Merging two wireless protocols will build a better Internet of Things

Combining Wi-Fi signals and LoRaWAN signals could make the IoT world more useful than ever.

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A new paper from the Wireless Broadband Alliance and the Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) Alliance suggests combining Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN networks to increase IoT use cases.

As it currently stands, Wi-Fi networks and LoRaWAN networks are separate and serve different purposes. Wi-Fi signals are short or medium range, but have a higher data rate and require more power, making them ideal for entertainment and business operations needs. 

LoRaWAN, on the other hand, uses much less power but has a much greater range than Wi-Fi. LoRaWAN signals achieve their impressive range by having a super-low data rate, making them ideal for IoT devices. 

SEE: Python is eating the world: How one developer's side project became the hottest programming language on the planet (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)  

Together, the paper argues, those two wireless protocols could expand the Internet of Things and improve aspects of end-user computing. 

Use cases for combined Wi-Fi/LoRaWAN networks

The examples of where combined networks can operate isn't limited to the commercial: Residential users of both Wi-Fi and IoT devices could see benefits as well.

  • Smart buildings and the hospitality industry could combine networks both to track assets and enable additional location services as well as provide lower-bandwidth on-demand streaming for battery-powered devices.

  • Potential residential uses include connecting Wi-Fi piggybacking LoRaWAN IoT devices between residential Wi-Fi networks to create a neighborhood IoT network.

  • Automotive and smart transportation companies could combine Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN to make location and video streaming more reliable on busses, planes, and other mass transit services.

This paper comes two years after Eric Hamilton, CTO of the Australian National Narrowband Network Company (NNNCo), said that cellular connectivity wasn't the answer for extending the range of IoT networks: LoRaWAN was. 

Combining Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN broadcasts may be the partner that LoRaWAN has been waiting for. It keeps signals off cellular networks, and best of all it's built on two unlicensed technologies, meaning they don't broadcast on FCC-controlled frequencies.

"The reality is that no one single technology is going to fit the billions of IoT use cases," said Donna Moore, CEO and Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance.

 "It is collaborative initiatives like this one with Wi-Fi that will drive innovation to solve important issues, leverage an even broader range of applications and, ultimately, ensure the success of global mass IoT deployments in the future." 

Keeping devices off of licensed frequencies is even better: there won't be anyone to stop innovators from finding new ways to use the two combined technologies.

Also see

Internet of Things (IoT): A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
Special report: The rise of Industrial IoT (TechRepublic download)
IoT security: A guide for IT leaders (TechRepublic Premium)
What is the Internet of Things? Everything you need to know about the IoT right now (ZDNet)
These smart plugs are the secret to a seamless smart home (CNET)
Internet of Things and smart cities: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

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