Smart Cities Leverage LoRaWAN™ Sensors
Smart cities consist of thousands of IoT enabled devices that communicate with each other, and connect to the internet. By sharing their data in the cloud, smart devices create the foundation for a sustainable infrastructure that reduces energy consumption and costs on a local level while increasing the city’s operational efficiency.
There are many different types of IoT devices, each engineered to connect to the internet through various means, including LoRa® radio signals. Built on LoRa®, LoRaWAN™ sensors are an emerging technology experiencing rapid adoption. According to Semtech, the makers of LoRaWAN™, “Networks adopting LoRa® are already on 6 continents and in 98 countries. Making it one of the fastest growing tech-networks in the world.” Below we will quickly explore the benefits of LoRaWAN™ and specific IoT devices smart cities are using to leverage LoRaWAN™’s strengths.
Benefits of LoRaWAN™ — Energy, Security and Range
LoRaWAN™ devices connect to the internet via LoRa® radio signals. They are not meant for the continuous streaming of data, but rather the transfer of data at set intervals of time. In between data transmissions, a LoRaWAN™ device will go into a deep hibernation state to conserve battery power. This extremely low power consumption and limited power requirements during data transfer are the largest advantages LoRaWAN™ devices have over similar technologies. The low power consumption naturally leads to long battery life for LoRaWAN™ devices, some lasting up to 10 years on a single charge!
Security is another huge advantage with LoRaWAN™ devices. Your LoRaWAN™ devices do not connect directly to your network. Instead, they connect to the gateway, and the gateway maintains a steady reliable connection to the internet.
When your LoRaWAN™ device wakes up to transfer data to your gateway device, it first encrypts the data into an extremely small data packet before transferring. When the gateway receives the encrypted data packet, it can send a message back “downlink” to let the LoRaWAN™ device know the packet was received. The gateway then adds additional layers of encryption to the data packet before transferring it to the Cloud. Data is fully encrypted both while in transit and at rest.
Due to their long range and low power requirements, LoRaWAN™ devices are a wonderful solution, especially for outdoor use cases where the devices can communicate unencumbered by radio interference.
With LoRaWAN™, hundreds of unique devices can quickly and securely communicate across a large warehouse, an individual family home, or miles across city streets.
LoRaWAN and Smart Cities
When you think of smart devices you might picture wearable health trackers, but what type of devices are used throughout a smart city? Let’s start with the average home and then zoom out to a city-wide view.
At the individual household level many people are installing new IoT-enabled appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and smart thermostats. These devices save energy and often have the ability to schedule non-essential functions for off-peak times, stabilizing the energy supply across cities. Many office buildings use smart lighting and temperature controls that are triggered by occupancy, eliminating frivolous energy consumption when buildings are empty.
Monitoring Utilities & Parking
Within smart cities, local officials are able to make data-informed decisions about the actual needs of their citizens, rather than having to rely on the loud voices of a few. As we zoom out beyond homes and offices to the street level, we find smart cities monitoring and controlling their utilities like water, gas and even parking through smart metering.
Water metering allows city planners real-time data they can use to understand property usage and increase water conservation. Water sensors also play an important role in detecting any leaks as soon as they happen, automatically alerting officials who can shut off the water supply to reduce damage and waste.
Gas monitoring works in similar ways, wirelessly detecting leaks, but can also self-monitor the levels of tanks and automatically request refills when supplies are low, reducing unnecessary manual monitoring and emergency filling requests when tanks run dry. The data from the gas tanks allows filling operations to become a predictable pattern, rather than a reactionary one with unknown labor demand.
Parking meters are also an interesting way to turn a limited supply with a formerly unpredictable demand into a predictable operation. Parking meters reduce unnecessary traffic congestion and pollution from drivers circling the city looking for available parking. Vehicle occupancy sensors alert drivers to a full lot before they enter, or quickly direct them to the last available spot in the garage.
Vehicle Fleet Management
“LoRa Technology operates in the 900MHz ISM-band that can reach deep into tree-covered roads, steep valleys and other places where weaker, higher frequency GPS signals cannot.” -Semtech
With LoRaWAN™, city vehicles can be tracked with greater accuracy and speed, allowing cities to better manage their fleets of waste removal vehicles, buses and even police patrols.
In Vancouver, Canada trash trucks are alerted when dumpster sensors signal a bin is reaching capacity and will need to be emptied soon, improving operational efficiency and ultimately creating cleaner cities.
Montreal has implemented smart digital bus schedule signs that use real-time data from busses that pass the solar powered signs along their route. The digital display screen in each bus shelter shows the next departing bus time and alerts passengers of immediate schedule changes from the real-time data.
According to Semtech, some cities allocate upwards of 40% of their energy budget just to street lamp consumption alone. By implementing smart street lamps, cities can drastically reduce their energy footprint while increasing safety across their communities.
These special lamp sensors are designed to turn on any time the ambient light becomes dim, and can be programmed to start based upon local sunset and sunrise times, reducing wasted energy from daytime running. Any time a lamp burns out or malfunctions, a notice is automatically sent to the operations team who can strategically inspect and repair each light. This data over time provides insights into trends and predictability of maintenance and repair.
On top of collecting and sending out their own usage and malfunction data, individual street lamps can also act as a gateway, broadly extending the range and reach of the city’s network.
As you can see, the strength and range of LoRa® networks builds an excellent foundation for smart cities to leverage when expanding their IoT sensors. But smart cities are just one vertical successfully leveraging LoRaWAN™ technology today.
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