireless and sensing products group, said: “Vision’s smart meter solutions utilizing LoRa empower utility companies in both urban and rural areas with smart, sustainable and efficient utility management. The ease of deployment, scalability and cost-savings capabilities of LoRaWAN make it the de facto platform connectivity choice for a growing market of electrical, water and gas IoT monitoring applications.”

Meanwhile, French IoT maker Kerlink has said Kerlink has said its indoor Wirnet-branded radios and gateways have been selected by blockchain-based LoRaWAN network operator Helium as it rolls-out its so-called ‘People’s Network’. Helium has a deal with Semtech to integrate LoRaWAN into its ‘LongFi’ networking architecture.

Helium’s calling card is to offer a blockchain platform as a ‘cryptographic notary’ for the transfer of data across its LoRaWAN network, so customers only pay based on network usage without needing to deploy gateways or network servers. The company sells LoRaWAN hotspots, which can be integrated into its LoRaWAN network, and pay owners for carrying data, adding blocks to the blockchain, and performing other tasks. 

Transaction data including connectivity time and location is stamped on the blockchain, and is immutable and inspectable, it claims. Network users pay based on network usage, without needing to deploy gateways or network servers. When connected to a hotspot, a ‘proof of coverage’ is delivered that validates gateway real availability, as well as its related coverage. 

This confirmation triggers a Helium Network Token (HNT), Helium’s native cryptocurrency, using a gateway-embedded miner, and granting coverage for hundreds of miles. The idea is to decentralise IoT coverage, resulting in an open wireless network that is available cheaply, anywhere in the world. 

The service targets low-power sensors and devices such as animal collars and bicycle trackers, among other IoT cases. Helium said late last summer it had expanded to more than 1,000 cities in North America, and started rolling out in Europe. Its website states the run-rate is now more than 25,000 hotspots in nearly 3,600 cities.

Yannick Delibie, president and chief executive for Kerlink in the Americas region, said: “Embedding Helium network-miner-compatible software within our gateway portfolio is another step toward diversification of Kerlink’s equipment possibilities, and shows how our ongoing investment in R&D enables the company to respond quickly to evolving applications and innovative uses of LoRaWAN networks. 

“Our ability to integrate new features like Helium’s blockchain technology called ‘proof of coverage’ helps ensure the algorithm can verify that the Hotspots are accurately representing their location and delivering the expected wireless network coverage they are creating.”

Helium states: “In typical LoRaWAN networks, a central or regional LoRaWAN Network Server (LNS) is managed by a single entity. Helium’s design for a decentralized network, however, means not only do we want gateways to be independently owned and operated, but we want to enable the independent operation of the LNS. 

“Without this, access to the network would require permission from a single central entity, the LNS operator of the network. Therefore, we want to enable the multi-tenancy of LNS’s on the same public LoRaWAN network. Achieving this distinguishes Helium’s LoRaWAN network from any other: public wireless infrastructure is now compatible with privately run network servers.”

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