Thursday, January 26, 2017

Campus radio

Radio silence is over now. It's a while since my previous posting, and for a good reason; Have been busy running IoT projects for customers. Since the beginning of this year, I have hold the position of Technology Director in Etteplan, and now I have some more time continue my social media activities.

During the period of radio silence, we have performed numerous LoRa projects for various customers, mostly dealing with private network deployments. Among other LPWA and cellular technologies, LoRa is exceptional as it enables both public and private network solutions.

Now the game is changing little by little, as cellular network vendors are interested in providing technology for license free bands, enabling campus radio or Factory Area Network type of applications.

Ericsson among others is pushing NB-IOT to globally available 2.4GHz band. The band is very popular and some challenges of co-existence with Wifi and other 2.4GHz radios remains to be solved.

Nokia has recently introduced concept called Innovation Platform, consisting of small cell LTE basestation, cloud hosted cellular backend and cloud application platform. Nokia is seeking for new licence-free band for the technology, and negotiating with national authorities in different countries to get 3.5GHz band available for private campus radio use.

FlexiZone small cell LTE basestation as a part of Nokia Innovation Platform.
Problem with alternative frequency bands is that there are no end-devices - modems - readily available, and it's uncertain what will be the pricing and schedule. It may take long until cellular technologies can compete with LPWA in private network solutions, in terms of cost and power consumption at end device side.

The conclusion is that if you have a business case for private network, better go now with LPWA technologies than wait for years for cellular solutions. If you wait, your competitors may pass you from left an right.

As of Today, LoRa is good candidate for many LPWA solutions like meter reading, as well as for Factory Area Networks when no high data rate is needed. LoRa ecosystem is growing fast and more companies than ever attended the 7th LoRa Alliance meeting in London this week.

Multitech PicoCell LoRaWAN Access Point for commercial and residential indoor deployments.
LoRa specification is evolving, and many good things are coming in the roadmap, geo-locationing being perhaps the most interesting one. Commercial gateway vendors are expected to introduce geo-locationing capability in new gateways within this year. The beauty of LoRa locationing is the fact that it is in-channel technology. No additional technology like GPS is needed, instead locationing is performed as a part of normal communications, thus no additional cost or power consumption is introduced at devices side.

Our latest customer reference with LoRa is IoTkey designed for SKS Automaatio. It's high-end industrial LoRa transmitter for temperature and other measurement needs in process industry. LoRa makes it easy to make retro-fit sensor network installation, as separate site-specific network planning project is not needed, unlike in case of WiFi, Bluetooth, or similar technologies.

Saying that, in the meanwhile I'm putting my effort on gaining access to emerging cellular technologies, in order to enable new applications not possible to implement with current LPWA technologies, like delivering audio signal or high sample rate vibration data.

I'll keep reporting here how we're proceeding with NB-IOT, MulteFire, EC-GSM, LTE evolutions, and other new approaches.


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