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LoRa Protocol: What You Need to Know

LoRa Protocol: What You Need to Know

The acronym LoRa stands for: “Long-Range Radio”. Referring to the ISO communication stack standard LoRa contains only the link layer protocol.  

LoRaWan includes the other network layer and standardize node to send the information to any Base Station already connected to a Cloud platform. This network is part of a very specific category of LPWAN ("Low Power Wide Area Network"). 

It is a well-known standard that gets over an incredible distance. LoRa technology is simple to implement and requires only a small footprint microcontroller. The wall penetration is amongst the best, making it the most popular network for many sensors available. 

LoRa technology deployment is appreciated for: 

  • 1 km to 10 km range (in some cases) 

  • Democratized, the network can be shared, allowing multiple applications 

  • Secure Network: 128bit interconnected and end-to-end encrypted 

  • Power efficient: can last for years on a battery 

10 things to expect when using LoRa technology for your network project: 

  1. It does not support the Mesh topology: 
    Although it is long-range, it is impossible to extend the distance or get over geographic obstruction using other nodes as a repeater (like XBee, Wirepas or Bluetooth 5 Mesh). It was designed based on the original concept of ALOA 1971.

  2. It is slow. 
    The speed at which you can send data is particularly low, making it suitable for small data packets: 

  • 250bps -11000bps
  • or 25Byte/s - 1100Byte / s
  • or 0,025KB/s, to 1,1KB /s

This network is well suited for control commands and for spot-gathering of statuses. However, it is not recommended for frequent monitoring, managing extended data or a history log.

  1. No software update over-the-air  
    On this network it is difficult to update a device once deployed: 
    The LoRa module supports over the air firmware update, but the speed, the packet size and arbitration constraints make it difficult if not impossible to achieve on a network with more than 10 devices. The situation is evenworse if the firmware update is large.  

  2. No broadcast, however: 
    Multicast can be done based on a hacking concept ("hackers" who try to hack it, hack the protocol stack!).

  3. It has a mechanism to limit the number of packets: 
    Devices can only transmit per period of time. It is good to make sure an acceptable response time is provided to each node. The lack of flexibility does not make it suitable for several applications and to transmit a serious amount of data.

  4. It does not have the same frequency in all countries: 
    Some devices may not work in all ecosystems

  5. Based on all tests documented, it has a low probability of successful transmission, the larger a network gets (14%) 

  6. A pseudo-random channel hopping method is used natively in LoRaWAN, but not with LoRa: 
    The link layer only goal is to distribute transmissions over the “available pool”, thus reducing the probability of collision

  7. The geolocation of nodes is at the research stage

  8. The proliferation of open LPWAN technologies, therefore, poses a risk of overloading utility network with non-utility data  

What are the cases where LoRa is not suitable

  • Real-time data: you can only send small packets and limited per node per period of time 

  • Voice or image transfer (consider GPRS / 3G / LTE) 

  • Control of lights in your home (consider ZigBee or BlueTooth) 

  • Sending images (consider WiFi or cellular type connection) 

  • Backend Smart City (consider XBee-Pro or Wirepas) 

What are the cases where LoRa is suitable

  • Low-node density and long-reach with no updates and no infrastructure security update needed 

  • Implement with many existing nodes with this techno 

  • When a specific need is expressed for a building penetration signal 

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