Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microchip LoRa modules suit smart meter deployment

Steve Rogerson
March 16, 2015
 
The first in a series of LoRa modules from Microchip is suitable for low-data-rate wireless monitoring and control designs for energy measurement in smart electricity, water and gas meters.
 
They can also be used for other IoT and M2M applications such as industrial, commercial and home automation products for HVAC controls, smart appliances, security systems and lighting, and in street lights, parking and traffic sensors for smart city applications.
 
LoRa is a low-power wireless technology for use in wide area networks. Targeted at IoT applications, the LoRaWAN protocol is intended for wireless battery operated things in regional, national or global networks. The LoRa Alliance was formed to push and coordinate standardisation efforts.
 
With its scalability, robust communications, mobility and the ability to operate in harsh outdoor environments, the RN2483 from Arizona-based Microchip Technology enables IoT and M2M wireless communication with a range of more than 16km (suburban), a battery life of longer than ten years, and the ability to connect millions of wireless sensor nodes to LoRa technology gateways.
 
The 433/868MHz device is a European R&TTE Directive assessed radio module, accelerating development time while reducing development costs. Additionally, it combines a module form factor of 17.8 by 26.3 by 3mm with 14 GPIOs, providing the flexibility to connect and control a large number of sensors and actuators while taking up little space.
 
“The RN2483 module is a revolutionary end-node IoT solution for the new LoRa technology network, enabling extremely long-range, bidirectional communication with significant battery life,” said Steve Caldwell, vice president of Microchip’s wireless products division. “As a founding member of the LoRa Alliance, we are working to ensure our modules are compatible with all partner gateways and back-end network service providers.”
 
The module comes with the LoRaWAN protocol stack, so it can connect with the established and rapidly expanding LoRa Alliance infrastructure – including privately managed local area networks and telecoms-operated public networks – to create low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) with nationwide coverage. This stack integration also enables the module to be used with any microcontroller that has a UART interface, including the company’s Pic MCUs. Additionally, it uses Microchip’s Ascii command interface for configuration and control.
 
LoRa technology is claimed to have several advantages over other wireless systems. It uses a spread-spectrum base modulation that is capable of demodulation with a 20dB below noise level. This enables high sensitivity with robust network links, improves network efficiency and eliminates interference. The LoRaWAN protocol’s star topology eliminates synchronisation overhead and hops, compared with mesh networks, which reduces power consumption and enables multiple concurrent applications to run on the network. LoRa technology also has a longer range than other wireless protocols, which enables the module to operate without repeaters, reducing the total cost of ownership. In comparison to 3G and 4G cellular networks, LoRa technology is said to be far more scalable and cost effective for embedded applications.
 
Samples of the RN2483 are available now to beta users and it is expected to be widely available for purchase in May.