Today, we have 2 unique technologies positioned to take center stage in the IoT revolution. These technologies are powerful wireless communication technologies that each have a place of their own.
On the one hand, we have Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a 20 year old technology that has dramatically changed the way devices communicate with each other all around the world. It has become a standard of operating in personal area networks and a ubiquitous technology around the world. In this year alone, there will be 4 billion (with a b) devices shipped using Bluetooth. That is a huge number! The Bluetooth standard has become known for its lightweight protocol, seamless connectivity, and inexpensive module cost.
On the other hand, we have LPWAN technologies. These technologies are relatively new to the IoT landscape. LPWAN means Low Power Wide Area Network. LPWAN is a new category of wireless communication technologies intentionally built to support the billions of IoT devices that exist and will exist in the world. LPWAN technologies are unique compared to traditional wifi or cellular technology as they are low power, long range, and low bit rate. They operate in a world of their own. Today, there are a few main players in the global market: NB-IoT, CAT-M, LoRaWAN, and Sigfox. Although these players are relatively new (within past 5 years), they have had tremendous global adoption and have been deployed in a wide range of use cases.
For example, the LoRa Alliance recently announced that they have deployed national networks in 100 countries. This type of scale and global adoption provides a massive opportunity for developers to take advantage of. Recent applications of LPWAN have included smart water metering, smart farming/agriculture, and asset tracking. In these applications, they often consist of a few sensors and an LPWAN network (NB-IoT, CAT-M, LoRa, Sigfox, etc.) to send data back using the long range connectivity.
Knowing that both Bluetooth and LPWAN exist and have made a splash in the IoT world, why not compromise and build using these complementary technologies? It makes sense, doesn’t it? You have Bluetooth which is exceptional for short-range, low-power applications and LPWAN, such as LoRa, which is built for long-range, low-power applications. This combination of technologies gives you a plethora of benefits:
- Easy deployment with minimal infrastructure
- Low module cost
- Long range (10+ miles) data transfer and communication
- Bi-directional messages
- Low power providing battery lifetime up to several years
- Secure with built in end-to-end encryption
Let’s explore this a little further using an agriculture example.
In agriculture, your biggest challenges include lack of connectivity, extreme cost sensitivity, and the need to operate for years without charging. How can you provide a complete and reliable solution managing each one of these?
Until now, your best bet was to hope that the farm in which you were deploying to had cellular connectivity. If it had no cellular connectivity, maybe they would have wifi to cover a few of the barns. Yet, there you would still be missing out on the potential data collection in the vast grazing pastures for animals, the soil and environment for crops, and the components of the farming equipment. All of this data would be crucial to optimizing the farm.
But with LPWAN and Bluetooth, all of this is possible. It is not only possible, but it is affordable on day 1 and easy to deploy and maintain.
Agriculture is just one example out of many other applications. This example demonstrates a true need in the market for a solution of complementary technologies. It is a no brainer to start working with Bluetooth and LPWAN technologies and to start to play around with new use cases. You can easily set up your own network or work with a national provider.
Combining LPWAN and Bluetooth is a match made in IoT heaven. It is exciting to think about and see some of these applications being played out today, but it will be even more exciting to see how everything will continue to evolve in the next 10 years with 25 billion IoT devices.