Cisco, IBM others move to standardize IoT networks

Networking, technology companies and telecom providers have formed an alliance to standardize low power wide area networks (LPWAN) currently being deployed around the world to enable Internet of Things, machine-to-machine as well as smart city applications.

The main goal of the LoRA Alliance is to drive global adoption of the LoRaWAN by sharing knowledge and experience to ensure the interoperability between telecom operators.

Initial members of the group include: Actility, Cisco, Eolane, IBM, Kerlink, IMST, MultiTech, Sagemcom, Semtech, and Microchip Technology, as well as lead telecom operators: Bouygues Telecom, KPN, SingTel, Proximus, Swisscom, and FastNet (part of Telkom South Africa.

According to the alliance its LoRA technology enables public or multi-tenant networks to connect multiple applications into the same network infrastructure, which will enable new applications for IoT, M2M, smart city, sensor networks and industrial automation applications.

“The LoRa technology is ideal to target battery operated sensors and low power applications, as a complement to M2M cellular connectivity,” said Richard Viel, chief operating officer of Buoygues Telecom, a French mobile phone and Internet service provider. “The LoRA Alliance is an essential step to ensure interoperability and therefore mobility across Europe for our customers.”

Apart from its support for the alliance, IBM has released the IBM LoRaWAN in C, a LoRA MC implementation, as an open source implementation under the Eclipse Public License, said Dr. Thorsten Kramp, master inventor at IBM Research.

“To encourage the mass adoption of low cost, long range, machine-to-machine connectivity, open ecosystems are critical,” Kramp said.

LPWANs have extremely low data rates but go farther than cellular signals and work in tiny devices. They eat up very little power and some batteries for these devices can last for months.

LPWANs will not be transmitting virtual games or TV shows but can still be useful in a wide range of commercial and government applications such as smart meters and asset and tracking. There is a potential for wearable technology applications.

LPWAN transmission speeds are extremely low. Its speed is measured in hundreds of bits per second or less.

It does offer the advantage of not having to require many base stations as cell networks do. This means that connection cost can also be extremely low. The cost to businesses for connectivity for multiple devices may be as low as $1 per connection, per year.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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