Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

MWC Americas sees live LoRa asset tracking demo

Steve Rogerson
September 26, 2017
Visitors to this month’s MWC Americas conference saw a live demonstration of how LoRa can be used in asset tracking applications. Connecting Abeeway Master Tracker hardware to Actility’s ThingPark IoT software platform using the MachineQ LoRaWan network in San Francisco, the demonstration monitored the location of a number of Comcast’s XFinity service vehicles in near real time.
 “Tracking maintenance vehicles is a clear demonstration of the power of IoT to optimise essential industrial activities,” said Actility CEO Mike Mulica. “The first step is knowing where your vehicles are, but knowing where they are is just the beginning. Beyond that, you can begin to apply sophisticated analytics and machine learning to optimise every truck roll, improving efficiency for the enterprise and quality of service to consumers at the same time. Business cases like this are why we believe that geolocation could be the killer app for the IoT globally.”
The demonstration saw Abeeway Master Trackers, operating on the 915MHz ISM band frequency required for the US market, installed in five of Comcast’s service vehicles in the North Bay area of San Francisco using the MachineQ network deployed in the Bay Area region.
“We are seeing significant interest in tracking technology across entirely new verticals and use cases where existing tracking technology has been ineffective due to expensive hardware, short battery life and high connectivity costs,” said Alex Khorram, MachineQ general manager. “We are excited to leverage the MachineQ network with Actility in San Francisco and across the wider Comcast footprint to help bring this innovative technology to market.”
The tracking is flexible, thanks to LoRaWan’s bidirectional communications capabilities. For example, the behaviour of the trackers can be adjusted depending on the status of the vehicle, sending precise location data every minute when the vehicles are moving, but only once an hour if the vehicle is stationary and parked in a depot.
The Abeeway Master Tracker is a self-contained industrial product with an internal battery giving it a field life of up to several years, so tracking is not dependent on power from the vehicle being available. The tracker also uses Actility’s low-power GPS technology optimised for LoRaWan, which uses fewer satellites and reduces the GPS lock time to a few seconds.
The power required for both signal acquisition and processing is reduced: this combination results in an increase in battery life, by an order of magnitude versus existing GPS location technology. Using this low-power GPS, the trackers will be able to achieve an overall location accuracy of within 5m throughout the five-day duration of the trial deployment.
“We’re delighted to be working with MachineQ on this demonstration of the power of geolocation at the leading US telecoms event,” said Actility CEO Mike Mulica. “This demonstration is just the first step on a road together to deploy solutions that will accelerate the digital transformation of logistics, supply chain management and transportation services throughout the USA.”