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Is LoRa (long-range) wireless the key to harnessing the Internet of Things?

You don’t need a cellular connection or Wi-Fi connection for every “thing” in the Internet of Things. Expensive hardware and cellular connections aren’t necessary when you can use long-range (LoRa) wireless network technology instead, according to Reuters.

Typical devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) only need to send short, simple messages. Doors in tall office buildings indicating whether they are open or closed, locked or unlocked; hundreds or thousands of sensors in crop fields signaling moisture levels; suitcases in an airport sending location information; and shipping containers on cargo vessels reporting temperature are examples of IoT applications and the types of data transmitted.

Cellular connections for streaming video, games, and conversation require relatively huge bandwidth compared to the simple status reports that will make up the bulk of Internet of Things transmissions. Cellular connections are overkill, as well as overly expensive. Cellular transmission power needs and the required close proximity of cell towers add up fast.

LoRa, which operates in unlicensed radio spectrum, needs low power and can travel much further distances than cell signals. Simpler LoRa device networks that require less power to operate but can transmit over relatively vast distances accordingly cost much less than cellular communication.

Definium Technologies is an Australian firm that makes LoRa devices for farms, mines, and universities. “It turns out you don’t need that huge an infrastructure, and it can be driven by small devices that are very smart and not very expensive,” says Definium CEO Mike Cruse.

Tasmanian farmer Richard Gardner, one of Definium’s customers, pays 1,200 Australian dollars each for cellular system sensors used to measure soil moisture on a 6,178-acre farm. Definium is designing sensors that will cost one tenth as much.

“There’s a lot of technology out there that works now, it’s just very expensive. We’ve got something now that we think has better attributes and is cheaper,” says Gardner, who is also a Definium investor.

LoRa’s lower cost and ability to cover greater territory than cellular Internet of Things systems is why the Netherlands is able to provide IoT coverage for the entire country. Going forward, LoRa’s cost-effectiveness for the jobs at hand will help speed the worldwide adoption of Internet of Things systems.