Best LoRaWAN Sensors for 2020

After last week’s visit to The Things Conference in Amsterdam, our technical team gave us a little run down of the “ones to watch” for 2020. We talked about the best LoRaWAN sensors on show at the conference, and how they might change our lives in the not-too-distant future!

best lorawan sensors
Our team at The Things Conference

Smart Parking Sensors

The latest addition to the smart city scene is smart parking sensors. We’re currently testing a product made by Bosch. It works using radar and a magnetometer to detect whether or not there’s a car above it. It then reports the parking space status as “available” or “occupied” using LoRaWAN technology. The best bit for car park operators? The battery lasts for up to 5 years, so minimal maintenance!

We envisage the best use of this LoRaWAN sensor will be guided parking systems. We all know how frustrating it is when you’re looking for a space. In busy city centres, you can spend up to 20 minutes searching for a place to park. That’s 20 minutes of clogging up the traffic and the air with your engine running. This sensor could combine with a lighting system to highlight available spaces, or direct you to a multi-storey level where there are spaces. It could also be used to highlight available eCharging stations for electric cars.

People were impressed by the small size and overall design of this product when we displayed it in the flesh in Amsterdam. We have these available now.

Waste Monitoring

We’ve been talking to Tekelek about their waste bin sensor. We think it’s great for a range of applications; from waste management companies to local councils, and even charity collection bins.

The LoRaWAN sensor can be positioned inside the bin and uses ultrasound to measure the level of waste. This allows you to optimise waste collections, adding or removing collections when you need them. This type of LoRaWAN sensor is already being trialled in the Netherlands and promises to cut costs and improve accountability for hazardous waste.

This particular sensor boasts a battery life of up to 14 years, thanks to LoRaWAN technology. It also has a communication range of up to 15km to the nearest gateway. We think this is one of the best LoRaWAN sensors for waste management and recycling.

Air Quality Monitoring

There are a wide range of air quality monitoring sensors on the market. Which is the best LoRaWAN sensor for air quality depends on what you want to measure:

  • CO2. We already offer a carbon dioxide monitor that also measures temperature and humidity. Measuring carbon dioxide can give you an idea of how well your ventilation systems are working. Research suggests that increased CO2 levels in the workplace can decrease productivity!
  • Carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can be toxic in high concentrations. Many homes and commercial buildings have carbon monoxide monitors surrounding equipment such as boilers or heating equipment. This is a safety precaution, but using LoRaWAN CO sensors can help your systems to alert you more quickly to changes in carbon monoxide levels.
  • VOCs. VOC stands for volatile organic compound. It’s a measure of potentially harmful substances in the air, and a fairly standard method of defining air quality.
  • Particulate matter. This is a useful way of measuring pollution levels in an outdoor environment. Particles from car exhausts, smoke and other sources can reduce the quality of the air we breathe.

At The Things Conference there were a few different manufacturers who supply different air quality monitors. We’re looking to collaborate with some of them over the coming months to supply sensors to our European client base.

We loved the concept of adding air quality sensors to street lighting; another tool for smart cities of the future. They can also be a great method for monitoring and improving air quality in workplaces, hospitals and schools.

LoRaWAN People Counting Sensor

Knowing how many people are visiting your premises or passing by the front can be really helpful. You can actively measure your busiest times and ensure that staffing levels are adapted accordingly. You can measure footfall in specific areas accurately and tailor your marketing strategies. There are all sorts of possibilities for commercial applications.

We liked the idea of being able to measure the number of people without using cameras. And, like all LoRaWAN sensors, we love the long battery life. We liked the look of the PCR2, made by Swiss company Parametric. They have a range of indoor and outdoor sensors that we’re launching now.

Conference Highlights

We had a great time at last week’s conference and we’re really excited about the future of LoRaWAN technology. We particularly enjoyed a presentation by Edge Impulse, which involved Johan Stokking (CTO The Things Industries) dressing up as a sheep:

Not only was it an engaging presentation, the concept of a programmable activity tracker that can “learn” different activities and transmit data via LoRaWAN is pretty amazing! We look forward to seeing it at work in the world of smart agriculture – just hope we don’t catch our sheep drinking beer!

If you met us at The Things Conference 2020, we’d love to hear from you again. Get in touch to find out more about the products we have on offer and our in-house test methods.

Meet Alliot at the world’s largest LoRaWAN® event!

The Things Conference Amsterdam 2020

We’re excited to be heading to Amsterdam later this month for our first event of 2020. As the World’s largest LoRaWAN® Conference, The Things Conference brings together over 2000 IoT leaders from around the world.

Designed to equip visitors with a rich insight into the latest and greatest innovations in LoRaWAN®, visitors can expect to:

  • Meet with LoRaWAN® industry experts
  • Learn from industry leaders and boost their IoT skillset
  • Do business with key players in the LoRaWAN® space

Throughout the two-day event (30th – 31st January 2020) there will be a host of seminars held by guest speakers along with product showcases and plenty of networking opportunities!

Inspiration

We have no doubt there will be a great vibe at the show, there’s lots of exciting things happening in IoT and LoRaWAN®. With an impeccable speaker line up, we’re sure there will be plenty of inspiration for your projects!

Connect at The Things Conference

In an industry where we rely on electronic communication it can be great to have some physical interaction too!

Alliot will be showcasing a range of industry-leading products in the main exhibition hall, to the right of the entrance. If you’re attending the show be sure to drop by and say hello to our team – we’ve got lots of new products and information to share!

We’re also arranging meetings at the show, if you’d like to arrange a time to meet with us and discuss your projects, please feel free to get in touch.

Register to attend

LoRaWAN GPS: Technology Options

We stock a range of LoRaWAN GPS asset tracking sensors including Abeeway’s Micro Tracker (plus their industrial version) . Each of them list a variety of tracking technologies and how they can be used. But was do these different types of location monitoring actually mean? And which one should you be using? Here’s a list of the different types of geolocation technologies.

Here’s an overview of the different geolocation technologies available for LoRaWAN asset trackers:

1. GPS

The same technology as your sat-nav in your car or your smart phone uses. It relies on receiving signals from multiple satellites in orbit around the planet.

Location accuracy can be as good as a couple of metres. But this depends on getting signal from a lot of satellites. 10m accuracy is the generally accepted level for standard GPS.

GPS can be quite “power hungry”. Even though GPS is a “receive only” system, it uses more power because it takes a long time (minutes rather than seconds or even milliseconds) to lock on to multiple satellites.

It’s free to use and there is global coverage.

GPS works best outside. If you are inside a building it sometimes works near a window, but GPS is generally recommended for tracking over long distances; for example monitoring fleet vehicles or keeping track of a runaway pet.

2. LP-GPS (low power GPS)

This is a proprietary technology developed by Abeeway, specifically for their micro tracker. It requires the use of Abeeway’s own software platform.

Most of the location processing is done on a server instead of the device itself. This means that time, CPU usage and battery power is saved. I can’t comment on the operation of this at the moment as I am yet to give it a try.

3. Wifi Sniffing

Technically this isn’t LoRaWAN GPS. But it does provide pretty accurate device locations using surrounding wifi networks.

Because there are wifi networks literally all over the place these days, you are usually within range of several of them anywhere (except really remote or rural areas). Companies such as Google or Apple collect the IDs and locations of wifi networks and store them anonymously.

Your smart phone makes use of this data to determine it’s own location quicker than waiting for a GPS lock. Your smart phone also collects this data and sends it back to the databases of the likes of Apple and Google. I find this technology really interesting and yet a bit scary at the same time.

The Abeeway tracker makes use of this technology as a way of getting a pretty accurate location by simply “sniffing” for wifi networks in range. The tracker sends the IDs of nearby wifi networks to the LoRaWAN Network Server. It is then up to you to convert this into a normal location (latitude & longitude) on your own application. The raw data looks like this:

wifi sniffer data vs lorawan gps

That’s a list of wifi bssids and rssis my tracker has sniffed. It doesn’t connect to any wifi network, it simply scans for their IDs. Any wifi network broadcasts these ID numbers (along with the SSID you more commonly see in a list of networks to connect to on your computer). The RSSI numbers are the signal strengths for each network which can optionally be used to get a more accurate location .

To do something useful with this information you need to convert that raw data into a location. Google provide an API to their mapping system called GeoLocate, it does many things but one of them is converting these wifi networks into a real location just like you’d get from GPS – a latitude and longitude.

‘True’ LoRaWAN GPS

The Abeeway Micro Tracker is a pocket sized geolocation device that supports multiple location technologies. It’s a small battery powered unit that can either be put in your pocket, attached to a key-ring or put inside something else.

This LoRaWAN GPS tracker has an internal rechargeable battery which gives a couple of weeks of life depending on how you are using it. It is recharged by connecting a micro-USB cable. It has a single button on the front of it which is used to switch the device into different modes or trigger a geolocation event.

A simpler alternative

At Alliot Technologies, we also stock a simpler, more affordable asset tracker for indoor use. This one is manufactured by Netvox (Netvox 718MA) and relies on Received Signal Strength Ratio (RSSI) and Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR). It basically alerts your LoRaWAN network when the device leaves the network. Perfect for making sure your equipment stays on your business premises, but not really a ‘true’ asset tracker.

If you’d like information or advice on choosing the right LoRaWAN GPS trackers for your IoT project, get in touch with our technical team. We’re passionate about IoT products and how they can create help your business run more smoothly!

Merry Christmas from Alliot!

As we near the end of the year, we’d like to wish all Alliot customers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We hope you will have chance to relax over the festive period, but rest assured, we are here if you need us! We will be operating a reduced service between Christmas and New Year, more details are listed below.

Day Opening Hours
Christmas Eve (24/12) 09:00 – 13:00
Christmas Day (25/12) CLOSED
Boxing Day (26/12) CLOSED
Friday 27th December 10:00 – 16:00
Monday 30th December 10:00 – 16:00
New Year’s Eve (31/12) 10:00 – 16:00
New Year’s Day (01/01) CLOSED
Thursday 2nd January Normal service resumes

We’ve come a long way over the last year, and look forward to entering 2020 with even more exciting products and partner announcements to come! We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our customers and vendor partners for their support over the last 12 months, we look forward to seeing what 2020 has to bring.

NB-IoT Introduction and Testing

What is NB-IoT?

It stands for Narrowband Internet-of-Things. It is a low powered wide area network (LPWAN) radio technology that is part of the LTE/4G family.

Essentially a cut down version of the LTE technology that your mobile phone probably uses but using a narrower bandwidth (hence the name).

It has similar design goals to other LPWAN technologies (such as LoRa and Sigfox). These are mostly ultra-low power usage, long range, low cost, small data usage.

The main difference between NB-IoT and LoRa/LoRaWAN is that an NB-IoT network is provided by a mobile network operator rather than individuals buying and operating their own gateway devices.

It’s a brand new technology, the standard was only finalised in mid-2016, as yet there are no commercially available NB-IoT services in the UK. There are some available in central Europe. At the moment, Vodafone UK are the only operator currently rolling out the service but as I understand it, O2 and EE will soon follow. The Vodafone service is currently in the trial stage and coverage is limited to certain areas of the country.

It’s my opinion that NB-IoT will become a popular LPWAN standard in years to come so I am excited to be able to give it a try. Alliot’s plan is to offer NB-IoT related services and sensors as soon as they are commercially available.

Trying out NB-IoT

As I said, Vodafone are currently trialling their NB-IoT service, this means that they are making SIMs available to certain partners for testing. I have obtained some SIMs for testing, I cannot get any for anyone else at the moment. Alliot plan to provide SIMs as soon as we can.

nb-iot vodafone sim card

Because it’s so new, there’s not much hardware around at the moment that supports NB-IoT. So to test I have so far bought a Pycom Fipy development board:

https://docs.pycom.io/datasheets/development/fipy/

And an Arduino MKR-NB-1500 board:

https://store.arduino.cc/arduino-mkr-nb-1500-1413

These are far from plug&play devices, the Pycom board needs to be programmed using the MicroPython language and the Arduino board needs to be programmed using a C++ style language.

nbiot_microcontroller_code

Both devices need a suitable antenna, I used this one with both boards (they both have the same u.fl antenna connector):

https://pycom.io/product/lte-m-antenna-kit/

You’ll really need the Expansion board to go with the Pycom as well:

https://pycom.io/product/expansion-board-3-0/

Finally, you’ll need some NB-IoT SIMs!

The NB-IoT node will send and receive data via the network operator’s network, they will assign an IP address to the node and it can then communicate with the Internet. To test, you will need a server/computer that is publicly accessible on the Internet. In my case, the Vodafone trial limits usage to UDP only so I made a simple Python script on a test Amazon AWS server that accepts UDP packets and logs the contents to a file. All very simple stuff and not very useful but it’s pretty cool all the same! It all works as expected.

The Pycom board simply sends a “hello world” message every ten minutes, the Arduino board does this too but I also made it report it’s battery voltage since I’m powering that from a rechargable LiPo battery.

What next, what use is this?

I’ll expand on this to connect some real sensors to both devices so they are sending something more useful. I will then make the server part log to a database and produce some graphs in Grafana to visualise the data.

I have also sourced some commerically available sensor devices so will be testing them, another post on that will follow.

Verdict on NB-IoT testing

This experimentation has taught me a few things.

  • This is very new technology indeed, it’s much less mature than LoRaWAN for example. There’s scant information on the Internet so far, getting the Arduino board to work for example involved finding and reading the low level documentation for the uBlox chip on the board and the Arduino source code for their NB-IoT library.
  • You’re at the mercy of a network provider. If you have no coverage then it’s tough luck, no buying a gateway as with LoRaWAN or Sigfox. Although if there is coverage, then great, you don’t need to buy a gateway (also the case for Sigfox). You will always have to pay a network operator for use of the network.
  • It needs more power than LoRaWAN, considerably so in my opinion. For example, just connecting to the network takes multiple seconds and this will eat batteries. In comparison to LoRaWAN where a sensor can wake up, fire off a message and go back to sleep in a matter of milliseconds. Feel free to get in touch and correct me but I cannot see how NB-IoT can be anywhere near as frugal as LoRaWAN.
  • It’s more synchronous than LoRaWAN. It’s still designed for tiny amounts of data but connections involving multiple requests & their responses are possible. A protocol called Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) can be used which is like a cut down version of HTTP.
  • The technology is a reality and the mobile networks are starting to roll it out. I think NB-IoT will be big and sit alongside other LPWAN technologies.
  • The UK seems to be behind central Europe again. There’s much more evidence online for people using NB-IoT in places like Germany.



Alliot Named Official Kerlink Distributor

We’re delighted to share our latest news with you! We have today been announced as Kerlink’s official UK distributor. This appointment marks a big step for Alliot and our mission to make IoT accessible to all. Distributing a comprehensive range of their leading LoRaWAN® equipment, software and services, here’s an insight in to what Kerlink could offer to you and your IoT projects.

Kerlink Gateways

As a key component to any IoT project, Kerlink cover every eventuality with gateway options to suit every budget and use. From the Wirnet IFemtoCell, to the robust Wirnet IBTS outdoor gateway, Kerlink have you covered.


Kerlink Wanesy Management

Remotely manage and monitor your Kerlink gateways with Wanesy. Whether you have a single gateway on a small private network or multiple gateways on a commercial network, with Wanesy you can remotely deploy, operate and manage your LoRaWAN® IoT connections.

Offering a truly flexible approach, Alliot enables you to take as much or as little as you require to build your solution. Get in touch to find out more and discuss your requirements today.

CENSIS 6th Technology Summit and Conference, 7 November 2019

The team at Alliot are delighted to announce we are exhibiting at the 6th Technology Summit and Conference which takes place at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on 7 November 2019.

CENSIS is Scotland’s leading sensing, imaging and IoT event – a day of top class speakers, exhibitors, debate and networking.

What to expect:

Over 500 delegates attended in 2018, creating a day that informed, inspired and challenged. You’ll get the most from the day if you are:

  • A company or organisation involved in sensing, imaging and/or IoT.
  • A company or organisation that needs to use, or you’re interested in using, sensing, imaging and/or IoT to improve or grow your business.
  • An academic researcher or doctoral/postdoc researcher.
  • Working in knowledge exchange or business development in the university or college sector. The Summit is not aimed at university undergraduates.
  •  
    Registration is open – click here to book your ticket
     
    CENSIS 6th Technology Summit

    The Things Conference on Tour UK, 14-15 October 2019

    The Alliot team are proud to confirm we are participating at the next edition of The Things Conference on Tour UK, which is being held on 14-15 October 2019 at Reading Town Hall.

    Meet and Network with members of The Things Network Community and the Local Authorities, Housing Associations, Public Sector Organisations, Research & Higher Education Institutes and Businesses leveraging this emerging technology.

    • Explore the applications of LoRa enabled devices
    • Learn about different market ready options
    • Discover what is coming out of the R&D community before anyone else
    • Get hands on with workshops exploring ethical data collection, ultra low power and Node RED
    • Explore LoRaWAN by making your own LoRa device
    • Learn how to make reliable, secure and scalable LoRaWAN applications

     
    Come and visit us at The Things Conference On Tour UK to see the products & services we have to offer.
     
    Registration is open – click here to book your ticket
     
    The Things Conference on Tour UK

    LoRaWAN Applications

    LoRaWAN technology has a wide range of applications. The sky is the limit when it comes to creating LoRa IoT solutions to help your business run more smoothly. This blog post covers a few examples of how different types of LoRa sensors can be used, and some of the advantages of switching to LoRa technology.

    Smart Metering / Energy Monitoring

    • Reduces the need for traditional manual processes allowing instant, remote updates of electricity, gas, water & heat consumption.
    • Retrofit sensor systems to existing client infrastructure.
    • Improve efficiency by highlighting and targeting areas of unusually high energy consumption.

    Environmental Monitoring

    • LPWAN technology is perfectly suited for environmental monitoring due to the wide range of solutions available. Gather data on temperature, humidity, light, air quality (carbon dioxide, PM2.5 etc), smoke detection & water quality to name but a few.
    • Carbon monoxide sensors for homes managed by others such as Housing Associations or landlords to ensure the occupants are living in safe conditions.

    Transport & Asset Tracking

    • In the realm of transport infrastructure, railways are big users of sensor networks. These can be used, for example, to monitor potentially damaging vibrations in bridges, through deformation of the tracks, to movements in embankments that could indicate potential collapse.
    • Keeping track of anything from logistics equipment (trolleys, fork lift trucks etc) right through to entire fleets of vehicles by installing a discreet, long lasting GPS tracker. The sensor not only tells you the location of the equipment in real time, it can also ensure they are being used more efficiently which could in turn assist with fleet management & inventory decisions.

    Agriculture

    • Even agriculture gets in on the act, with smart farms monitoring soil moisture levels and crop health, providing machinery diagnostics, keeping an eye on crop storage conditions and tracking & monitoring livestock.
    • Temperature sensors could be used to ensure the optimal conditions for Chicken Farmers to maximise their yield.
    • A smart sensor system can help maximise a farmers yield therefore reducing water consumption, optimising the use of fertilizers and pesticides which increases production & lowers costs.

    Water Monitoring

    • BT have announced they are launching a Smart Water project with Northumbrian Water which will be deployed across Sunderland, with around 150 sensors installed to capture water flow, pressure and quality enabling Northumbrian Water to gain visibility into operational insights.
    • Just last month water meters were deployed across the south east to gather real time information on water capacity levels, consumption and pass through; this is fed back to Icosa Water via a smart metering platform.

    Beer Keg Supply Chain Optimisation

    • A novel application developed at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, involved fitting smart sensors to beer kegs. Called the Binary Beer project, it uses LoRaWAN to transmit the fill levels and environmental conditions of kegs back to the brewer in real time.

    IoT LoRaWAN continues to grow

    The IoT landscape continues to develop. More and more infrastructure is being added, most recently (24/7/2019) Norfolk County Council’s Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee has approved a proposal to launch a LoRaWAN network to enable early adopters to test IoT (Internet of Things) applications.

    The proposal includes a number of Gateways around Norwich connected to The Things Network that will receive information from Sensors placed around the city.

    It does not take long to set up a LoRaWAN network either, everything should be in place by September 2019.

    To the uninitiated IoT can be seen as a dark art when the reality paints a very different picture, especially when you have the right partner.

    The kit list can be broken down into the following categories;

    Nodes / Sensors –

    These are the devices that will collect & transmit the data

    Concentrator / Gateway –

    These will collect the data signals and send it to…

    Network Server –

    This collects all of the data via the Concentrators / Gateways and links that data to an…

    Application Server –

    Which interprets the data that can then be reviewed against a set of tolerances and can be used to automate actions based on the data that has been received, for example triggering an alarm.