ESP32-based LoRa / LoRaWAN wireless network

One way of long-range and low-power data transmission is LoRa wireless technology. Since the Internet of Things market (with ESP32 – based solutions) is mainly covered with short-range Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and long-range with 3G / NarrowBand-IoT technologies, LoRa oftens is omitted or simply unknown by IoT users. Below you will find a short representation of what LoRa is and how can it be used.

What is LoRa / LoRAWAN network?

LoRaWAN® network architecture is deployed in a star-of-stars topology in which gateways relay messages between end-devices and a central network server. The gateways are connected to the network server via standard IP connections and act as a transparent bridge, simply converting RF packets to IP packets and vice versa. The wireless communication takes advantage of the Long Range characteristics of the LoRa physical layer, allowing a single-hop link between the end-device and one or many gateways. All modes are capable of bi-directional communication, and there is support for multicast addressing groups to make efficient use of spectrum during tasks such as Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) upgrades or other mass distribution messages.

Source: https://lora-alliance.org/about-lorawan

Industrial use of LoRa & ESP32-based solutions

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting LoRa wireless technology is ESP32 based eModGATE from TECHBASE. Economical, ESP32-based solution can serve as an end-point in any installation or works well as a gateway, gathering data from scattered sensor mesh across the installation. For more information and also Raspberry Pi based solutions check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for eModGATE.

eModGATE with ESP32
Sigfox announces changes improving IoT applications

First major announcement is that Sigfox will launch a private network (PAN) that will allow IoT customers to choose private and global services according to their needs. The service will be launched for the first time in France in the first quarter of 2020, but Sigfox will be implemented in over 65 countries.

The operator’s wide area network (WAN) will be completed next year in cooperation with Eutelsat. Sigfox provides coverage worldwide using the nano-satellite constellation launched by Eutelsat.

The Sigfox PAN offer will benefit from the existing Sigfox WAN ecosystem. Thanks to the potential to use all components on the market and the use of very low transmit power to support facilities without the need for batteries, the Sigfox PAN offer offers enormous potential,

Ludovic Le Moan, CEO and co-founder of Sigfox.

According to Sigfox, by the end of 2019, there will be more than 15 million registered facilities and over 1,500 customers using this solution in various industries around the world. Sigfox says that PAN customers can expect the same as WAN customers in terms of support and quality. PAN clients can choose to subscribe to additional „WAN Extension” services if needed if the device needs to communicate outside the local network.

Sigfox improving the accuracy of Atlas geolocation services

Internet of Things operators have now launched Atlas Native Complimentary. It is made available free of charge in exchange for the rights to process data regarding GPS data. These data are compared to the fingerprint of the Sigfox network using machine learning, which increases accuracy to 800 meters.

To further increase the accuracy of its geolocation services, Sigfox said it has completed the global implementation of Atlas WiFi in collaboration with HERE Technologies’ mapping experts.

Sigfox uses the global WiFi access point database here. Access points are checked by the Sigfox WiFi tracking module and more closely track the location of external and internal resources with less battery consumption than using GPS.

We are delighted to strengthen our partnership with Amadeus and share our combined expertise to create real digital transformation of the travel sector. Our strategic alliance named PinPoint will not only help to improve the travel experience, but this will also change completely the game for an industry looking for decades for THE technology able to save costs while improving efficiency and quality of services

Raouti Chehih, Chief Adoption Officer at Sigfox

The first services from the strategic alliance are expected to hit the market in 2020.

Industrial use of ESP32-based solutions

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting Sigfox wireless technology is eModGATE from TECHBASE. Economical, ESP32-based solution can serve as an end-point in any installation or works well as a gateway, gathering data from scattered sensor mesh across the installation. For more information check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for eModGATE.

eModGATE with ESP32
New release of OpenWRT 19.07 for WLAN devices

Good news for developers and modders of router software. A new Linux distribution, OpenWRT 19.07 has just been released, created primarily for WLAN devices, which debuted with the iconic Linksys WRT54G routers. OpenWrt 19.07 is mainly developed for devices using the AVR32, ARM, CRIS, m68k, MIPS, PowerPC, SPARC, SuperH, Ubicom32, x86 and x86-64 architecture.

What’s new in OpenWrt 19.07

A lot changed from the previous version of OpenWrt 18.06 version. Even WPA3 support has been added. However, it is not enabled by default and requires the installation of additional packages. Hostapd-openssl is needed for WPA3 to work in access point mode, it will need wpa-supplicant-openssl or wpad-openssl (additional AP) to use in Wi-Fi station mode.

Software developers have decided to switch to ath79 from ar71xx – in the future support for ar71xx will be completely withdrawn. In addition, the Linux kernel has been updated to version 4.14.162, and support for adm5120, adm8668, ar7, au1000, ixp4xx, mcs814x, omap24xx, ppc40x, ppc44x and xburst has been terminated.

A new feature is the updated LuCI, an integrated web interface for OpenWRT that implements client-side rendering. The LuCI ecosystem is large and not all LuCI applications have been adapted for this change, which can cause cbi.lua crashes. If so, install the luci-compat package.

The latest version of software can be downloaded from the project’s official website, here where you can also find the full list of changes.

Why should you try OpenWRT?

People who like to modify soft routers will confirm: OpenWRT dramatically increases the capabilities of network devices. OpenWRT is several thousand software packages that advanced users can install or remove depending on their needs. The software also improves network security – after all, the router owner will have full control over the configuration of every aspect of the hardware.

Industrial use of OpenWRT-based solutions

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting the technology and it’s varieties is ModBerry M series from TECHBASE. Economical, M300 model, based on NanoPi boards can serve as an OpenWRT modem, with optional changes in standard ModBerry controller. For more information check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for ModBerry M series .

Realtek RTL8720DN Dual-Band WiFi & BT 5.0 vs ESP32

IoT market ofers wide range of small and efficient modules for Home & Industrial Internet of Things applications, equipped with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, such as Espressif’s ESP32 or older ESP8266 modules. Additional Bluetooth 4.2/5.0 is often found on those. Dual-band Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is hard to find on low-budget IoT modules. Here comes Realtek RTL8720DN.

Realtek RTL2720DN module, as a part of AmebaD family, comes with ARM Cortex-M4/M0 wireless MCU with support of 802.11 b/g/n Dual-Band Wi-Fi 2.4GHz / 5GHz and extra Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity.

Realtek RTL8720DN Dual-Band WiFi & Bluetooth 5.0 module

Realtek RTL8720DN specifications:

  • Wireless SoC – Realtek RTK8720DN MCU with KM4 Arm Cortex-M4 core @ 200 MHz and KM0 Arm Cortex-M0 core @ 20 MHz
  • Connectivity
    • WiFi
      • 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi 4
      • Frequency Range – 2.412-2.484GHz & 5.180-5.825GHz
      • Data Rates
        • 802.11a: 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54Mbps
        • 802.11b: 1,2,5.5,11Mbps
        • 802.11g: 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54Mbps
        • 802.11n: MCS0–MCS7 @ HT20/HT40 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands
      • AP, Station, AP/Client supported
    • Bluetooth
      • Bluetooth 5.0 LE
      • Receiver Sensitivity: -92 dBm
      • Transmit Power: 7 dBm
    • Antenna – IPEX connector or PCB Antenna
  • I/O – 16x castellated holes with GPIO, 2x UART (AT commands + serial), ADC, I2C, SPI, 4x PWM, 3.3V, GND
  • Power Supply – 3.3±5% V
  • Dimensions – 24 x 16 x 3 mm
  • Temperature Range – Operating: -20°C to 85°C; storage: -40°C to 125°C
  • Relative Humidity – 10%~90% (non-condensing)
  • Certifications – FCC, CE, SRRC, RoHS

Source: https://www.cnx-software.com/2020/01/17/realtek-rtl8720dn-dual-band-wifi-bluetooth-5-0-iot-module/

Bluetooth 5.0 update for ESP32

The Espressif’s flagship ESP32 chip recently passed the SIG Bluetooth LE 5.0 certification. This confirms that the version of the protocol supported by the ESP32 microcontroller has been upgraded from Bluetooth LE 4.2 to Bluetooth LE 5.0, which is more stable and compatible.

The implementation and development of the Bluetooth LE (BLE) application requires not only a system that supports this function, but also an attached Bluetooth LE protocol stack consisting of a driver and a host.

Thanks to Bluetooth LE 5.0 certification, ESP32 SoC not only updates the system as a whole, but also adds new features that improve the latest software after passing more stringent tests than previous certification.

Industrial use of ESP32-based solutions

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting Espressif’s ESP32 technology is eModGATE from TECHBASE. Economical, ESP32-based solution can serve as an end-point in any installation or works well as a gateway, gathering data from scattered sensor mesh across the installation. For more information check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for eModGATE.

eModGATE with ESP32
Bluetooth LE 5.0/5.1 comming soon to ESP32-based controller

The Espressif’s flagship ESP32 chip recently passed the SIG Bluetooth LE 5.0 certification. This confirms that the version of the protocol supported by the ESP32 microcontroller has been upgraded from Bluetooth LE 4.2 to Bluetooth LE 5.0, which is more stable and compatible.

The implementation and development of the Bluetooth LE (BLE) application requires not only a system that supports this function, but also an attached Bluetooth LE protocol stack consisting of a driver and a host.

Bluetooth 5.0 update for ESP32

Thanks to Bluetooth LE 5.0 certification, ESP32 SoC not only updates the system as a whole, but also adds new features that improve the latest software after passing more stringent tests than previous certification.

Due to hardware limitations, ESP32 does not support such functions of Bluetooth LE 5.0 as 2M PHY, LE Long Range, and ADV Extensions.

It is also worth mentioning that the combination of Bluetooth and Mesh networking is expected to become a key technology for the Internet of Things. A  Bluetooth® Mesh network enables a „many-to-many” relationship among potentially thousands of wireless devices, where data are transmitted not in a direct radio range but in wide physical areas. Espressif’s contribution in this field is the ESP-BLE-MESH, which got fully certified by Bluetooth SIG in September 2019.

Several Bluetooth-operated products on the market, such as wearable devices, smart speakers, cleaning robots, smart lights/sockets, etc., provide evidence that Bluetooth 5.0 and the Bluetooth Mesh networking technology are mature enough to drive the development of interconnected IoT devices. To this end, Espressif’s chips and ESP-BLE-MESH, in particular, are designed to help customers develop easily secure and cost-effective products for smart homes, smart buildings, healthcare, new automobiles and other smart industries.

Source: https://www.espressif.com/en/news/BLE_5.0_Certification

Industrial use of ESP32-based solutions

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting Espressif’s ESP32 technology is eModGATE from TECHBASE. Economical, ESP32-based solution can serve as an end-point in any installation or works well as a gateway, gathering data from scattered sensor mesh across the installation. For more information check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for eModGATE.

eModGATE with ESP32
Upcoming Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax and Wi-Fi 7 802.11be forecast for industrial IoT

The new Wi-Fi 6 standard, also known as 802.11ax, is the latest stage in the development of this technology. Based on the benefits of the 802.11ac standard, this standard also provides performance, flexibility and scalability, which in new and existing networks means an increase in speed and bandwidth for new generation applications.

Wi-Fi 6 is now coming to telephones, laptops and network equipment. But engineers are already looking at: Wi-Fi 7. With a high speed of 30 gigabits per second, the new generation of Wi-Fi will offer better video streaming, longer distances and reduced problems with data traffic.

What is Wi-Fi 6?

The Wi-Fi 6 standard enables enterprises and service providers to support new and emerging applications within the same wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure while ensuring higher standards of support for older applications. This scenario prepares the ground for new business models and increased use of Wi-Fi.

Upcoming Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 7 forecast for industrial IoT
Source: TP-Link

This is exactly the same standard as 802.11ax. The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a campaign to give the IEEE 802.11ax standard the name „Wi-Fi 6”. This name suggests that this standard is a 6th generation Wi-Fi network. The justification for this idea was to simplify the marketing message of the 802.11ax standard in order to gain an image advantage over the standards of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) used in cellular network technology (e.g. 5G).

Wi-Fi 6 – 802.11ax features

The Wi-Fi 6 network will be based on the success of the 802.11 ac standard. This standard will allow access points to support more clients in dense environments and provide higher standards of use for typical wireless LANs. It will also provide more predictable utility properties for the needs of advanced applications, e.g. for 4K or 8K video playback, high density and high resolution collaboration, fully wireless offices and the Internet of Things (IoT). The Wi-Fi 6 standard will allow Wi-Fi networks to face the challenges of the future accompanying the development of wireless networks.

As with any new product in the area of Wi-Fi technology, the Wi-Fi 6 network is backward compatible with older technologies on which it is based and which makes it more efficient.

Source: TP-Link

Expectations about Wi-Fi 7 standard

During a speech during the August Wi-Fi Qualcomm Day and subsequent interviews, V.K. Jones, vice president of technology, shared details about the operation of Wi-Fi 7. He expects a three-step improvement over today’s Wi-Fi 6, called 802.11ax in the world of technology.

The first improvement expected will increase Wi-Fi 6 bandwidth and use new radio waves that will allow the governments of the United States and Europe to start wireless transmission soon next year. Secondly, the Wi-Fi 6 update in 2022 should improve speed, especially for those who transfer data such as videos from phones and computers. The third, and perhaps the most interesting, is the Wi-Fi update collection expected in 2024, known only under the technical name 802.11be.

LoRa vs NarrowBand-IoT. What is better for Industrial IoT?

Low-power wide-area (LPWA) technology meets the needs of multiple IoT markets for low-cost devices that maintain long battery life and low-cost, large-area networks that support large numbers of connections. However, LoRa (LoRaWAN) and NarrowBand-IoT have the most momentum and will gain the largest share in the LPWA market in the next few years.

Many technology articles compare LoRa and NB-IoT technologies as if they were battling it out for dominance in the IoT market. In reality, these technologies are two branches within an emerging technology ecosystem. Similar to WiFi and Bluetooth, they will most likely to diverge into different niches, rather than directly compete with each other. This article will dive deeper into the capabilities, costs, longevity, maturity, and other differentiators of NB-IoT and LoRa-based technology.

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nb-iot-vs-lora-its-ecosystem-race-art-reed

Sigfox/LoRa and NB-IoT in direct comparison

As a result of the research, performed by Tauron, it was found that SigFox and LoRaWAN technologies have limited applications due to the use of the unlicensed ISM band (868 MHz). In addition, each of the three technologies tested has a limit on the transmission channel speed. LoRaWAN, unlike others, allows the construction of an autonomous, separate network dedicated to the needs of the owner.

LTE NarrowBand-IoT technology, as a 3GPP standard, is being increasingly implemented by subsequent mobile operators in the world and in European countries like Poland. For example, polish main frequencies of NB-IoT implementation are 800 MHz and 900 MHz, which allows achieving high coverage of the country.

Research carried out by Tauron has shown that, considering the security of the solution, the availability of telecommunications infrastructure, or the speed of data transmission (important for meter reading), LTE NB IoT technology is closest to use in the energy sector.

Source: https://www.telko.in/tauron-lepiej-ocenia-nb-iot-niz-lora-i-sigfox

Both LoRa and NB-IoT standards were developed to improve security, power efficiency, and interoperability for IoT devices. Each features bidirectional communication (meaning the network can send data to the IoT device, and the IoT device can send data back), and both are designed to scale well, from a few devices to millions of devices.

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/nb-iot-vs-lora-its-ecosystem-race-art-reed

Use of LoRa/NB-IoT in industrial automation

Use of wireless connection makes life and work easier for us every day – from radio stations and GSM to Wi-Fi wireless networks, Zigbee, short-range Bluetooth connectivity and LoRa / NarrowBand-IoT wireless solutions. With the spread of internet access, the possibility of using wireless connectivity for a new type of service and application has opened.

ModBerry 500 / ModBerry 9500

Device equipped with LoRa module is delivered with a LoRaWAN protocol stack, so it can be easily connected to the existing, fast-growing LoRa Alliance infrastructure – both in privately managed local area networks (LAN) and public telecommunications networks to create wide area low power WAN (LPWAN) on a national scale. LoRaWAN stack integration also allows connection to any microcontroller, such as ModBerry industrial device from TECHBASE. Such solutions offer also NarrowBand-IoT and full 4G/LTE support.

ZigBee Mesh used in end-point IoT devices

ZigBee mesh‚s usefulness for IoT is partly due to the fact that it is an open standard. The same products can be used all over the world, which gives customers a large selection of available option. The high competition between products and producers means that the created solutions are innovative, characterized by high quality and give customers a considerable choice. Many suppliers of cooperating elements of this ecosystem mean that they are not limited to any specific brands or specific semiconductor manufacturers.

ZigBee Mesh. Source: ZigBee Alliance
ZigBee Mesh. Source: ZigBee Alliance

Compatibility is also promoted, as ZigBee Mesh 3.0 brings all the various ZigBee environments to a single, unified standard. Over the years, ZigBee has covered applications ranging from industrial to business to home, which has led to the development of separate service standards. ZigBee 3.0 collects all these various applications under one umbrella. This eliminates the need for mediation bridges between different sets of ZigBee supporting devices. All of them will be able to communicate directly, regardless of type.

Competitiveness of ZigBee based solutions

With a maximum data bandwidth of 250 kbps at 2.4 GHz, ZigBee is slower than other popular wireless standards such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but it doesn’t matter in typical sensor applications. ZigBee Mesh is designed to send small data packets at relatively long intervals, which is usually sufficient to collect data from temperature sensors, safety sensors, air quality monitoring systems and similar subsystems. In the meantime, the low bandwidth affects the low power needed for the system to work, so that ZigBee nodes can usually work for many years on a single AAA battery.

ZigBee Power Consumption. Source: ZigBee Alliance
ZigBee Power Consumption. Source: ZigBee Alliance

With low power consumption, ZigBee supporting products typically have a short transmission range – typically from 10 to 15 meters, and the signal they emit is easily disturbed by obstacles on the route, or changes in the environment. However, the beauty of ZigBee devices lies in their work as part of a lattice topology network, where each of them transmits signals between themselves over a total of longer distances. The grid topology also means that damage to a single device will not stop the entire network, as communication can simply be redirected.

Data security via ZigBee wireless technology

ZigBee 3.0 has introduced an advanced set of tools that allows designers to introduce reliable networks with a balanced security policy and ease of installation. Available features will be constantly updated to respond to emerging threats. The security solution used is based on the ZigBee PRO grating protocol, which was originally created for the ZigBee Smart Energy profile. It is currently used by hundreds of millions of media consumption meters around the world, without detecting any security holes.

New features include device-unique authentication, when connecting to the mesh network, updating of keys used during work, secure software update via wireless network and data encryption at the logical layer of the link.

Industrial use of ZigBee Mesh

One of industrial IoT devices, supporting ZigBee Mesh technology is eModGATE from TECHBASE. Economical, ESP32-based solution can serve as an end-point in any installation or works well as a gateway, gathering data from scattered sensor mesh across the installation. For more information check Industrial IoT Shop with all the configuration options for eModGATE, including ZigBee modem.

Is LoRa a 'must be' for Industrial IoT?

As the remote application market is growing rapidly, technology also needs to progress, ensuring greater range and transmission speed while reducing energy consumption. Technological progress makes it possible to create innovative standards for new, sophisticated applications that facilitate our life and work. One of wireless connection choices can be LoRa technogoly.

What exactly is LoRaWAN?

LoRa (Long Range Radio) technology with low data throughput allows IoT and M2M applications to communicate wirelessly over 15 kilometers, with a battery life of more than 10 years. LoRa allows you to connect millions of wireless nodes with compatible gateways and has several key advantages over other wireless solutions. For example, it uses spectrum spreading modulation with the ability to demodulate a signal 20 dB below the noise level.

LoRa uses license-free sub-gigahertz radio frequency bands like 433 MHz, 868 MHz (Europe) and 915 MHz (Australia and North America). LoRa enables long-range transmissions (more than 10 km in rural areas) with low power consumption.[4] The technology is presented in two parts: LoRa, the physical layer and LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network), the upper layers.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LoRa

Compared to 3G and 4G cellular networks, LoRa technology is also better scalable and more cost-effective for embedded applications. It has a much greater range than other popular wireless protocols, which allows devices to operate without amplifiers, reducing the total cost of the application.

Thanks to scalability, reliable communication, mobility and ability to work in difficult external conditions, the LoRa module is perfectly suited for use in a wide range of wireless monitoring and control applications that do not require high transmission speeds. Examples of applications may include smart city (street lighting sensors, motion sensors), energy (intelligent measurement of electricity / water / gas consumption) and industrial / commercial / home applications, among others HVAC, intelligent devices, security systems and lighting.

LoRa Coverage
LoRa coverage. Source: https://lora-alliance.org/

Use of LoRa in industrial automation

Use of wireless connection makes life and work easier for us every day – from radio stations and GSM to Wi-Fi wireless networks, Zigbee, short-range Bluetooth connectivity and LoRa. With the spread of internet access, the possibility of using wireless connectivity for a new type of service and application has opened. Terminology such as M2M (Machine to Machine) – remote communication between devices and IoT – a network of applications and devices communicating with the Internet have been created.

Device equipped with LoRa module is delivered with a LoRaWAN protocol stack, so it can be easily connected to the existing, fast-growing LoRa Alliance infrastructure – both in privately managed local area networks (LAN) and public telecommunications networks to create wide area low power WAN (LPWAN) on a national scale. LoRaWAN stack integration also allows connection to any microcontroller, such as ModBerry industrial device from TECHBASE.

NarrowBand-IoT the new black of Industrial IoT

The NB-IoT is becoming a standard in wireless communication of IoT devices, for standalone solutions and complex installations with thousands of units, coordinated with gateways. Will NarrowBand-IoT replace other wireless technologies in industrial automation?

What exactly is NarrowBand?

NarrowBand-IoT (NB-IoT) is a radio technology in the field of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) dedicated for IoT devices, operating on the licensed frequency band used by telecommunications operators.

The biggest advantages of NB-IoT include:

  • long battery life (up to 10 years),
  • efficiency in the amount of data transferred,
  • intra-building penetration,
  • the ability to connect even tens of thousands of devices in one system,
  • a global standard,
  • a high level of security and low cost

You can build mass solutions and those that until now were considered unprofitable. NB-IoT technology works in the licensed band, so there is no risk of interference and blocking communication by competing networks.

The service life of devices powered by two AA batteries is up to 10 years. However, the devices themselves are constructed in such a way that they can work for many years without the need for technical supervision and recharging the battery.

NB-IoT used in industrial solutions

One of many uses of NarrowBand-IoT wireless modems can be communication of edge devices, dedicated to data management, process control (e.g. with MQTT protocol) and monitoring. Latest ESP32-based eModGATE controller from TECHBASE company is a series utilizing MicroPython environment to provide data management solutions for end-points applications. The eModGATE has built-in Wi-Fi/BT modem and can be equipped with additional NarrowBand-IoT modems

eModGATE eqipped with wireless NB-IoT modem are perfect for industrial automation solutions, e.g. data logging, metering, telemetrics, remote monitoring, security and data management through all Industrial IoT applications.

Supported bandwidths:

  • Global-Band LTE CAT-M1:  B1/B2/B3/B4/B5/B8/B12/B13/B18/B19/B20/B26/B28/B39;
  • Global-Band LTE CAT NB-IoT1:  B1/B2/B3/B5/B8/B12/B13/B17/B18/B19/B20/B26/B28;
  • GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900Mhz Control Via AT Commands

Supported data transfer:

  • LTE CAT-M1(eMTC) – Uplink up to 375kbps, Downlink up to 300kbps
  • NB-IoT – Uplink up to 66kbps, Downlink up to 34kbps
  • EDGE Class – Uplink up to 236.8Kbps, Downlink up to 236.8Kbps
  • GPRS – Uplink up to 85.6Kbps, Downlink up to 85.6Kbps