Demand for efficient and data-driven utility management continues to grow and LoRaWAN, a low-power, wide-area networking protocol designed for low bit rate data communication, has emerged as a leading technology for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). In fact, according to a recent report, the market valuation for LoRaWAN smart gas & water metering applications will cross $10B by 2032, led by the growing need for automation in the sector. However, as with any rising star, competitive FUD circulates, intended to obscure a technology’s true potential. In this article, we dispel three common myths surrounding LoRaWAN’s use in smart metering and discuss its value as a driving force behind the future of AMI and water management.
Myth 1: Insufficient security
Some claim LoRaWAN networks lack the security needed for critical utility infrastructure like AMI. The truth is its security implementation is robust and sophisticated. The security mechanisms inherent in the protocol are based on widely accepted National Institute of Standards and Technology approved Advanced Encryption Standards (AES) cryptographic algorithms, making LoRaWAN suitable for critical infrastructure and essential business applications. Additional layers of security such as MTE (MicroToken Exchange) and MKE (Managed Key Encryption) are available through proven integrations if desired.
Myth 2: Interference
Another misconception revolves around interference within the unlicensed band, promoted to cause doubts about LoRaWAN's effectiveness. LoRaWAN, however, is architected with extreme multipath capabilities, where end-device transmissions are demodulated by all gateways in range (not just one, as with other technologies) – avoiding local transient interference. Dynamic interference avoidance abilities allow channel plans to be configured dynamically to avoid local bands of interference using information from the network. The ISM Band, where LoRaWAN operates, isn't a free-for-all zone; it’s regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure the harmonious coexistence of various devices. Every transmitter must undergo stringent testing and certification before reaching the market. The FCC vigilantly monitors violations, underscoring that unlicensed doesn't translate to unregulated for LoRaWAN.
Myth 3: Poor capacity, low performance
Contrary to assumptions that LoRaWAN networks are prone to saturation, reality paints a different picture. LoRaWAN AMI networks are methodically engineered for high capacity and superior performance. Even with conservative modelling, a single LoRaWAN gateway can support hundreds of thousands of meter endpoints, representing a small fraction of the total network capacity of a network built for AMI. Additionally, the Adaptive Data Rate (ADR) feature of LoRaWAN optimizes data rates based on real-time conditions. This not only enhances interference immunity, but translates into shorter airtime and improved battery performance, debunking the myth of poor capacity and low performance that lingered around LoRaWAN.
Over the past decade, several cycles of technology innovation and adoption have taken place throughout the utilities market aimed at modernizing critical infrastructure and improving service delivery. To date, benefits have been most evident where AMI is being deployed, with untapped value being driven by newer network technologies – like LoRaWAN - and a variety of low-cost network-connected sensors.
In the face of this technology evolution, legacy water solution providers are struggling to hold on to market share and are sharing myths about competing technologies like LoRaWAN. The clear and proven attributes of LoRaWAN however, merit serious consideration for AMI implementations.