News from LoRaWAN Live Munich

This week saw the Munich edition of LoRaWAN Live, the event for the LoRaWAN community organized by the LoRa Alliance. This event rotates locations with each iteration, and this edition marked the return of the event to Europe.

As usual, the event was a professional gathering for alliance members who use these events to advance the evolution of the LoRaWAN standard. Participants included gateway manufacturers, device makers, and electronic component producers. Unfortunately, this focus, often comes at the expense, of non-member users and smaller players, who are less present compared to events like The Things Conference or larger, more general conferences, like IoT Solutions.

The main downside of this conference, in my opinion, was the low attendance of end users and newcomers. This is likely due to the high cost of attending the conference, not to mention the hotel prices during the Euro 2024 period.

Despite this, the conference featured a series of high-quality presentations on the development of use cases, market growth, and opportunities for in-depth discussions with technology experts. As always, it was a chance to meet new people and have engaging conversations.

So, what’s the state of the LoRaWAN ecosystem in 2024?

The conference confirmed the ongoing growth trend in the deployment of connected devices. While it’s hard to get statistics on private deployments, which are the majority, public operators have shared impressive numbers: Netmore announced 1.1 million devices, Everynet 1.5 million, Actility 3.4 million, Zenner 7.5 million. Particularly noteworthy was the growth of the TTN network, reaching 2 million connected devices. At the TTC conference in 2022, the milestone of 1 million devices was announced, and in just 18 months, the second million has been reached, highlighting the market’s dynamism.

Metering (water, gas meters, etc.) remains a recurring and prominent topic. Connexin announced 400,000 water sensors, Kiwi 240,000 gas meters, Veolia 2.5 million water meters, and the provinces of Brindisi and Taranto have already deployed 200,000 connected meters. These examples alone account for around 3.5 million devices either deployed or in deployment. This trend is further confirmed by Sigfox’s recent announcement of a contract to deploy 16 million connected meters in South Africa. It shows that LPWAN technologies, regardless of their specifics and business models, are well-suited to meet these demands.

The main barrier to IoT deployment remains the lack of awareness of its benefits and existing technologies. Bechtle, an integrator company, reminded us that 60% of clients still don’t know what LoRaWAN is, and 20% are still exploring IoT. Therefore, I believe such events should be more open to attracting a wider audience to a basic understanding, possibly requiring a less technical approach to presented use cases. My minor frustration is that while we heard a lot about what the technology can do, there was little on how to implement it in human and organizational terms.

The Mercedes Benz presentation showed how industries will integrate LoRaWAN into their solution portfolios as they mature in IoT. At Mercedes Benz, IT handles both deploying and supporting a private network in factories and offering ready-made blueprints for common use cases to the business units.

Industries, cities, and defined border areas are the main domains where LoRaWAN is best deployed, with massive needs as seen with connected meters. However, these are far from the only use cases; parking, electric charging management, traffic optimization, public lighting, waste management, watercourse management, and water distribution are major areas requiring millions of connected devices. Municipalities and private operators must address these areas to meet societal and governmental expectations for reducing environmental impact and managing climate change.

Cities like Cary in North Carolina have started extensively digitizing urban spaces to make better investment decisions and provide better services to residents. Udaipur in India tackles issues like the theft of manhole covers, causing significant accidents and nuisances. Coburg monitors temperatures in over 50 parts of the city to adapt investments, for instance, by identifying heat islands.

In terms of climate, the ePlant solution in the USA uses sensors to monitor tree growth, assessing their health, water stress, and carbon capture capacity.

On a more technological note, satellite LoRaWAN is an increasingly present topic, with companies like Lacuna Space and EchoStar. The satellite IoT market is expected to grow from 10 million to 35-40 million connected objects by 2030, mainly relying on proprietary solutions, with LoRaWAN potentially representing about 7.5%, similar to NB-IoT. Use cases are mainly focused on tracking nature, isolated assets, and maritime or desert-transiting assets.

Technical solutions are evolving, with modules and SoCs ready to support multiple technologies like LoRa 2.4GHz, Sigfox, and LR-FHSS (mainly used in satellite). Semtech offers chips combining all these technologies, and ST Microelectronics has a new, very compact module integrating an STM32WL with switches, TCXO, and balloon. Several solutions are powered by small solar panels capable of functioning with indoor ambient light.

However, the trend in LoRaWAN is toward more technology and complexity, positioning it in a low-cost to middle-end device market, as opposed to Sigfox, which tends to improve its capacity to address low-cost to ultra-low-cost solutions.

Interesting developments like LoRa 2.4GHz remain in a state I call Schrodinger’s: we know it’s there, but without being able to really try it in varied projects, we don’t know if the technology is destined to thrive or die.

The LoRa mesh debate also came up frequently. These two topics, 2.4GHz and mesh, deserve particular attention from the LoRa Alliance to advance the ecosystem in my opinion.

We also seen this strange gateway on the left, a single channel gateway to address application like smart home where you may need a low cost gateway and able to connect locally about 50 devices and that could delivered with an IoT device. Basically running on EFM32 and may be available as open-source and would cost about $10.

Regarding the stack, the LoRa Basic Modem seems to be finally gaining quicker adoption, although we had many discussions about the general heaviness of the LoRaWAN stack, which I noted earlier leads to a more middle-end technology orientation.

Lastly, I was present with the help of the Helium Foundation. Many thanks to Joey and the team for this. We had interesting discussions with many people who use or consider the network. Compared to previous years, the network is now seen as a serious player by the professional ecosystem, marking a change. The market understands it’s not a fad or speculation but a real service used by major players in roaming or natively, providing business opportunities.

2 thoughts on “News from LoRaWAN Live Munich

  1. Hei Paul,

    I believe you mean LRFHSS, not LRHSS, right? Reffering to LoRa Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum. If I am incorrect and there is ideed a new addition to the stack I did not know about, can you please share some more info about it.
    Awesome somarry nonetheless, nice for people that could not be there 🙂
    Thanks for the info.

    Regards
    Vladislav

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.