LoRaWAN: The Basics

This guide is designed to give a brief introduction to the LoRa(WAN) universe in which Valenco operates with its soil sensors. By reading this guide, you will learn not only about the basics of LoRa, but also understand the impact of the infrastructure on our soil sensors and your use of these.  

What is LoRaWAN

LoraWAN stands for Long Range Wide Area Network. It serves as a network protocol through which LoRa devices can transmit data. The key advantages of the LoRaWAN protocol is 

  1. its energy efficiency which can enable device lifetimes of many years.

  2. The long ranges of data transmission, which can  send packets of data over distances of 2 - 40 kilometers (depending on the device and external infrastructure). 

How does LoRaWAN work?

Typically in the LoRa environment, there is an Internet of Things (IoT) End-Device that collects some kind of data. This data is transmitted via the LoRaWAN protocol to a Gateway. This gateway forwards data via the cellular network/direct internet connection to an application server, where it is then processed and displayed.   

LoRa network path display

So what is LoRaWAN used for? 

LoRaWAN can be used with devices that serve innumerable use cases. It can be something as simple as a sensor that will count the number of people coming in and going out of a building. It can be something as sophisticated as devices that help property management companies gain insights into asset and building operations, performance, internal conditions and energy consumption. Or it could be a Valenco Soil Sensor that helps farmers, cities, insurances and other actors monitor the soil under their management.   

The key aspect of these use cases is the possibility to build a comprehensive network by yourself that covers long distances and is low in power consumption. Many of these initiatives then complement their use cases with other platforms and artificial intelligence to visualize and make the data comprehensible to the end user. This helps customers and companies to enrich their data basis in order to make better decisions. 

What is there to know about the Valenco Soil Sensors? 

The Valenco Soil Sensors are designed to last for years in one place, using different sensors to measure to measure soil moisture and temperature in a specific location. In order to collect data in many different individual settings of customers, Valenco can provide the sensors in different modes:

1. Live Mode 

If configured to live mode, our soil sensors will continuously transmit data via the LoRaWAN protocol. This means that the user will see the data the moment the sensor collects it, rather than at a later point in time. In order for this to work, LoRaWAN infrastructure needs to be available in the area. This can be achieved in two ways:

A) In some countries like Switzerland and the Netherlands for example, LoRaWAN infrastructure is provided by a network operator. In these countries, all that is needed is to plant the sensor and it will send data right away. This setup is ideal but the majority of countries around the globe do not have network operators providing nationwide LoRaWAN infrastructure.  

B) If no coverage is provided by network operators, Valenco can provide a so-called outdoor gateway for live data tracking. This is a robust device that can withstand many weather conditions easily and is usually installed on a pole. An outdoor gateway will collect data from the sensors and then transmit it to the Valenco backend to interpret and display the live data to the customer. 

2. Logging Mode

Case A: If there is no LoRa infrastructure around the sensor location, and in case the sensors are needed for longer periods of times, the sensors will save all measurements up to 6 months on the device itself. Additionally, customers will receive a mobile gateway from Valenco in order to read out the data from the sensors periodically. This means that every so often, customers will set up the small mobile gateway close to the sensors for a couple of hours to read out the data. Once the data is read out, the data can be accessed on the in-house Valenco platform.

Case B: In case there is no LoRa infrastructure around the sensor location and there are fixed start and end times to the measurement period, the sensors will save all measurements up to 6 months. When measurement periods are done, the sensors can be returned to Valenco to read out the data. Once the sensor has established a connection with a gateway at Valenco, it will transmit all of the stored data. Customers can then see the collected data visualized on the in-house Valenco platform. While this is a path we can take, we would only recommend as a last resort. The sensors are generally designed to stay in the ground for long periods (years) in order to provide comparable data throughout this time. Pulling the sensor out and planting it again later on usually is not ideal.

The benefits of working with Valenco

We aim to provide a solution that works for our customers. Working with clients from all over the globe, we know that sometimes custom solutions need to be put in place. With our different modes of data collection, from logging data up to six months to providing live data, we are here to make monitoring soil and other information easy. Our expertise ranges from agricultural to public service to insurance setups. Whatever your need is, we will find a way to make it happen together. 

To discuss how we can help your company, feel free to reach out to info@valenco.ch

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