IoT leaders proclaim smart business of green tech – as LoRaWAN goes (Iggy) pop
The powers-that-be in LoRaWAN World have decided LoRaWAN will save the planet, and the tech ecosystem that has grown around it will get rich in the process – and the customers it engages will do both, as newly sustainable and newly profitable enterprises. That was the message from Paris last week, where the LoRaWAN community, buzzy-as-ever, convened for the LoRaWAN World Expo, the community’s first official shindig in three calendar years.
It was also its first-ever proper global event; previous expos, organised by the LoRa Alliance, before Covid-19 disrupted travel, tended to be more regionalised affairs, with only a day ever given-over to the kind of glad-handing and grand-standing on offer in the French capital. But the pandemic has also spurred the IoT agenda in tracking, tracing, and derivative sensing apps, and alliance members clearly feel it is time to party.
Cue: bass and drums. Because LoRaWAN has succeeded, arguably, better during this three-ringed global squeeze – pandemic, recession, environmental catastrophe – than any other low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT tech. Sigfox (in case you’ve been trapped under a heavy object), is back from the dead, just about; NB-IoT, of the more comparable cellular IoT twin-tech, is spluttering into life, still – in what may yet turn out to be just another death rattle. Arguably more-brilliant networking tech like MIOTY, meanwhile, is still in short pants.
Whereas LoRaWAN is coming on like a z-gen Johnny Yen – with a lust for life, and (a network for) the liquor and drugs – to save the planet. Or so the alliance keeps saying. Cue: Donna Moore, chair and chief of the alliance, taking the stage at the Palais des Congrès in Paris. There were no numbers, which Enterprise IoT Insights recalls, just superlatives: that LoRaWAN is the “market leader’, with the “most networks” and the “most deployed solutions”.
There was more, too. LoRaWAN has the “most at-scale” and the “most multi-tech” deployments, said Moore, and the “largest and most diverse ecosystem”. It is now an “accepted standard”, she said, following ITU recognition in December – meaning Moore, thankfully, no longer has to proclaim it as the “de-facto” LPWA standard. It is also, we hear, the “only LPWAN with network options” – likely to be the substitute de-facto PR line from the alliance from now.
The last reference is, of course, to its selection by Nova Labs (LoRaWAN) and AWS (LoRa) for their ‘community’ networks, under the Helium and Sidewalk brands, and its stated leadership in the new IoT space race, as the popular choice for ‘satellite’ extensions by the likes of EchoStar Mobile, Eutelsat, and Lacuna Space, among others. These go with its public and private network models, which mostly got LoRaWAN to Paris, and to here and now.
It was a barrage, and all a bit much without numbers or references. But the alliance had already issued a statement, the week prior, to list its biggest (publicly-referenced) network deployments and enterprise contracts, at least to anecdotalise its massive-IoT credentials in the market. And to be fair, Moore’s address was the curtain-raiser; a sharp rallying cry to the troops, and a way into the show’s green-business agenda.
Or a way out, in fact, as this litany of massive-ness brought the curtain down on Moore’s intro to the Paris show, and the rest of the LoRaWAN ecosystem followed here on the main stage, and in a couple of other conference streams, with case presentations and panel sessions to discuss the business of how to save the planet. And to be fair, as well, all the chest thumping and fist pumping never stopped Sigfox, say – although, look where that ended.
“It is crystal clear: LoRaWAN is not just a technology, but a revolution that has inspired this innovation over the last seven years. Give yourself a round of applause,” Moore told the crowd in Paris. The alliance, she said, will stay focused on “the strengths [of LoRaWAN], and evolve them. “Nothing will pull us off course from achieving our vision,” she said, describing said vision as variously boosting energy efficiency, quality of life, and planetary resources.
LoRaWAN caters to 75 percent of the entire IoT industry’s requirements, she added. “So you are truly in the right business.” The point was that LPWA-geared tech has them covered, by definition, for low-power consumption (“battery life”) and wide-area coverage (and “penetration”), and that the rest (“the remaining 25 percent”) is wrapped-up already with Bluetooth, or else teed-up already with enterprise-oriented 5G.
Moore said something about “audio” and “latency” as drivers for this other quarter-share, which is not served by LoRaWAN. But her point, referenced above, about “multi-tech” deployments is that LoRaWAN plays nicely with BLE, Wi-Fi, and 5G, as well. These will be the “four network colours” for enterprise IoT, she argued. “All four are needed to address this massive never-ending market.”
Interestingly, she positioned LoRaWAN as the network water-carrier to power high-volume analytics (“AI”; the liquor and drugs) in industrial digital twins and process automation, presumably in among all the private 5G activity the rest of the market expects to fall into place in the coming years. “This will drive LoRaWAN adoption through the roof,” she said, predicting a time when LoRaWAN is no-longer a retrofit technology in industrial equipment.
“And because LoRaWAN [will be] embedded, [it will be] here to stay,” she said. (The tenses are unclear from the note-taking at the show, but might be read-into as they are rendered here.) Moore’s keynote made an extended analogy of LoRaWAN as a nurse-technology for the planet’s health and well-being. She was once a nurse, she said, taking care of patients, and then a manager taking care of business (“CEO of a large healthcare operation”).
The Covid-19 pandemic has sharpened minds, she suggested, about “what is essential… to survive, and so to thrive”. A period of “self reflection”, she said, has led to a “global awakening” that the planet is in the emergency room. LoRaWAN she said provides a way to hook it up to monitor its vital signs – and a way to act on this (creeping) realisation that the planet is boiling-up and drying-out, and to provide urgent care in response (in a late, mostly private-sector grab for profit, doubling necessarily as this lust-for-life).
“LoRaWAN measures the health of people, planet, and profits,” she said, presenting LoRaWAN as a “strong [networking] foundation” on which to serve a “hierarchy of needs”, starting with “physical needs and safety needs” – in order to then look again at “higher levels of growth”. Six short videos, with six neat use cases, were played to illustrate how LoRaWAN is nursing the planet’s physical and safety signs; three were played to show each of these.
Deployments by alliance members Thingy IoT, NNNCo, and Green Cityzen showed usage of LoRaWAN to monitor air quality (‘air’), food production (‘food’), and water management (‘water’), respectively, as examples of work to save the planet’s physical resources; deployments by Tektelic, PwC, and Yokogawan showed solutions for healthcare tracking (‘health’), panic buttons (‘security’), and industrial predictive maintenance (‘financial stability’) were shown as ways to serve safety needs.
They were commendable – although random in the context of the breadth of the challenge and the narrowness of the schedule. But the gist was right; and the Paris show was full of really nice use cases, not always afforded deeper explanation of the green-business cases, plus a number of rewarding panels, useful booth stops, and dynamite chance-meets. “You are changing the world, and those videos show it,” Moore told the congress room.