802.11ah – WiFi HaLow for wireless networking solutions

February 1, 2016

In order to continue maintaining wireless standards to meet contemporary and future needs – the Wi-Fi Alliance has announced Wi-Fi HaLow, the Alliance’s branding for their work developing and promoting wireless networking solutions based on the IEEE 802.11ah standard.

The IEEE 802.11ah standard is a new extension of the very popular and widespread IEEE 802.11-2007 wireless networking standard, providing a new physical layer and MAC layer specification for Wi-Fi networks that can operate in the sub-gigahertz bands at around 900 MHz.

Because of the different propagation characteristics of radio waves at this frequency, this change significantly extends the range of existing Wi-Fi networks that currently operate in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands, and allows the radio to propagate through walls and obstructions much more effectively. This allows homes and buildings to be comprehensively covered with reliable Wi-Fi connectivity without using a large number of access points, with a probable need for only one access point per building for seamless, reliable coverage even in large buildings.

Having reliable wireless networking connectivity across a whole home or building with minimal infrastructure is particularly attractive for Internet-of-Things, home automation or building management applications, and these IoT applications are the main application area that 802.11ah networks are aimed at enabling. Wi-Fi HaLow opens up new use-cases for Wi-Fi, such as home automation, smart energy networks, wearables, consumer electronics, low-power sensors, and what the Wi-Fi Alliance refers to as the “Internet of Everything”.

IEEE 802.11ah has rebuilt and optimised the physical layer and the MAC layer from the ground up, although the higher network layers remain more consistent with existing versions of the 802.11 standards.

These changes provide extended range, strong improvements in power efficiency, more scalable operation, and an enhanced link budget compared to 2.4 GHz systems. At the same time, however, 802.11ah aims to leverage the established Wi-Fi and IP networking ecosystem where possible, for easy configuration, easy pairing to access points or mobile devices, and connectivity into existing networks and the Internet.

802.11ah supports 4, 8 or 16 MHz of bandwidth, allowing higher data rates depending on the allocated spectrum that is available in different regions, with the low-bandwidth 1 MHz and 2 MHz modes being mandatory and globally interoperable for all devices where this lower bandwidth is realistic. For example, 26 MHz is available in the 900 MHz band in the United States, making these higher-bandwidth modes accessible.

The standard aims to offer a minimum of 150 kbps of throughput with 1 MHz of bandwidth used, or as much as 40 Mbps with 8 MHz of bandwidth. This is obviously less than what we expect from traditional Wi-Fi networks, but the favourable combination of moderate bandwidth, moderately low power consumption and long-range propagation make 802.11ah an attractive competitor with other technologies such as IEEE 802.15.4/6LoWPAN in building automation and IoT applications.

These lower-bandwidth nodes are well suited to low-cost battery operated sensor devices in IoT applications, where a relatively low data rate is required. No power amplifier is required for “home scale” transmission distances, and the minimum data rate of 150 kbps means that IoT sensors transmitting short, lightweight messages can remain in a sleep state most of the time – and wake up for a short period to transmit a burst of sensor data, lowering average power consumption and offering maximum battery life.

Average power consumption in this type of application is also reduced by using more efficient protocols at the MAC layer, such as smaller frame formats, sensor traffic priority, and beaconless paging mode. The MAC is also optimised to scale to thousands of nodes by using efficient paging and scheduled transmissions.

As with existing 802.11 Wi-Fi devices, the work of the IEEE and the Wi-Fi alliance ensures that 802.11ah devices will be interoperable across all the different hardware vendors, with a strong open standardisation process that brings in participation from many industry representatives and stakeholders.

With its focus on embedded and IoT applications such as home automation, 802.11ah is not intended as a general-purpose high-speed wireless networking solution for the home or office. It is likely to deliver significantly reduced speeds compared to familiar 802.11 networks, with speeds in the low tens of megabits per second. This is perfectly sufficient for the typical kinds of intended applications with an IoT focus, however.

The 802.11ah standard is intended to be an attractive competitor to Bluetooth in IoT and consumer electronics applications, offering longer communications range than either Bluetooth or existing Wi-Fi, but with a significantly reduced power consumption compared to familiar 802.11 Wi-Fi solutions on the market at present.

As this technology becomes more available in the market, it’s likely that it will begin to supplant Bluetooth in certain consumer electronics applications, as well as supplanting other wireless standards such as existing Wi-Fi and 802.15.4 networks in the Internet-of-Things domain where relatively long-range communication with a large number of low-bandwidth devices is required.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Zigbee version 3.0 – moving towards a unified specification

January 27, 2016

The latest version of the popular ZigBee wireless mesh networking standard, ZigBee 3.0, is an attempt to combine the various different components and device profiles within the ZigBee standard into a single, unified specification.

This new ZigBee 3.0 standard aims to provide seamless interoperability across the greatest possible selection of smart Internet-of-Things devices employing ZigBee wireless connectivity – giving consumers and business users access to ZigBee-enabled products and services that will work together seamlessly to meet their needs.

It delivers all the familiar capabilities you expect from ZigBee, while unifying most of the different ZigBee application profiles which are presently in use, such as ZigBee Home Automation and ZigBee Light Link, into a single platform.

ZigBee 3.0 defines more than 130 different specific devices and a wide range of device types, including home automation, lighting, energy management, smart appliances, security, sensors, and healthcare monitoring devices. All the device types, profiles, commands and functionality that are currently defined in the ZigBee PRO standard (which ZigBee 3.0 is based on) are available in ZigBee 3.0.

The initial release of ZigBee 3.0 unifies together the ZigBee Home Automation, ZigBee Light Link, ZigBee Building Automation, ZigBee Retail Services, ZigBee Health Care and ZigBee Telecommunications Services application profiles into the single ZigBee 3.0 specification.

All the application-level functionality of the ZigBee Smart Energy profile is already included in ZigBee 3.0. However, ZigBee Smart Energy includes advanced security features such as elliptic curve cryptography, specifically implemented for use by electricity utilities to enable high levels of security in smart grid applications.

For this reason, the ZigBee Smart Energy application profile is not unified into ZigBee 3.0 at this time. However, the ZigBee Alliance is working to integrate this level of security as an optional feature of ZigBee 3.0, across all application types, and this will allow merging the Smart Energy profile into the ZigBee 3.0 standard.

ZigBee 3.0 builds on the existing ZigBee standard but unifies the market-specific ZigBee application profiles to allow all devices to be wirelessly connected to the same network, irrespective of their market designation and function. The unification of these profiles means that a wide variety of smart devices that previously have used any one of those profiles can now interoperate seamlessly with any other ZigBee device – with the potential to lead to new, innovative IoT applications and solutions.

Home automation and Internet-of-Things products presently on the market have typically targeted a single application area, such as smart lighting using the ZigBee Light Link profile, for example. But as the number of smart, connected IoT devices grows, a typical home or office may obtain more connected devices, and different types of connected devices. But using current ZigBee application profiles, different types of devices cannot always communicate with each other.

A ZigBee Light Link device cannot directly communicate with a ZigBee Home Automation device, and as the number of devices being deployed grows – this just doesn’t make sense in terms of building useful IoT experiences that make sense for consumers.

In the past, there have been separate components to the ZigBee standard because the ZigBee Alliance has focused on optimising their standards for individual markets based on limitations of hardware, such as processor speed and memory size, and the particular requirements of individual markets. Improvements in hardware, like high-performance, low-cost systems-on-chip, combined with the increasing desire to connect a wider variety of devices across market sectors, led the ZigBee Alliance to create the ZigBee 3.0 specification.

The ZigBee Certified program is another crucial part of the ZigBee Alliance’s standards development process. The program allows manufacturers to deliver a variety of products to all kinds of customers with applications that can benefit from ZigBee connectivity, and customers can have confidence in products that “just work”.

The ZigBee Certified process ensures that products built using ZigBee 3.0 function as expected and products from different manufacturers are all able to interoperate with each other. For example, existing ZigBee Certified products based on the ZigBee Home Automation 1.2 or ZigBee Light Link 1.0 profiles are already certified as being interoperable with ZigBee 3.0.

If you’re currently developing a product based on ZigBee Home Automation or ZigBee Light Link, your product will be forward compatible with ZigBee 3.0, so there’s no need to delay your product development while the ZigBee 3.0 specification matures. Your product can still be ZigBee Certified using the older specifications, and this means you’re fully ZigBee 3.0 ready.

Devices that use ZigBee application profiles other than these may need to have a firmware update for compatibility with ZigBee 3.0. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard that defines the physical layer and MAC layer of the network stack remains unchanged in ZigBee 3.0, since ZigBee only defines the higher layers of the network. This means that the radio hardware in your device does not need to be changed or upgraded to move up to ZigBee 3.0 compatibility.

Vendors that have existing products on the market that employ ZigBee profiles such as ZigBee Home Automation are able to continue to release products using these separate application profiles, but the ZigBee Alliance believes most manufacturers will choose to move towards ZigBee 3.0 and the interoperability benefits that it offers.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Atmel’s new low-power ATBTLC1000 chipset for the Internet of Things

January 13, 2016

Atmel has recently launched a new wearable computing development platform aimed at energy-efficient IoT and wearable computing applications, just in time for the influential 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

This ultra-low-power platform, based on the ATBTLC1000 system-on-chip, is a design-ready development board that showcases some of Atmel’s power-efficient, smart and secure devices for embedded wireless connectivity applications, as well as inertial and environmental sensors from Atmel’s technology partners.

The ATBTLC1000 SoC offers a complete hardware and software solution – making it easy to get started with the development of portable, battery-powered devices with Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth Low Energy 4.1) connectivity – serving application areas such as wireless data logging, wearable computing, and other popular and rapidly growing IoT markets.

Atmel’s new hardware platform is one of the smallest, most power-efficient Bluetooth Smart hardware reference platforms on the market aimed at IoT and wearable applications – and it’s very easy to get started using it for evaluation and hardware or software development, with everything you need to get started provided ready-to-go.

Atmel believes this development platform provides a hardware and software ecosystem that is easy to use out-of-the-box, helping developers accelerate their product development in emerging areas such as wearable computing, personal healthcare and fitness logging devices, Bluetooth Smart IoT applications and other markets.

All of which could benefit from the powerful combination of wireless Bluetooth Smart connectivity, a powerful ARM Cortex-M0+ microcontroller, on-board temperature, humidity and pressure sensors, a six-axis inertial measurement unit, and very efficient use of battery power.

Atmel’s Wearables Demo platform integrates the Atmel Smart SAM L21 ultra-low-power microcontroller, which uses an ARM Cortex-M0+ core, alongside Atmel’s ATBTLC1000 system-on-chip which gives the system wireless connectivity using Bluetooth Smart.

The platform also includes a capacitive touch sensor interface, hardware cryptographic and security capabilities, and a set of sensors from Atmel’s partner Bosch Sensortec. The sensors provided on the board include a BHI160 6-axis inertial measurement unit, measuring acceleration and rotation in three dimensions, and a BME280 environmental sensor which provides temperature, humidity and barometric pressure measurements.

All these hardware features are integrated into a very small reference board with dimensions of only 40 by 30 millimetres, making this reference design particularly attractive for developers working on size-critical applications such as portable and wearable devices.

Of course it’s still a valuable development platform for all kinds of IoT applications requiring Bluetooth Smart connectivity or as an evaluation platform for the ATBTLC1000 or any of the other devices featured on the board, even if the application you’re working on is not size-critical.

Atmel’s new ATBTLC1000 Bluetooth Smart chipset is available packaged in a tiny 2.2 x 2.1mm Wafer-Level Chip Scale Package, making it 25 percent smaller than the closest competing Bluetooth Smart device on the market. This enables designers to create ultra-compact designs for the next generation of Bluetooth-connected wearable devices, Internet-of-Things products and industrial applications.

Furthermore, power management is a highlight of the new platform – the Atmel Smart SAM L21 microcontroller at the heart of Atmel’s Wearable Demo platform is claimed to be the lowest-power ARM Cortex-M0+ microcontroller on the market, and this is combined with the industry-leading energy efficiency of the ATBTLC1000 Bluetooth Smart system-on-chip.

This makes it a perfect foundation for battery-powered IoT and wearable computing applications where strong energy efficiency and battery runtime is important but the performance of a 32-bit ARM microcontroller is also desired.

The SAM L21 has a current consumption as low as 35 microamps per MHz in active mode, and right down to 200 nanoamps in sleep mode. In fact, the power consumption of this microcontroller is so low that it can often be powered from a single lithium coin cell in some applications.

This device delivers an impressive score of 185 in the EEMBC ULPBench suite, which is an industry-standard benchmark of energy efficiency in low-power embedded devices, and this is the best score recorded for any ARM Cortex-M0+ device currently on the market.

This powerful, compact hardware platform is also backed up by a software ecosystem provided by Atmel, making it a complete development platform that allows you to very easily get started experimenting with and developing energy-efficient IoT and wearable computing applications that combine Bluetooth Smart connectivity with a powerful microcontroller, long battery life, and a range of sensors, all in a very small form factor.

To help you get started easily, the software development process is simplified through the use of Atmel Studio 7, Atmel’s flagship IDE for their microcontroller products. This platform is also compatible with Atmel START, Atmel’s intuitive new web-based development tool for software configuration and code generation, and Atmel also has a real-time operating system available for use with the ARM chipset.

We’re excited about the possibilities with this new chipset from Atmel – and with the Internet of Things and how it can be used to create new and innovative solutions to our customers’ requirements.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Wind River Rocket – an embedded OS for small devices

January 6, 2016

Wind River’s Rocket is a free real-time operating system for 32-bit microcontrollers, specifically designed to help you build intelligent embedded devices quickly and easily.

Rocket is a fast, reliable, secure platform designed to help accelerate your development and deployment of Internet-of-Things applications. It’s easy to use, helping to make it possible for users and developers to take advantage of the opportunities of the IoT even if they are new to the complexities of developing smart, connected, embedded IoT systems.

With a robust set of capabilities, the Rocket platform gives IoT developers a best-in-class, scalable, real-time operating system for 32-bit microcontrollers. It’s ideal for building embedded edge-node devices in Internet-of-Things applications, or sensors, wearable technology, industrial controllers and other resource-constrained yet powerful, connected IoT devices.

The technology behind Rocket is commercially proven, based on Wind River’s industry-leading experience with its other real-time operating systems such as VxWorks, and it is optimised for strong efficiency in resource-constrained systems. Rocket is tuned for deployment on small, memory-constrained and power-constrained devices with as little as 4kB of storage.

The Rocket OS kernel provides an extensive suite of services, including advanced power management and interrupt handling, dynamic memory management, and advanced multithreading with inter-thread data communications and synchronisation.

Rocket makes your development of embedded IoT applications and devices easier, simplifying or eliminating many of the common challenges associated with developing embedded device firmware from scratch.

Various hardware types are supported, such as ARM architecture as well as the Intel architecture used by platforms such as Intel’s Quark system-on-chip family. Many popular 32-bit microcontrollers and development platforms are supported by Rocket, including the Intel Quark X1000 system-on-chip and Intel’s Galileo Gen2 development board based on this SoC.

The Freescale Freedom K64F, a low-cost development platform for Freescale Kinetis K64, K63 and K24 microcontrollers is also supported, and Wind River continues to expand support for different hardware platforms.

However you can also get started without any hardware at all – since Wind River provides a free hardware simulator integrated into the App Cloud IDE. This emulation platform is based on QEMU, a generic open-source machine emulator and virtualiser, which can use your PC to run operating systems and applications designed for a different architecture such as an ARM microcontroller.

This hardware simulation capability means you can prototype systems without the need to purchase any hardware, and you can focus your attention on building applications without availability of hardware becoming a bottleneck.

This helps free development teams from the limitations that can traditionally be dictated by hardware-related project dependencies, making it easier to work with Agile development practices in the overlapping hardware-software development industry.

Wind River provides online community support for the Rocket ecosystem in the form of the Rocket Developer Zone and Developer Forum, where you can learn from other experts how to use Rocket and App Cloud to rapidly build embedded and IoT solutions.

You can access documentation for the Rocket platform online to help you develop your application, and use the forum to ask questions, answer questions, or share your experiences of development using Rocket and App Cloud.

Integrated with Wind River’s Helix App Cloud, Rocket enables developers to easily compile and deploy their code, securely building and delivering applications to local devices or to connected devices already deployed in the field.

App Cloud is a cloud-based software development environment which makes it easy and convenient to get started developing applications on the Rocket OS. You can get started developing your Rocket IoT applications in minutes, simply by creating a free App Cloud account and connecting your target hardware, or trying the hardware simulation provided in App Cloud.

The free App Cloud development environment is a new kind of software development platform, an IDE based in the cloud, that removes many of the traditional complexities of building applications for embedded systems. App Cloud makes it easy to start writing and debugging your Rocket IoT applications in minutes from any Web browser, with access to remote device hardware targets and support for C, C++ and Node.js development as well as runtime debugging.

Furthermore, App Cloud greatly simplifies the process of developing software for embedded devices, allowing you to dynamically build and manage SDKs on a variety of hardware platforms, all from a single, secure, cloud-based environment, and it helps makes the development of software for embedded and IoT applications more accessible, without any deep understanding of the underlying OS or hardware required.

You don’t have to muck around compiling or installing toolchains and software to support development and code deployment on your embedded hardware, since the cloud takes care of this for you.

Getting started using App Cloud is easy. You simply sign up for free, and you’re able to create a new project, set up your device SDK and download the device image. Then you can write or import code, build, run and debug that code to get started creating your application, all within the cloud. The free version of App Cloud has no time limitations, and it offers up to 250 Mb of storage for your application projects in the cloud, with only predefined SDKs supported.

There is also a paid, premium version of App Cloud available for enterprise users, with greater storage and the ability to add and customise SDKs as needed. This also offers enterprise-level support for Rocket and App Cloud, leveraging Wind River’s deep expertise in embedded devices and operating systems to support commercial customers and their IoT product development.

Wind River’s Rocket is one of many IoT solutions and is worth consideration. However it is only one of many on the market, all of which creates an almost infinite combination of possibilities – and we can help your organisation find the best possible outcome for your situation.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


LoRaWAN – the first public and open LPWAN standard

December 19, 2015

Continuing on from our previous article explaining the LoRa Alliance, we’re now excited about the final LoRaWAN revision 1.0 specification that has recently been formally released to the public by the LoRa Alliance – and is available to download freely from their website. This release makes LoRaWAN the most comprehensive and the most widely adopted Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification presently available for open use.

The LoRaWAN specification is the first public and open carrier-grade LPWAN protocol standard, aimed at wide-area networks of sensors, base stations and servers, or any wide-area Internet-of-Things or M2M networking applications.

This specification has been created by the LoRa Alliance, an open, non-profit consortium led by IBM, Actility, Microchip and Semtech, who believe that the Internet-of-Things era is already well and truly established, who have a mission to standardise LPWAN deployments around the world that enable wide-area connectivity for IoT and machine-to-machine, smart city and industrial telemetry applications.

As a part of IBM’s support of the LoRa Alliance, IBM has released their “LoRaWAN in C” reference implementation of the specification as open source under the Eclipse Public License.

The LoRa Alliance and its members, which include many industry leaders in the mobile network and IoT sectors, see the release of this standard as a significant step towards international standardisation and interoperability in the LPWAN space.

This will stimulate the deployment of network infrastructure and certified sensor hardware products from many manufacturers and vendors around the world – all using a unified and interoperable standard. According to the Alliance, they are delighted to have achieved this milestone of opening the LoRaWAN specification to the general public.

The members of the LoRa Alliance have collaborated, sharing their knowledge and experience, to build and rigorously test the LoRaWAN R1.0 release specification to ensure its best possible readiness for large-scale deployments across the entire spectrum of different LPWAN use cases.

The LoRa Alliance hopes that this careful implementation of the LoRaWAN open standard will drive the global success of LPWAN technology, particularly in Internet-of-Things and M2M ecosystems, and it will help to guarantee interoperability around one open, carrier-grade, global specification.

The Alliance is a strong believer in open standards, rather than proprietary, closed specifications, which enable cooperation between the key stakeholders in the LPWAN and Internet-of-Things sectors, including mobile network operators, sensor and connected device manufacturers, and end users as well. They believe that open ecosystems are critical to encourage the widespread adoption of low-cost, long-range machine-to-machine connectivity.

Having industry leaders, vendors, service providers and users involved in the development and improvement of the standard has ensured that all of their shared knowledge and experiences are included and addressed most effectively by the specification.

The aim is ultimately that LoRaWAN will be the best placed standard to benefit the LoRa community, and the LPWAN IoT industry more generally.

LoRaWAN is an ideal framework for LPWAN applications that require very strong energy efficiency, providing telecom-grade connectivity and managed, secure, bidirectional communications as well as location-enabled services, all with hardware that can run from a single coin cell battery.

Furthermore, LoRaWAN is optimised for strong energy efficiency and support for large networks of up to millions of devices in regional, national or even international wide-area networks. It is specifically aimed at supporting low-cost, secure, bidirectional wireless communications with portable devices across wide areas while keeping both the battery costs and base station infrastructure costs to a minimum.

With the wide-area capabilities of the LoRaWAN specification, entire cities or countries can be connected using a relatively small number of base stations, meaning that the up-front rollout of thousands of base station nodes is not needed as would be required with traditional mesh networks. This makes wide-area IoT solutions much more accessible, with reduced infrastructure costs.

LoRaWAN technology can be used alongside the more common cellular M2M technology in a complementary way – although cellular networks require shorter distances to each base station and have higher power requirements, they can also offer more bandwidth for those applications and devices in the network where this bandwidth is required.

The LoRa Alliance Certified Product program ensures that any LoRa-branded devices on the market are compliant with the standard, are interoperable, and meet regulatory requirements such as the radio frequencies being used, giving end users without technical expertise confidence in the products that they buy.

The LoRAWAN specification aims to make it easy to develop LPWAN services and applications, and to address the challenges of deploying and operating a LPWA network across a large geographic area – even as large as a whole country.

Its features are specifically aimed at supporting low-cost, secure, mobile and bidirectional communication for wireless IoT applications, with strong energy efficiency and a minimal need for base station deployments.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Introduction to the LoRa Alliance

November 29, 2015

The LoRa Alliance is an open, non-profit, international alliance of companies and industry stakeholders that share the mission of trying to standardise the deployment of the Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) – that are increasingly being deployed around the world to enable Internet-of-Things technology and machine-to-machine communications, “smart cities”, and industrial applications.

Members of the LoRa alliance collaborate with the aim of driving the global success of their LoRaWAN protocol, by sharing knowledge and experience with a view towards interoperability between operators, using a single open global standard for LPWAN connectivity. The Alliance – which is led by IBM, Actility, Semtech and Microchip, formally released the open LoRaWAN R1.0 standard to the public earlier this year.

LoRaWAN is an LPWAN specification intended for wireless, battery-operated IoT “things” with wide-area network connectivity. Its features are specifically aimed at supporting low-cost, secure, mobile and bidirectional communication for wireless IoT applications, with strong energy efficiency and a minimal need for base station deployments.

A LoRa network is already being rolled out by Bouygues Telecom in France, in partnership with Sagemcom, with aims to cover most of the country by the first half of 2016. Some testing and evaluation is already underway with this country-scale LoRaWAN network, and tests are also being conducted locally in Sydney’s North Shore area by the NNN (National Narrowband Network) Company.

LoRaWAN is optimised for strong energy efficiency and support for large networks of up to millions of devices. At the physical layer, the RF hardware is optimised for high efficiency, with data links being maintained over long distances with very low power consumption.

As with some other LPWAN systems such as Taggle, the class-licensed sub-gigahertz ISM bands are used to provide this long-range connectivity – different frequencies depending on which country the technology is deployed in.

This long range and energy efficiency comes at the cost of data rate, though – this technology was never intended for high-bandwidth applications, but it is a perfect fit for lightweight applications such as telemetry from environmental sensors deployed in remote field applications.

LoRaWAN network architecture is typically laid out in a “star-of-stars” topology with multiple endpoints and multiple gateways. In this arrangement each gateway serves as a transparent bridge that relays messages between endpoint devices and a central back-end server. Gateways are connected to the back-end server via familiar IP networks while endpoint “things” use a single-hop lightweight wireless link back to one or more gateway devices.

Wireless communication between the endpoint devices and the gateways is performed in a spread-spectrum manner, employing different frequency channels and data rates. The selection of the data rate is a trade-off between the required transmission range and the acceptable time for the transmission of a message of given size, with typical LoRaWAN data rates ranging from 0.3 kbps to 50 kbps.

This may seem small, but it is sufficient for a lightweight, embedded sensor application that transmits small packets of sensor readings occasionally to the back-end server.

Because of the spread-spectrum approach, communications with different data rates do not interfere with each other, but instead what you have, basically, is a set of “virtual” channels for each transmission at a different data rate. In this manner, the capacity of each gateway is increased, and more endpoint devices are able to be supported by each gateway. This means that the infrastructure cost of rolling out a large-scale LoRaWAN network is reduced.

To maximise both battery life of the endpoint devices and the overall capacity of the network, the LoRaWAN network server is responsible for an adaptive data rate (ADR) scheme that dynamically manages the data rate and the RF power output for each individual endpoint node in the network.

The LoRaWAN standard defines three classes of endpoint nodes – one that allows a small downlink window after each upload, which means that devices don’t have to communicate a scheduled downlink window in cases where the amount of downlink data needed is minimal; or one that allows a scheduled downlink slot at a defined time; or one that listens for downlink messages at any time.

The latter is more flexible, but because it requires the radio receiver to be kept online listening for new downlink messages all the time, this is the most power-inefficient mode compared to the former scenarios where the radio can be powered down. This is another way that the LoRaWAN protocol helps to maintain strong power efficiency in the endpoint devices.

The LoRa Alliance Certified Product program ensures that any LoRa-branded devices on the market are compliant with the standard, are interoperable, and meet regulatory requirements such as the radio frequencies being used. Only LoRa Alliance authorised test houses may perform testing for this program, and the relevant national conformity test reports are supplied by product designers, together with the LoRa Alliance conformity report, to the Alliance’s certification body before the “LoRa Certified Product” status is allowed.

This strict process gives consumers confidence in the LoRa Alliance and in consumer-facing products that carry their brand, meaning that consumers without a technical background can be confident that their products are interoperable, compliant with relevant radio regulations, and can be used in a predictable way alongside other devices and software tools that are built on top of the same open standards.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


Taggle – Revolutionising low-power M2M devices

November 26, 2015

This year the M2M (Machine to Machine) market has exploded with the introduction for various low-power systems, and this includes Taggle Systems’ “Taggle” technology – a low-power, wide-area (LWPA) radio network technology which offers low-cost, power-efficient machine-to-machine communications for embedded systems across a very long range, for many kinds of sensors and applications in different sectors such as utility management and agriculture.

The team behind Taggle identified a gap in the M2M connectivity market which was not being addressed by existing, popular wireless connectivity technologies such as 802.15.4 and WiFi, which is low-power, wide-area networking with small amounts of data, with low bandwidth at a low cost, with minimal deployment of expensive infrastructure.

In many situations it is advantageous to send small amounts of data from field sensors over long distances, and Taggle’s energy-efficient, long-range wireless connectivity operating in the 900 MHz ISM spectrum helps to achieve this.

Today, Taggle is deploying its network of transmitters and receivers all over the country, becoming Australia’s first dedicated M2M network. Using their new technology, Taggle is deploying Australia’s only dedicated machine-to-machine telemetry network, enabling the cost-effective collection of data from thousands of Taggle-enabled devices in networks up to the scale of entire cities.

The Taggle network is made up of both transmitters and base station receivers. Taggle transmitters are commonly integrated into sensor or control devices in the field. For example, Taggle’s Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems can be retrofitted to common water meters to read water consumption and broadcast the data back at one-hour intervals, for use by the water utility, local government and the individual consumer.

These AMR assemblies for water meters are a typical example of a device built around a Taggle transmitter. The transmitter offers low cost and strong energy efficiency, with the ability to transmit a small data packet once per hour for over ten years without replacement of its internal lithium battery.

Each transmitter module is equipped with four general-purpose I/O ports, making it possible to adapt to different kinds of sensors and applications. These sensor network “tags” are very compact and lightweight, and are able to tolerate the environmental conditions found outdoors in most field installations.

Each base station receiver is able to concurrently process hourly data from thousands of Taggle devices. The high receiver sensitivity of -130dBm means that each base station can receive data from tags up to several kilometres away, depending on local conditions.

This strong link budget helps to reduce the number of base stations needed for Taggle connectivity across a wide geographic area, keeping the total system cost to a minimum.

With an initial focus on utility-scale Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) networks for water distribution, Taggle technology is already being used by a number of local councils and water utilities across Australia to gather water use data – which is not only useful for billing but also for leak detection, demand management, network optimisation and planning for future growth. It provides very fine-grained water use data on an hourly basis, as well as removing the need to manually take meter readings.

Taggle’s network offers two major areas of use. The first is data acquisition, where small amounts of data can be collected from a very large number of sensors across a wide geographical area. The second valuable use-case is the location of objects within the area covered by the Taggle network.

Data can be collected from all sorts of sensors and devices and transmitted back to the Taggle network. Taggle’s wireless data acquisition hardware can collect data from electricity, gas and flow meters, rain gauges, and a range of other sensors such as pressure monitoring, sewer overflow, temperature, humidity or soil moisture sensors.

Once data has been collected it is processed by Taggle to produce data feeds for end users. These data feeds, which can be formatted to help meet individual users’ requirements, can be sent by email, secure FTP or web services to be integrated with the users’ chosen database or software interface.

Taggle’s radio network is also very cost effective for the sub-metering of utilities in large buildings such as high-rise apartments. Taggle technology allows a water meter, for example, to be installed for each individual user at low cost, allowing for individual billing. With all the data transmitted wirelessly back to the receiver, there is no need for labour-intensive meter reading.

In areas covered by three or more Taggle receivers, the locations of items fitted with Taggle transmitters can also be triangulated to within a few meters. With each Taggle receiver able to handle communications with thousands of tags concurrently, over distances of kilometres – this application of Taggle’s sensor network technology is very attractive in areas such as monitoring the movement of livestock, high-value goods in warehouses and more.

Here at the LX Group we have end-to-end experience and demonstrated results in the entire process of IoT product development, and we’re ready to help bring your existing or new product ideas to life. Getting started is easy – click here to contact us, telephone 1800 810 124, or just keep in the loop by connecting here.

LX is an award-winning electronics design company based in Sydney, Australia. LX services include full turnkey design, electronics, hardware, software and firmware design. LX specialises in IoT embedded systems and wireless technologies design.

Published by LX Pty Ltd for itself and the LX Group of companies, including LX Design House, LX Solutions and LX Consulting, LX Innovations.


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