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!