LoRaWAN in building automation
Straightforward and efficient digitisation of existing buildings
For retrofitting projects and even for new building projects, integration solutions based on the Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) wireless standard continue to gain ground. This type of wireless connection of sensors, meters or control units using LoRaWAN offers several advantages when compared to other wireless technologies, including:
- Low provisioning cost of the required infrastructure
- High security level due to encrypted data transmission
- Hardly any cabling effort for installation in building
- Easy and cost-effective integration of products into an existing building
- Long battery life of up to 10 years (dependent on sensor type)
- Long range and deep building penetration
Combining modern IoT/Cloud-based solutions from DEOS with the flexibility provided by LoRaWAN results in brand-new and efficient scenarios of use. The objectives are to reduce the workload on the technical facility management, lower operating costs, provide for transparent building data and delight building owners with new convenience features.
What is LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN stands for “Long Range Wide Area Network” and it refers to an energy-efficient wireless technology with an extremely long-distance range that was specially developed for the Internet of Things (IoT). It is one of the so-called LPWAN technologies (Low Power Wide Area Networks, LoRaWAN Alliance) that offers an impressive battery life of up to 10 years, depending on the type of sensor and data transmission. Distances of up to 15 km (dependent on surroundings and ambient conditions) can be covered. An additional advantage of LoRaWAN is deep building penetration. However, the combination of low power consumption and a long range limits the maximum data bit rate to 50 kbit/s.
LoRaWAN uses ISM band frequencies (frequency range from 867 to 869 MHz) and LoRaWAN can be used licence-free in Germany. When compared to other wireless technologies such as mobile communications or WiFi, LoRaWAN is extremely economical. This combination makes LoRaWAN the ideal technology for the Internet of Things (IoT).
What is the structure of a LoRaWAN?
Typically, a LoRa Wide Area Network consists of three components: LoRa nodes (end devices), LoRa gateways and LoRa servers. These are usually arranged in a star topology:
- End devices: e.g., LoRa sensors in a building are used to collect building data and send the data encrypted to the gateway. There are three device classes (A, B and C), which meet the distinct requirements of different applications.
- LoRa gateways: Receive the data of the different end devices and make the data available on the network server (standard IP connection). Virtually any number of wireless sensors can be linked to such a gateway to transfer data.
- Network server: The central LoRa network server is fed with the data collected by the gateway and further processes the data. The application server is used to visualise the data.
What is the difference between LoRa and LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN defines the standard communication protocol and the system architecture for the entire network and enables standardised communication among individual network nodes. This way, LoRaWAN-capable products can be integrated without any problem into an existing LoRaWAN.
LoRa, by contrast, refers to the actual radio technology developed by Semtech Corporation, which enables energy-efficient and long-range communications. LoRa is used only between the node (e.g., a sensor) and the gateway. The gateway typically communicates via LTE/LAN with the network server and provides the Internet of Things with data.
The communication protocol and the system architecture have the greatest impact on the battery life of an end device (node), the network capacity, security and the variety of applications served by the network.
LoRaWAN advantages at a glance
Extremely long range
A LoRaWAN achieves an impressively long range. In theory, ranges of up to 50 km are possible. In practice, however, ambient factors need to be considered. A range of about 3 km between an end device and a gateway can be achieved in urban areas; roughly 5 to 10 km in areas with fewer buildings, and up to 15 km in rural areas. Thanks to this fact, large areas or buildings can be fully covered by only one gateway.
Penetration and low susceptibility to interference
A LoRaWAN features an extremely low susceptibility to interference. Sensitivity values of up to -137 dBm can also be achieved so that several walls can be penetrated all the way down to the basement. This way, it takes only one gateway to fully cover entire business buildings and their associated premises.
Several years of battery life
A long battery life is possible due to the low energy consumption of LoRaWAN sensors and actuators. Battery life is dependent on the specific type of device, transmission interval, signal reception strength and data quantity. Especially with meters, which often transfer consumption data only once a day, battery lives of up to 10 years are feasible. This reduces time-consuming maintenance work involving facility management to a minimum and enables retrofit measures to be implemented in existing buildings in no time flat.
Low cost of network establishment
The entire LoRaWAN infrastructure incurs significantly fewer costs than using alternative technologies. Thanks to the long range and deep penetration, it takes fewer gateways to establish a private network. Those who rely on public LoRaWANs, can typically do without their own gateways and use the shared gateways of “The Things Network”. Even the cost of end devices is relatively low.
Widespread and growing quickly
Cities, communities and energy service providers in Germany are heavily promoting the expansion of LoRaWANs. The popularity of LoRaWANs is also growing on a global scale. The LoRa Alliance is the non-profit organisation with the strongest growth in the IoT technology sector. It is an alliance of globally renowned technology companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Orange, Cisco or Microsoft.
LoRaWAN in practical comparison
LoRaWAN, WiFi, Bluetooth, EnOcean or Sigfox?
The growing importance of the IoT in conjunction with the high demand for application-relevant solutions, currently bring many new technologies to a highly competitive market. A direct comparison is a difficult undertaking as each one of these technologies has a right to exist. It is essential to take the distinct application scenario into account when opting for a specific technology.
Protocols such as WiFi and Bluetooth are often used in the smart home consumer sector to control or read data associated with lighting, shading and the acquisition of room information such as temperature. This is mainly due to the fact that the infrastructure usually exists already and that it often fully meets the needs of homeowner applications.
However, Local Area Networks (LANs) rarely meet or even fail to meet the requirements of industrial applications. LANs have been designed primarily to manage large quantities of data in a short distance range and they are also extremely cost-intensive. A large bandwidth is not required though because there is usually very little data traffic in smart buildings. Roughly 99.9 % of all LPWAN devices consume fewer than 150 kbytes of data a month according to 3GPP ((3rd Generation Partnership Project) global cooperation of standard development committees for standardising mobile communications). The quantity of data, energy consumption and range are in direct relation to one another.
Interested in the full version of LoRaWAN in practical comparison?
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LoRaWAN in buildings
Perfectly complementing building automation
In building automation and especially in smart buildings, data transparency plays a central role when it comes to operating buildings as energy-efficiently as possible. LoRaWAN has been developed to meet the requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT) and offers an impressive wireless range and excellent building penetration. It takes only one gateway to fully cover an entire business complex with associated premises. Even basements do not pose a problem to LoRa wireless networks and they can be easily integrated into the network. Since IoT sensors and actuators use very little data, virtually any number of sensors can communicate with the network server via a single gateway. This is what makes the integration of LoRa wireless sensors extremely cost-effective: they do not require numerous gateways or repeaters.
Low power data transmission also enables the energy-efficient operation of LoRa sensors and LoRa actuators using batteries. A battery life of up to 15 years is not uncommon in this case. This reduces time-consuming maintenance work involving facility management to a minimum and enables retrofit measures to be implemented in existing buildings in no time flat because no post install cabling needs to be done.
For the integration into an existing building automation system, some LoRa gateways come equipped with standardised building automation interfaces such as Modbus, for example. This way collected data from LoRa end devices can simply be returned to the building automation control system. This type of communication works in a bi-directional manner and enables straightforward and cost-effective integration into the building automation system.
DEOS building automation with LoRaWAN
DEOS AG is one of the first manufacturers in the building automation sector to offer a practical LoRaWAN-based solution to facilitate the digitisation of existing buildings.
Our LoRa portfolio is adapted to the requirements of building automation. LoRa gateways from DEOS are equipped with a built-in LoRa network server (LNS), for example, to keep the IoT data within a local network. A standard Modbus TCP interface enables the extraction of IoT data at any Modbus-capable DDC controller in the building. This way, LoRa end devices can exchange data bi-directionally with the existing building automation system or make available all collected data to the IoT platform of DEOS.
The platform visualises the data for various applications such as smart metering, cleaning on demand or predictive maintenance. It is also possible to forward the data via MQTT to the IoT platform of DEOS or any MQTT broker. Customers are offered a mass integration tool to further simplify the commissioning of LoRa sensors with solutions from DEOS. This way, it takes just a few clicks to integrate numerous sensors into the network and activate them. This reduces provisioning costs to a minimum.
The solution provided by DEOS therefore offers all the advantages associated with the wireless LoRaWAN protocol plus complementary features and services specially geared towards the application in the building automation sector.
LoRaWAN in building automation
Download the free whitepaper now
Relevant information about LoRaWAN and its use in smart buildings can be found in our guide “LoRaWAN in building automation”. The comprehensive practical comparison illustrates the advantages of LoRaWAN when compared to conventional technologies such as WiFi and Bluetooth and modern wireless IoT technologies like EnOcean or Sigfox.
Examples of LoRaWAN use in buildings
LoRaWANs offer compelling advantages and continue to grow in popularity and importance. What exactly should LoRaWAN-based solutions be used for in building automation? We would like to present some of the most interesting application scenarios in smart buildings that you can realise with us:
Digitisation of existing buildings
Roughly 80% of the overall building cost are associated with the utilisation phase and/or building operation. A great savings potential can be realised here. Especially old buildings can be extremely expensive in operation and could therefore gain the most from digitisation. Since LoRa wireless sensors can be easily integrated, the heating control system, for example, can be digitised and automated in no time. This would considerably cut the energy cost at a low investment cost.
Heating control system using smart thermostats
The energy efficiency of existing buildings with old radiators can be increased with smart LoRaWAN thermostats. The heating system would then no longer be controlled manually, but intelligently and fully automatically as needed. With the aid of a configured energy savings plan, the heat output would be reduced to a minimum on a fixed schedule, during weekends, for example.
Indoor air monitoring using CO2 indicators
Monitor and optimise the indoor air quality for people in the building using LoRaWAN-capable CO2 indicators or other sensors. This would provide people in the building with a sense of added safety, especially with the coronavirus pandemic. Improving the indoor air quality can even demonstrably increase the productivity and reduce the sickness absence rate.
LoRaWAN-based wireless solutions are suitable to automate the time-consuming and error-prone reading of meters. The recording and historisation of data help to increase the transparency and verifiability of the data from previous periods. Even interfaces to billing systems are conceivable. Meters no longer need to be read manually, which further facilitates facility management.
Automatic door closing
The closing of doors at the end of a workday can take quite a bit of time, especially in large buildings. Some doors also must be opened or closed at specific times for reasons of safety. Using LoRaWAN sensors and actuators, the door status can be indicated and changed at any time at the push of a button. There is no need for labour-intensive inspection rounds and possible malfunctions are immediately detected. Such a solution helps further increase fire safety because a fire source can be contained from a remote location.
Making energy consumption transparent
Transparency of energy consumption in a building is essential. LoRaWAN energy meters facilitate making the energy consumption of your building visible. Likewise, verification about the building energy efficiency can be readily collected and used to further optimise the building energy flow.
Custom solution to your application scenario
We see ourselves as problem solvers: Customers appreciate our practical solutions and the distinct new application areas that can be easily and flexibly realised with the aid of our Building IoT platform, which has been developed in-house. We will be happy to advise you so that you too can explore potential options specific to your application.
LoRaWAN products from DEOS at a glance
LoRaWAN sensors for monitoring indoor climate
SAM, the CO2 indoor air quality indicator from DEOS SAM, is an indoor sensor that measures the CO2 content, the temperature and the humidity in a room. Data is transferred to the DEOS IoT platform via the LoRaWAN gateway. This is where web-based analysis and graphic visualisation take place. The integrated report option enables verification of indoor air quality at any time.