LPWANs are a class of low-power wide-area networks. There are many different LPWAN networks being used today, but the most commonly-used standards include LoRaWAN, SigFox, LTE-M, NB-IoT, RPMA, Symphony Link and Weightless.
Compared with Wi-Fi or 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and Cat M1 networks, LPWANs support smaller data transfers (10 to 10,000 data bytes at up to 200 kbps) over far wider areas (from 2 km to 30 km).
This makes LPWANs an ideal type of network for expansive IoT projects that cover a lot of ground, such as agricultural management, work site monitoring, asset tracking, fleet management, environmental sensing, and Smart City or infrastructure applications .
In these situations, thousands of sensors are often dispatched across a large geographic area, all of which infrequently send small data packets.
LPWANs can keep these types of IoT project operating longer than wireless technologies like Bluetooth and 3G by providing a power-efficient network where small device batteries may last years between replacement or recharging rather than weeks or months.
LPWANs can also use either licensed or unlicensed wireless connectivity depending on what works best in any given situation.
Essentially, this provides individuals using LPWANs with the option to further protect their data from interference by licensing their own radio frequency for their own operations. It also ensures that outside interference won’t result in any network failures or heightened latencies.
This could be beneficial for complex projects dealing with sensitive information, such as military operations, or those that heavily rely on careful management and reliable connectivity, such as medical and manufacturing processes.
While LPWANs benefit certain IoT projects, they’re also known to have lower reliability and higher latency than Bluetooth, 3G and other alternatives.
Despite this, LPWANs successfully enable many IoT projects to thrive with their ability to support thousands of devices across a wide range at a low power and data cost.
LPWANs are commonly used in:
Parking garages – sensors detect when parking spots are open, and send a response only when the value changes.
School buildings – battery-powered locks can be activated or deactivated remotely, improving security and operational effectiveness.
Smart city – waste containers send alerts when they’re close to being full, improving waste management efficiency.
Smart agriculture – Soil sensors alert farmers to high acidity and other conditions, allowing them to solve the problem and produce better crops.