LoRa and LoRaWAN: know their differences and advantages

Internet of Things (IoT) projects, solutions, and implementations require more than the physical connected objects and the data they sense and capture. In order for them to function properly, technology is required for communication about their internal state and/or external environment. This is how the wide network protocols (WAN), LoRa and LoRaWAN, play an essential role in this process. Shall we dig a little deeper on this?

What is LoRa technology?

Also known as “long range”, it can be said that it is a wireless communication protocol which works at great distances and consumes only a small amount of energy. Although it has lower bandwidth than other wireless technologies, it is more versatile and less expensive. In addition, some applications of this technology are:

  • Agriculture and irrigation.
  • Smart buildings.
  • Measurement of energy and consumption.
  • Solar power generation.
  • Water and gas monitoring.
  • Air pollution monitoring.
  • Fleet tracking.

On the other hand, it is excellent for applications that transfer small pieces of data with low bit rates. Such data can be transmitted over a greater distance compared to technologies with:

  • Wifi
  • Bluetooth
  • ZigBee

These characteristics make it ideal for sensors and actuators that run in low power mode. Consequently, it has become the wireless technology of the Internet of IoT. Being an LPWAN standard, it may minimize the data rate, provided there are wider communication ranges.

How does it work?

It is based on chirp spread spectrum (CSS) technology and runs on top of the LoRaWAN network protocol. It transmits small encrypted data packets over long distances using frequency chirps with a linear variation in frequency.

Research claims that with this technology, the frequency offset between transmitter and receiver can reach the 20% of the bandwidth without affecting performance of decoding.

Featured Advantages

Among the advantages to highlight:

  • It is long range. Connect devices up to 30 miles away.
  • Requires minimal power with a lifetime of your battery up to 10 years.
  • It is safe because it has a AES128 encryption end to end, mutual authentication and confidentiality.
  • Allows enabling of tracking apps without gpswhich offers unique advantages of low consumption.
  • Maintains communication with devices on the move without overloading power consumption.
  • It has high capacity because supports millions of messages per base station.
  • Minimize investment in infrastructurebattery replacement expense and operating expenses.

LoRa vs. LoRaWAN

From the network approach, LoRa creates only a physical layer method of wireless transport, such as a transceiver chip. This fact makes it lacking proper network protocols for the management of the traffic that collects the data and manages the devices or endpoint. This is where LoRaWan, the long range WAN, comes in.

Differences between both

Both are the two most popular wireless communication technologies in IoT. That’s why it’s hard for some people tell the difference between them. Their common factor is employment in IoT devices, but each has its own capabilities and niche applications.

In the case of the former, it provides a way to use wireless spectrum without a license, but lacks the network capabilities necessary for management. The second is a protocol that is based on LoRa and creates the network layer. Although they are commonly used interchangeably, they are not synonyms.

LoRaWAN is the network on which all LoRa devices operate and is a physical layer (PHY) based radio frequency carrier signal that converts received data into signals. LoRa architecture enables long range communication link.

Together, they provide functionality which determines:

  • Battery life of a node.
  • Network capacity.
  • Quality of service.
  • Security and other applications served by the network.

However, the main benefits are low range connectivity, low consumption and low cost. Another key feature is security for both the devices and the network. Adding to this, coverage, energy efficiency and location. To conclude we can say that although many people consider the LoRaWAN gateway and LoRa technology to be quite similar, this is not the case. Both technologies are quite different from each other in the way they operate. So make sure you consider the requirements in detail and choose wisely!