IoT Blog
IoT Blog

3 Reasons to Start with Sierra for Your Global Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT Solutions

by Nicolas Damour, Senior Manager, Business & Innovation Development
Specifically designed for the Internet of Things (IoT), Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) wireless network technologies address the cost, power and coverage issues that have slowed the development of industrial, retail, smart city, healthcare and other IoT solutions. LPWA technologies, including LTE-M and NB-IoT, reduce module complexity, which helps lower IoT device costs by as much as 50 percent, improving the ROI of IoT solutions. LPWA devices also require much less power than other cellular technologies—up to 100 times less than broadband LTE. This allows IoT solution developers to create LPWA devices capable of relying exclusively on battery power for 10 years or more. In addition, LPWA technologies extend cellular coverage into underground, indoor and rural locations, expanding the reach of existing markets and enabling new use cases such as pipeline monitoring, building energy management and smart farming. 

Though cellular LPWA technologies have been available for over a year, some enterprises have held off on developing LPWA-based IoT solutions, waiting for the LPWA networks to go live not just in the United States, but around the world. And while it has taken longer than some expected for global availability of LPWA, many of the issues that slowed the launch of LPWA networks are now resolved. For example, the testing and certification of LPWA chipsets, modules, carrier infrastructure and radio networks has now been completed, resolving any initial incompatibilities. Network operators’ LPWA pricing models have been introduced and refined, so mobile network operators are more comfortable in launching these networks. 

Now that this hard work has been completed, global LPWA coverage is rapidly expanding, as seen in the map below. This expansion should accelerate, since enabling LPWA simply requires network operators to complete a remote software upgrade of their cell towers. Now that all major (Tier 1) network operators have gone through this exercise, others will soon follow.

This means it’s time for forward-thinking enterprises to begin rapidly developing and rolling out global IoT solutions powered by LPWA – and Sierra Wireless is the perfect partner to help them do so. Sierra Wireless complements its complete device-to-cloud (D2C) LPWA offerings with a strong understanding of the LPWA network operator landscape and global LPWA smart connectivity services, an open approach to LPWA technology, and future-proofed LPWA solutions. 

Low Power Wide Area Expertise and Offerings

Sierra Wireless has 25 years of experience working with cellular technologies and leverages its background to provide exciting product offerings and global smart connectivity services. Sierra Wireless is one of just a handful of companies that have been working with the entire LPWA ecosystem of partners since 2010, including network providers around the world. We have completed field tests with all major network operators worldwide and are working with several customers on LPWA projects that are already underway, providing us with the expertise and relationships enterprises need to identify the most appropriate combination for their LPWA IoT solution. In addition, we can help IoT solution developers connect with the relevant providers to ensure a smoother solution rollout process, reducing time to value for the solutions.

We have been the number one IoT module vendor for seven years in a row – our LPWA-compatible solutions include the WP and HL Series IoT modules, which feature an industrial-grade Common Flexible Form Factor (CF3®). This CF3 provides OEMs and system integrations with a one-size, one-design, future-proof footprint for building IoT solutions that can easily be scaled globally. 

Plus, our Smart SIM and Connectivity Service allows us to directly offer enterprises connectivity around the world, so that rather than focusing on managing relationships with multiple networks in multiple countries, developers can remain focused on increasing the capabilities of their IoT solutions. Our Smart Connectivity Service provides robust network connectivity in all environments where assets will be located or moving through. The service also unifies device and connectivity management services, ensuring data is available for access by other solutions, and includes an operational dashboard that makes it easy to control and safeguard the data being transmitted. Our Smart Connectivity Service also ensures that customers can incorporate future technology advancements and is 100% compatible with the eUICC standard, safeguarding customers’ freedom of choice when evaluating technology options.

Open Source Platforms That Accelerate IoT Solution Development

Our open source hardware and software platforms accelerate solution development and commercialization while preventing technology lock-in. We have made significant investments in the Legato® open source embedded software platform and the mangOH™ open source IoT hardware platform. These platforms reduce the time and cost barriers to IoT solution development by providing developers with as much as 90 percent of the hardware and software they need to build a proof of concept or prototype a solution. In addition to reducing the time and cost of development, these platforms enable developers to try out many ideas in a short amount of time, leading to more innovation and greater IoT value for their organizations. In addition, because our products are based on open source and open standards, customers are not locked into Sierra Wireless for the future. If they want to switch or combine products from other vendors, they can easily do so, as long as the products are based on open standards.

Support for the Future

With support for both LTE-M and NB-IoT and optional 2G fallback on a single module, our multi-mode solutions ensure LPWA devices will connect and stay connected no matter where they are deployed. Our free cloud-based AirVantage® Firmware-over-the-Air (FOTA) service allows our customers to keep deployments optimized on the mobile network and updated with the latest security patches and firmware over-the-air, anytime for the life of the deployments. Choosing a single-mode NB- or LTE-M-only solution that cannot be upgraded over the air makes it more difficult to deploy devices across different regions and leaves devices vulnerable to security risks with no way of upgrading without an expensive truck roll.

We have also designed our technologies to ensure they will support the future development of an enterprise’s LPWA IoT solutions. As discussed in a previous blog post, LPWA’s LTE-M and NB-IoT technologies provide a path to 5G. According to the 3GPP, the group specifying the 5G standard, LTE-M and NB-IoT will be part of 5G. This ensures a long life for devices based on these standards and a smooth transition to 5G when the time comes. While 5G will likely offer several new capabilities, LTE-M and NB-IoT enable enterprises to build robust IoT solutions today with the confidence that they will be supported for many years to come.

We’re also developing new data orchestration technology that embeds intelligence into devices to determine what data needs to be processed, extracted and transmitted. This creates a way to pre-process data at the edge and control precisely what data is sent to the cloud and back to the device. This strategy minimizes the amount of data to be transmitted, conserving both bandwidth and battery consumption. In addition, data orchestration technology enables developers to remotely reconfigure the orchestration rules, helping them quickly adapt their IoT solutions to changing technology and business requirements. 

Data orchestration, combined with our end-to-end D2C platform, empowers enterprises to act on insights generated from IoT data quickly and easily. With it they can build and manage LPWA-based IoT solutions with sophisticated intelligence that extends all the way from the cloud to constrained edge devices, using familiar software toolsets. Together, our data orchestration technology and D2C platform enable them to bring innovative IoT solution ideas from concept to large-scale commercial launch in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the effort.

Ready to take advantage of all the business and technology benefits of the IoT? Start with Sierra to begin developing global LPWA IoT solutions that will benefit your organization today and for years to come.