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LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN is a communication technology designed for low power, low data devices. It allows up to 100 sensors devices to connect to a single gateway up to 15km away by line of sight. Buildings, trees, and deep gullies will reduce the transmission distance achieved. The main benefit of LoraWAN is that you only pay for the data from the gateway, all your device to gateway data transmission is free.

A lot of information can be extracted from a small amount of data. For example, a gate open can be recorded as "0" and a gate closed as "1", and since we know the location of the device and the time the message is sent, we can start to get a rich picture of what's happening at that gate over time, all from a "0" or a "1".

Sending small amounts of data more extends the battery life of the device. LoRaWAN devices can be expected to last years in the field before the battery requires changing. Battery life is relative to the power used for each transmission, so if your gateway is close the device will use less power, and less battery per transmission. If your gateway is far the device must use more power per transmission and the battery will not last as long. 

Also note that  battery life is directly related to how often data is sent. So if all other things are equal, the battery on a tank sensor transmitting levels twice a day will last 12 times as long as the same device transmitting every hour.

An essential part of the LoRaWAn system is the gateway, which receives data from all the sensors, and then sends this data to the cloud. Usually this will be via a network SIM card which is approx $150 year, or if the gateway is close to a wifi point it could be sent via the existing wifi.

Setting up a LoRaWAN system might require that you install your own gateway which will cost around $1000, or you might be within the coverage of a existing gateway provided by your local council as part of a smart region / smart city programme.

TNN mapper is a site that displays LoRaWAN coverage:

TNN mapper

Gateways can be set as "private" or "public" and allow any conforming device to connect. This means neighbours can share gateways and increase their individual coverage areas.

Note that different counties have different LoRaWAN standards and you must match the device type with the gateway type for it to connect. In Australia we use both 915 and 923 standards, so make sure to check this.