LoRa Alliance comes prepared to talk IoT security

LoRa Alliance
The LoRa Alliance's booth at Mobile World Congress Americas last week. The alliance says LoRaWAN security is designed to be future-proof. (FierceWireless)

The LoRa Alliance is accustomed to getting questions about security of its IoT technology—so much so that its delegates come equipped at trade shows with a white paper outlining the security properties embodied in the LoRaWAN specifications.

They get the security questions a lot, in part, because cellular operators often point to their licensed IoT spectrum as being more secure than the unlicensed IoT varieties. LoRa is based on a spread spectrum technology developed by California-based Semtech Corp. and uses unlicensed spectrum.

LoRaWAN devices are deployed in the field for long periods of time—like 10 years—so their security must be future-proof, said Sara Brown, vice president of marketing at long-time LoRa Alliance member Multi-Tech and co-chair of the LoRa Alliance’s Marketing Committee. Multi-Tech makes equipment for IoT, including solutions based on LoRaWAN but also for LTE-based IoT.

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Security is a moving target for everyone, and the alliance ran its spec through cyber security experts and followed their recommendations for best practices. Of course, “you have to keep doing that all the time,” she told FierceWirelessTech on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress Americas 2018 last week.

The LoRa Alliance is about 500 members strong now, and about 300 of those members are what they call early adopters, a group that continues to grow, she said.

“If you’ve been watching it even out of the periphery, we were among the first to adopt this [LoRaWAN]  technology at Multi-Tech, so I always think about our journey with it,” she said. “In 2014, we’re kind of looking at it, playing around with it, qualifying it. 2015 we start building products and showing people what you could do with it. 2016 was all proof of concepts and pilots.”

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Last year, they started to roll real deployments at scale with some very large enterprise customers as the public networks around the world continued to roll out.

“Today, this year, I think the most important accomplishment for us is going to be bringing that adopter level device out there because those are the guys who are taking the technology out there and integrating it into something that’s consumable for an enterprise customer,” she added. “If someone came to me in 2016 and said, ‘I want to monitor how much moisture is in my soil,’ well, I can give you a module, but you’re going to have a lot of work to do to actually monitor the soil moisture."

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Today, "I can point them to any of five or six adopter members who have already done that integration work. You can buy and deploy a working soil moisture sensor, for example, and get that back data back into the cloud right away," she said.

“That’s why we’re so thrilled to see so many of those adopter members coming on board and commercializing these products now,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”