The Internet of Things is a term for objects, sensors, “things” that sit around somewhere and send data to a network to build applications or business models with that data.
The LoRa network and LoRaWAN as a protocol is a very exciting technology that promises to send sensor data over an energy-efficient wireless network. “LoRa Gateways” are used to receive these signals. The gateway has access to the Internet and persists this data in an application server of a LoRaWan network. “The Things Network” (TTN) is an open LoRaWan network where anyone can provide their gateway and where anyone can connect their sensors with existing gateways around the world. Also there is “The People’s Network” with which you can even earn passive income as a gateway operator. I recently purchased several LoRa modules and a gateway. In this article I would like to discuss the different aspects of LoRa and evaluate it in the context of my battery powered interet devices.
To get familiar with the topic, I first bought a module to send radio signals in the LoRa network. LoRa works regionally with different frequencies. In Europe, or in Germany, the frequency band between 868 and 870 MHz can be used license-free, therefore LoRa also uses this frequency band.
My plan is to use Arduino Nanos to send sensor data over the LoRa network, and receive it elsewhere. This can either be my own small network, or existing LoRaWan networks like Things Network. Afterwards, I want to connect my battery-powered Internet devices to this network, so that I can set up sensors that can be placed somewhere.
The first thing I need is a module. I found one here at Amazon.
The Ebyte E220-900T22D is currently the cheapest module to send and receive signals into the LoRa network. I bought it and tried my first experiments with it. I have to admit that I had assumed that I can send signals with the LoRaWan protocol. This module is not suitable for that. But anyway some interesting use-cases are possible. In upcoming articles I will explain this module in more detail.
868MHz SX1276 LoRa Breakout Board
After I found out that you can’t establish communication with a LoRaWan network with the EBYTE E220, I had to find a replacement. The reason why this is not possible is actually simple. The LoRaWan specification states that the communication between transmitter and gateway must be agreed upon in advance.
The SX1276 module allows asynchronous sending and receiving of commands sent and received over the air to meet the specification. I have purchased this module and will also take a closer look at it.
The Things Network
The Things Network (TTN) is a LoRaWan network, which provides a simple and “fair” use of the network for free. This means that you can connect your sensors to the network, but you have to follow some limitations (“fair use policy”). This makes the TTN a great way to persist your sensor data for free. Excellent for hobby engineers who want to realize their ideas and gimmicks.
Anyone can become part of the TTN by purchasing gateways and providing them to the network. The network consists of volunteers who provide their Internet connection and LoRaWan gateway. The TTN is a first point of contact to tackle Smart Home, Smart City, Smart University and other interesting IOT use cases.
The People’s Network (Helium Mining)
There is also money to be made with LoRaWan. The People’s Network (TPN) is built on a network based on proof-of-coverage. Participants in the network provide their bandwidth and a LoRa gateway. Participants verify each other and for each verification a reward is distributed to the verifier and verified.
Gateways are called “Hotspots” in Helium. I want to set up a Helium hotspot and see what it can earn. According to the explorer, both where I live and at my parents’ house, there is no good coverage, and thus potentially good revenue.
I have ordered all the necessary modules, boards and equipment to tackle each point. I want to tackle all points in the coming time and document them in my blog and on Youtube.