I believe this is the year that LoRaWAN will become a household name. I won’t go in to depth on why LoRa+LoRaWAN is such a significant wireless technology, there are plenty of great articles out there, this brochure also covers it well. In short though, it fills the missing gap in wireless capabilities for IoT devices to utilize for longer range communication. The technology itself has been around for several decades, but now there is near ubiquitous coverage at an extremely low cost to use.
Why This Year?
Expansion of the Helium Network
The largest LoRaWAN network in the world, Helium, currently has ~700,000 gateways deployed globally and is estimated to have more than 2 million in the next year. It spans 169 countries and 53,249 cities. It cost $0.00001 USD to send the smallest packet size from a device on the network. The network uses the simple idea of incentivizing anyone to operate a gateway by rewarding them in crypto. Full disclosure, I am an employee of Nova Labs, the creator of the network.
The Helium network allows other network providers to effectively bridge their networks by establishing a roaming partnership. This allows already strong players in the market to effectively expand their network globally overnight.
The Fall of Sigfox
The longstanding technology competitor to LoRaWAN has been the company Sigfox and their proprietary radio technology. As long as Sigfox thrives, the market will continue to be segmented between the two. It looks like that may not be the case for much longer as Sigfox has filed for bankruptcy protection recently and there has not been strong evidence to suggest it will survive.
Consumer Application Breakthrough
The consumer market is now addressable because of the expansive network coverage, eliminating the need for the consumer to purchase and operate a gateway, as well as ultra low data cost. It is now feasible to track and sense pretty much anything, anywhere, for a dollar or two a year, making several product categories now viable.
Given all these major events coming to a head in the same year, LoRaWAN seems ripe to finally join the leagues of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular.