New LoRa spec simplifies use across multiple networks for worldwide tracking

ship (pixabay)
The new specs will enable new global services such as cargo tracking.

The LoRa Alliance released its latest technical specifications that include features supporting roaming and separation of back-end nodes, which will enable IoT devices to connect to and move between low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) around the world.

Some IoT stakeholders talk about having a worldwide presence and how that's a big advantage in the IoT industry. AT&T, for example, boasts that its global SIMs let businesses connect IoT solutions in more than 200 countries and territories. AT&T's IoT network uses cellular standards-based technology and licensed spectrum. 

LoRa, on the other hand, relies on unlicensed spectrum and is based on a spread spectrum technology developed by California-based Semtech Corp. Alliance members are collaborating to drive the global success of the LoRaWAN protocol. 

The LoRa Alliance said the new specs will enable new global services such as cargo tracking. Such features are critical to its mission to standardize LPWANs globally and drive widespread adoption of the LoRaWAN protocol.

According to the alliance, the enhancements delivered in these new specifications offer important functionality improvements for users in terms of interoperability and network reach. Specifically, support for roaming will allow for large-scale deployments, as vendors will know that their LoRaWAN protocol-based products could potentially operate worldwide.

At the same time, the new back-end specification provides the protocols that interconnect servers with distinct roles—such as controlling the MAC layer, end-point authentication or applications—behind the scenes in the core network. Separating these servers allows an open choice of vendors for each element of the value chain.

The specs were announced at an all-members meeting in Suzhou, China, hosted by ZTE. Besides ZTE’s involvement, the event is being sponsored by ThingPark China, Semtech, STMicroelectronics, Orbiwise, Kiwi Technology, Lierda, Winext Technology, AcSip and Siradel.

RELATED: Senet not worried about increased competition from Comcast

The biggest LoRa player in the U.S. to date, Senet is building a LoRa network in the unlicensed 900 MHz band in locations across the country. Senet is a founding member of the LoRa Alliance.

Comcast formally joined the LoRa Alliance in April and is now on the board. Last summer, the cable giant announced it was expanding its LoRaWAN-based enterprise IoT service, which it calls machineQ, to 12 U.S. markets. Comcast first announced machineQ service in October 2016 with trials in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area, expanding to Chicago in November.  

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).