LoRaWAN, or Long-Range Wide Area Network, can remotely monitor pump, valve, and seal equipment in chemical processing, food and beverage, oil and gas, and water applications. Systems using LoRa can transmit operational
data up to four times farther than some other technologies.1
LoRaWAN systems can measure real-time parameters and manage condition monitoring data to enable or enhance:
- fluid flow, level, temperature and pressure
- equipment vibration and temperature
- process monitoring, baselining and trend analysis
- automated warnings, alarms, triggers and notifications
- automated report generation and historical sensor data storage
When to Consider LoRaWAN
Widely used in industrial, governmental and institutional sectors around the world, LoRaWAN provides a flexible and scalable industrial internet of things (IIoT) infrastructure. LoRaWAN is adopted when process engineers, plant and IT managers, as well as maintenance specialists, need to:
- Remotely monitor assets, especially when no other meaningful solution can be reasonably deployed
- Improve the transmission range of existing monitoring solutions
- Improve battery performance
- Securely scale monitoring systems
- Establish cost-effective, real-time condition monitoring
How LoRaWAN Works
LoRaWAN is best understood as two parts, LoRa and LoRaWAN:
- LoRa is the physical communication layer. The LoRa firmware stack is loaded inside end devices such as wireless sensors.
- LoRaWAN is likened to higher level communication layers and is commonly hosted in a cloud environment.
LoRaWAN also provides the openness to add unique and/or proprietary system elements and features. A LoRaWAN network consists of three servers: join server, networking server and application server. These servers do not require hosting in the same location, but the most supported architecture hosts all three in a common cloud environment.
Hosting is not restricted to the cloud and can be established on servers wherever they best support the end user’s needs. Basic LoRaWAN server software is available license-free through fair use for anyone wishing to build out their own systems. However, complexity, security and cost can increase with self-hosted systems, and licenses could be required.
Developers created LoRa to enable a low-power, long-range class of wireless devices built on an open protocol platform.
As with most IoT solutions, this too can be wirelessly connected to the internet to scale applications and efficiently integrate systems.
LoRaWAN stands apart from other wireless technologies used for monitoring applications such as narrow band frequency shift key (FSK). LoRaWAN is more resilient for both in-band and out-of-band interferences compared to FSK. LoRaWAN has a superior transmission range for the same data throughput and power output.
LoRaWAN can be a good choice over direct sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) technologies. LoRaWAN uses a modulation technique known as chirp spread spectrum (CSS). As a result, LoRaWAN requires less power and uses less expensive hardware.
LoRaWAN optimizes data rate and energy consumption. Key performance parameters can be changed at any point, either over the air or with intelligence built into the end device’s application. LoRaWAN employs an adaptive data rate (ADR) control using orthogonal spreading factors while coordinating a balancing act among data rate, range and power. Networking and radio frequency (RF) conditions are constantly monitored and used to tune these parameters, thus optimizing the end device’s data throughput performance and battery usage.
LoRaWAN provides security along with sensor networking. Sensor devices can be registered with a target network and send data within minutes. Most devices come preconfigured with an identifier (e.g. DEVEUI), thus requiring only the user’s application assignment to send data.
LoRaWAN incorporates an end-to-end security model. At the device level, data traffic is secured using 128-bit advanced encryption standard (AES). Additionally, LoRaWAN ensures the authenticity of each node in the network using a family of security keys and identifiers. LoRa’s secure keys can be updated when the user desires. The device’s network registration and join processes may be strictly defined and fast, but the user maintains flexibility to manage the network with varying degrees of complexity.
There are four classes of monitoring methods for LoRaWAN use:
An individual follows a physical route at weekly or monthly intervals. Evaluation of equipment condition is based on the user’s ability and knowledge. Events cannot be detected or logged between visits.
Devices are deployed directly on equipment to continuously monitor and log sensor data. Lights indicate when faults occur to alert workers. Only recent data is stored due to a limited amount of memory. Workers must be near the device to gather data, and only the device manufacturer’s software and tools can access the data.
When applications require high data rates or robust communication reliability (e.g., critical equipment), wired devices are commonly used. Installation of wired systems can be costly, especially in brownfield applications that do not have wired infrastructure already in place. Additionally, wired communication protocols can be complicated and often result in compromised performance. For moderate data rates and less critical applications, wireless systems could be a better choice.
Gigahertz (GHz) radios can provide good performance at short distances. Sub-GHz technologies with low-performing modulation techniques or communication protocols can also be grouped as short-to-moderate range devices. These technologies do not perform well at long ranges in industrial environments and lean toward higher power consumption rates.