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What is LoRa, the technology at the heart of smart cities?

Published on march 17th 2022

 

With its wide reach and low energy consumption, LoRa is exactly the right technology for connecting the various devices needed to create smart cities. But what is it exactly?

 

What is LoRa?

LoRa (short for “long range”) is a radio communication technology that enables the creation of extended, low-power networks (also known as LPWA, or “low-power wide-area”) that can transfer data between connected objects.

LoRa technology is one of the standards associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), the name given to the billions of connected devices worldwide. Networks using this technology have been deployed in over 160 countries.

 

What is the difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN?

LoRa is the name of the technology that enables the transmission of data over radio waves, while LoRaWAN is the name of the protocol used for the transmission.

The LoRaWAN protocol is established by LoRa-Alliance, an international association of over 500 companies that ensures the standardization of different connected objects so that all devices using the LoRaWAN protocol can communicate with each other, no matter where they were manufactured or which company installed them.

In Québec, the only company that’s a member of the LoRa-Alliance is X-TELIA, a specialist in the Internet of Things and a partner of Videotron Business and fibrenoire.

 

What are LoRa’s strengths?

Because LoRa is part of the LPWA category of networks, it can be used to connect long-range devices while requiring little energy.

As opposed to a Wi-Fi router, which has a reach limited to a few dozen metres, for example, a LoRa hub can reach objects located up to 5 km away in an urban area, and 15 km away in rural areas. A LoRa network can therefore be installed throughout an entire municipality with just a few hubs, and for a lower cost than if you were to deploy a Wi-Fi network to cover a similar area.

Its operating life is also higher than that of most IoT communication technologies. Depending on the exact device, a sensor using LoRa can function for more than 15 years on a single charge, which would be impossible with protocols  Wi-Fi, or LTE.

LoRa’s other big strength is its security. On a LoRaWAN network, all objects must be authenticated, and all communications are encrypted, for example. And because LoRaWAN is a bidirectional network, it’s possible to remotely update the network’s various devices to easily seal off any vulnerabilities that might be discovered in the future.

 

What are LoRa’s limitations?

LoRa’s main limitation is its theoretical maximum transfer speed of 27 Kbps, which is slower than a late-1990s-era home modem.

This is why the technology is only being considered for sensors that transmit a low amount of information (such as a temperature or CO2 sensor), but not to connect a security system camera, for example.

Why is LoRa the right tech for smart cities?

The strengths and limitations of LoRa make it a particularly appropriate technology for smart cities. The technology facilitates the deployment of a low-cost network (relatively few hubs are needed and there’s no need to plug connected devices into the electrical grid) and minimizes infrastructure maintenance fees as a result, since there’s no need to constantly change the batteries of the thousands of connected devices on the network.

Companies that use LoRa technology, like X-TELIA, also offer platforms that facilitate the analysis of information received from sensors. The X-TELIA IoT HUB enables the information to be visualized, exported as raw data, or decrypted in advance of its analysis on an external cloud-based platform.

 

What are the other uses of LoRa?

Amongst LoRa’s other uses, it can also link connected devices found in smart buildings. Such is the case, for example, with sensors measuring air quality, performing preventive maintenance, providing hygiene solutions (so you can know when to refill an antibacterial gel dispenser, for example), and security (such as sensors to detect the presence of someone in a room, or alarms for isolated workers). Our solutions can also address the needs of companies that rent commercial spaces (such as rooms or other types of spaces).

LoRa can also be used for smart agriculture (tracking soil health, animal health, or levels of materials in silos) and in industry 4.0.


Thanks to a partnership with Québec technology company  X-TELIA, Videotron Business made a strategic decision to offer a wider range of connected object solutions in order to accelerate the digital transformation of cities, municipalities, governmental organizations, and companies throughout Québec.

Since September of 2021, we’ve undertaken a number of projects with different municipalities. Don’t hesitate to contact us about your projects.