The Things Conference 2022

TheThingsConference 2022

This week saw the return of face-to-face of The Things Conference after long years of virtual events. The Things Conference is the major LoRaWAN ecosystem event. Not as commercial as LoRa Alliance event (even if the conference is a source of revenue for TheThingsIndustry), thanks to the presence of most of the guy’s who are doing the IoT.

This edition has interesting weak signals like the presence of a team from Unabiz (previously Sigfox), some Helium bashing at some time, even if most of the attendees have been participating on The People Network.

It’s a conference I can place on the maturity rising, many talk about use-cases, less about technologies. Lots of workshops where we have been able to implement / test advanced technologies like Lacuna Space communications or Semtech low power tracker.

Here are my through from the really great edition of TheThingsConference2022

TheThingsIndustry is a strong player of the IoT telco market now

The same year we seen Objenious leaving the LoRaWan ecosystem and Orange as the one who not joined the LoRa conference, the new generation of telco is on the rise. TheThingsIndustry is continuously growing to cross the million devices on its network servers. It’s a grow close to 400% in a year, and it could have been be boosted by the pandemic and the energy crisis.

The Things Industry growth over the last 12 months

If you read my report on the previous TheThingsConference2021, you will notice that the 2021 numbers where higher than the one displayed here for the same date. It could be a little strange but the perimeter is a bit different as this is concerning TheThingsIndustry as the previous number may also have TTN, including the version 2 of TTN. As the migration to TheThingsStack from TTNv2 has made a large clean-up of inactive devices, this difference can be explained that way.

North America seems to be a territory of strong growth for TTI also, may be the rise of Helium made LoRaWan better known on that area and help to grow the TTI deployment as TTI, a classical company, may look a more viable partner partner than the growing crypto network powered by Nova-Lab.

It is also noticeable that TheThingsConference is really more about TheThingsIndustry than TheThingsNetwork now. Not a lot of speech about the crowdsourced community, no status regarding the change in the community or the community network. Pilars of the community were at the event but we didn’t had a lot of discussion about this.

IoT project maturity boost by crisis

The presentation of different IoT projects running in TheThingsIndustry network server has been interesting on two points:

  • They where concerning at scale deployment, 150k water meters, 80k lights, 40k air sensors.. already deployed and we never heard about previously. In my point of view it’s a really good sign of maturity for IoT. It means that we ending the period where we had announcement about million of devices to be deployed but you we never seen … for starting the period where you just say … “hum, we have done that” … It’s a really good signal, it means that we move from dream to reality and business models have been clarified.
  • The second point is about the Use Cases, water meter addresses water leak – strong attention of this summer, public lights addresses energy crisis a critical way saving up to 80% of energy, air sensors are addressing covid, fire forest detector match also with previous summer disasters … It means that IoT can quickly respond to crisis and provide solutions for climate warming as energy crisis. I had that strong expectation since a while but it starts to be concrete. It also show that even with large volume of sensors, currently what is deployed is just a million on the potential.

Let’s take the exemple of the public lights project, they have deployed 80k sensors to save 70 to 80% of the energy. But this is only addressing 2 cities in the UK: Aberdeen and Bradford, I let you see the potential of a such use case… one among others.

The one you should not pronounce the name

Helium has been in most of the minds and no-one try to push me out even if I wear a Helium hoody during the cold time of the conference. As a big competitor, it was not the place to talk about the network but we had some active and passive bashing sessions (never coming from the ThingsNetwork founders, they just watch what is happening with Helium and eat pop-corn I would say – good attitude).

So we even saw a session about how to migrate a hotspot to a TTN gateway … fair response to the massive opposite movement seen some months ago.

But we also had an active bashing session from Tektelic CEO, on stage. Honestly I won’t talk about what was his full purpose as I did not assisted to the conference, being in a workshop in parallel but all that has been retained is he displayed sh**ty things on competition. Starting by Sigfox, “350M in 10 years for 20M devices”. When TheThingsIndustry has just announced its first 1M devices with a network construction started just about a year after Sigfox, at the end, 20M is not so bad… The other target has been Helium, and it’s funny to me that the LoRaWan providers that have missed the Helium big wave complaining… basically, if you missed the waves that makes your competitors super rich 2 years ago, how can you be on stage pretending to talk about the coming waves ? That’s a good question isn’t it ? The argument was, biggest network w/o communication, 50% true: that is the biggest network and far behind (soon a million of hotspot inserted), and if you can focus on may-be (or not) 10k devices for sell on ebay, that is just 1%… The 50% wrong are on the usage because at first there is a Helium usage and active ecosystem, then because the network is just like a single year old and the adoption of crypto boost network is as frightening people today than using an open-source network was when TheThingsNetwork founders launched it. But as much as we see, TheThingsIndustry is one of the largest, fast growing network that convinced a lot of service providers. So, in my point of view, solution providers should better look at getting benefit of new market opportunities than bitching … more over when if front of you, you have most of the audience that have been part of Helium and made a lot of money with it. Some says if your conference is all about what’s bad on the competitors, it means you may have nothing good to say about yourself.

Lacuna is back

Lacuna has been part of the first company to talk about satellite IoT, at the previous conference they seemed to have made great progress but covid pass and some difficulties around LoRaWan technologies and stuff I do not master enough to talk about. So that time it has been possible to run the devkit and send the first messages to the satellites, I’ll tell you more in one of the next blog post. Lacuna is working on a LoRaWan satellite fleet, with a per message business model (not per device), accessible on TheThingsNetwork. It uses “standard” hardware and is open-source, this is a major differentiator.

Semtech cloud locator

The cloud locator is a really low power system to track assets, it can run GPS and WiFi positioning with a really low power consumption (GPS does not need the ephemeris and get quick fix in many conditions), the solution is similar to what I talked about in 2021 with the generic node. I have been able to test it this time. Semtech supports TTN and Helium, so I’ve been able to configure two of them on the different network to have some experiment.

some result of my experiment with Semtech low power tracking

The solution is based on cloud computation and the device needs to be connected to Semtech cloud. The tracker works well (some little bug during the config, but no real issues) but the WiFi localization is not really working. Because I made WiFi tracker by the past, I know that this is complex to make (bad database quality, filtering the smartphone & 4G dongle around…) apparently the database quality is not really good, as I have not been in Germany, Paris or Spain, and if you see a position in Clermont-Fd it’s because my 4G dongle has been activated at this time… at Amsterdam airport when start writing this blog post (I’m now in Lyon). So basically, Semtech needs to improve this, there are different ways for this and I can help you 😉 I think they could start by using the network position, given by TTN as Helium to filter the position and eventually propose a position in case the WiFi and GPS does not get anything. Network like Helium are really dense and can give good triangulation results.

LoRaWan and green gaz emission

Olivier Seller from Semtech has address this question on stage in a conference estimating the impact of a sensor including the run period to 1.5Kg – 2Kg (5-10km car driving) of green gaz emission but not counting all the IT services around. The calculation is well documented (engineering style) but honestly it will not convince the anti-tech fanatics. The positive impact of the use of IoT is largely higher in most of the cases, just take the exemple of water leaks or public lights above. It was the first time I saw this specific topic addressed (a correct way), I’m please to get some insight as it is more and more one of my fight (to stop blushiting about digital green gas emissions) but not on this website.

Overall Opinion

The Things Conference is one of the major events to be when you are part of the LPWAN ecosystem, particularly LoRaWan, thanks to the people attempting and the organization. I really appreciate all the side time we take altogether to discuss the tech and vision topic. Wienke & Johan (TTI founders) are really taking of their busy time during the event to share with us and this is so cool !

I also did a conference about 5G, IIoT and it was good to see such large attendees to come and listen, I hope my message about stop fighting but having collaboration between technology has been well received (peace & love).

As usual, I really enjoy the event and can’t wait for the next edition ! Thank you Afzal, Alexis, Fabien, Ir, Johan, JP, Laurent, Leonard, Marc, Olivier, Yann, Wienke … and many other for all the great time and discussions.

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