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As the name implies, Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs) allow for low power consumption over a wide area, aka long range. So how is this accomplished?
Messages sent over LPWAN must be small and simple. Because of their simplicity, these messages can be communicated over the distance without a large power source. For machines, decreasing the amount of data sent (the bandwidth) means lower energy at range.
This is what LPWANs do, they send and receive small packets of information at infrequent intervals. Sensor/devices can send data over miles of range instead of feet and can last for years on battery instead of weeks or months.
However, LPWANs aren’t without downsides. Messages that are transmitted over LPWAN sometimes aren't received by the gateway (called packet loss). This can usually be overcome by sending multiple messages or by adding additional gateways to the network, but these solutions have power and financial costs respectively.
Despite certain disadvantages, LPWANs play an essential role in the Internet of Things.
IoT applications can vary greatly, but many applications need tons of sensors spread over big areas.
There are many ways for these sensors/devices to communicate, each with varying pros and cons. When you have thousands of sensors spread over a big area, you need wireless communication with long range and low power consumption. After all, and as we covered previously, it’s a tremendous operational burden to replace the batteries in thousands of sensors on a frequent basis.
Also, it costs money to send messages and connectivity options like cellular are expensive. Imagine having to pay your phone bill not just for one device, but for thousands. Yikes.
LPWAN technology thus plays a crucial role in enabling the Internet of Things. These networks make it possible to have many thousands of sensors/devices collecting and sending data at lower cost, over longer range, and with better battery life than other connectivity options. Some use cases among many include:
It’s important to note that LPWAN is a general term, and there are many different competing standards and technologies under that umbrella. The competing LPWAN standards and technologies include but are not limited to: LoRa, SIGFOX, Ingenu, Weightless, and SymphonyLink. For the purposes of this ebook we won’t go into detail on these specific technologies, but at Leverege we have hands-on experience with most of them which we’re always happy to share if you’re weighing them for an application.