CableLabs unveils open source LoRaWAN solution

irrigation (Pixabay)
Using soil moisture sensors to inform when crops require water is just one of the LoRa use cases.

Recognizing a need for compromise between proprietary and open solutions in the low-power wide-area (LPWA) space, CableLabs developed an open source LoRaWAN solution for its members to better compete in the IoT business.

It’s a bit of a switch for CableLabs, which in the past has often developed solutions specific to the cable industry. However, “we believe open source provides consumers a great benefit as it will spur growth in an industry intended to enrich our lives,” Daryl Malas, principal architect in CableLabs Advanced Technology Group, wrote in his blog.

As Malas pointed out, LPWA networks are designed to cover large geographical areas and minimize the amount of power required for sensors to interact with the network. Many solutions are available, including those from Ingenu, Sigfox, LoRaWAN, 3GPP and Weightless.

CableLabs executives earlier this year confirmed to FierceWirelessTech that it was testing LoRa network technology. At that time, they wanted to better understand the potential use cases.

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In his blog, Malas pointed to use cases such as driving by a city park during a rain storm and noticing the sprinkler system running. “What if we had soil moisture sensors that could communicate with a sprinkler controller to inform it when it requires water? This could save countless gallons of water, which is extremely valuable, especially in drought-stricken regions,” he said.

Like most IoT network technologies, LoRa uses low-power devices coupled with inexpensive base stations to offer slow-speed wireless connectivity for IoT solutions ranging from connected parking meters to vehicle-tracking offerings.

Malas noted LoRa is a semi-proprietary solution owned and licensed by Semtech. The LoRa Alliance, a closed consortium, develops the LoRaWAN specification around the Semtech solution architecture.

Last month, Comcast announced the expansion of its LoRaWAN-based enterprise IoT service, which it calls machineQ, to 12 U.S. markets. The company cited interest in the technology coming from a range of industries, including healthcare (patient monitoring, laboratory sciences tracking), public utilities (remote utility metering), automotive (asset tracking, telemetry) and smart cities (outdoor lighting, waste management, utility grid monitoring.)

RELATED: Comcast expands LoRaWAN-based IoT network to 12 cities

Backers of LoRa have said they are optimistic that LoRa would grow its presence in the United States this year, as it has in Europe and Asia.

In the United States, Senet is building a LoRa network in the unlicensed 900 MHz band in locations across the country. Senet got its start in tank monitoring for heating fuel and about three years ago decided to take its expertise to a wider scale with LoRa. Senet has coverage in 14 metro areas and a heavy concentration in California’s agriculture-centric Central Valley.