5G FAQ: What are the biggest network challenges that IoT applications pose?
Felix Wolf: In principle, the requirements for IoT networks can be compared to other communication networks. In this respect, reliability, security and fault tolerance also play an important role here. In addition, the integrability into existing IT systems, i.e. the interfaces, must be taken into account. Another important aspect, particularly in the case of radio networks, is energy efficiency, especially when the sensors are operated with batteries.
5G FAQ: Can you briefly explain what “LoRaWAN” actually means and what role license-free frequency bands play?
Wolf:LoRaWAN is a low-power wireless network protocol. The abbreviation stands for “Long Range Wide Area Network” – and transmits in Europe in the 868 Mhz band. This area has been released across Europe for the use of “short range devices” and can therefore be used by everyone. In order to avoid overloading the frequency range, it was stipulated that a device may be broadcast a maximum of one percent of the time (this time span is always related to the past hour). LoRaWAN is characterized by the fact that the technology transmits measurement and sensor data with little energy over long distances – up to 15 kilometers in rural areas – and achieves a high level of building penetration. With its two-level symmetrical encryption, in which the key is never transmitted via radio, the LoRaWAN protocol offers a solid and secure basis for data transmission. The sensors that are used in a LoRaWAN network are simply constructed and therefore inexpensive and flexible to use with long battery life of up to five years. Thanks to these properties, LoRaWAN technology is comparatively robust and suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, i.e. for IoT in smart buildings as well as for Smart cities .
5G FAQ: How does this approach differ from traditional mobile communications and what is the difference to the NB-IoT?
Wolf: The main difference is that you can operate the gateways yourself in a LoRaWAN network and that, if desired, the data never leaves your own network. This means there are no connection costs. This means, for example, that a remote company site can be connected as well as a location that is shielded from cellular radio reception by buildings, for example. In extreme cases, gateways can even be set underground to read out the corresponding sensors.
5G FAQ: Which properties should the locations of the required gateways ideally fulfill?
Wolf: To put it simply: “Every meter counts!”, Which means that the gateways should hang as high as possible – ideally on radio masts or tall buildings. It is important to ensure that the shading through the roof surfaces is as low as possible. Furthermore, a fixed network connection is highly recommended in order to avoid possible interruptions with a normal cell phone connection.
ITD: For which areas of application is the technology suitable and where does it reach its limits?
Wolf: LoRaWAN networks are very well suited to record the consumption of water, electricity, gas or heat and to forward the consumption data. There are also a large number of sensors from different manufacturers in the areas of climate and air quality. There are also door opening sensors and motion detectors as well as add-on modules to make existing sensors LoRaWAN-compatible. The technology usually reaches its limits when too much data is to be transmitted and when it is important that every single packet arrives. The transmission quality in LoRaWAN networks is 96 percent, so this technology is not suitable for security purposes.
5G FAQ: How important is technology in connection with Industry 4.0?
Wolf: Industry 4.0 is based on the communication between machines as well as on the communication between machines and people. LPWAN is a technology that is particularly indispensable for mobile systems. Whether integrated into existing machinery as a retrofit or built in from the start – the technology offers the possibility of capturing and transmitting data directly and without manual intervention.
5G FAQ: Your company supports various customers in setting up an intelligent infrastructure. How did this come about and which use cases did the city officials confirm in their decision for LoRaWAN?
Wolf:LoRaWAN is a topical issue for many companies across all industries, including public bodies. Through the cost-effective establishment of such a network, initial use cases such as the control of street lighting, the reading of speed systems, etc. can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively. We at Alpha-Omega Technology are a central contact for many companies with our online shop for IoT accessories in the LoRaWAN area. Because we offer an extensive range of hardware and can advise our customers on their individual use cases.
5G FAQ: IoT environments are particularly vulnerable – how secure are LoRaWAN networks and how can they be protected against manipulation and hacking?
Wolf: LoRaWAN networks have been developed with security in mind from the start . The communication between sensor and network server is encrypted twice with 128 bit AES. The LoRaWAN gateways do not contain any keys for reading the network traffic, so that no information can be tapped here. In addition, the individual sensors of a LoRaWAN network are designed so simply that they are not a worthwhile target for hackers.
5G FAQ: 5G is on everyone’s lips – How do you feel about the new mobile communications standard?
Wolf: 5G is a collective term for various standards, some of which are very likely to become important in the IoT area. Nevertheless, it is only one of many tools and certainly not a panacea. It remains that the selection of the right tool is complex and always dependent on the respective specific requirements.
- Amram is a technical analyst and partner at DFI Club Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm .He has over 10 years of technical and business experience with leading high-tech companies including Huawei,Nokia,Ericsson on ICT, Semiconductor, Microelectronics Systems and embedded systems.Amram focuses on the business critical points where new technologies drive innovations.