IoT Work Environments Made Possible by LoRaWAN

IoT Work Environments Made Possible by LoRaWAN

IoT Work Environments Made Possible by LoRaWAN

Thank you very much for choosing Ryoden.
My name is Takanori Kawakami and I am an engineer at Ryoden’s New Business Promotion Department.
As part of our makeover of the Ryoden website, I have decided to adopt a blog format to explain some of the solutions Ryoden offers.

In this installment I’d like to talk about the LoRaWAN protocol. This is one of the most important projects the New Business Promotion Department is involved in.
The LoRaWAN networking protocol has been in operation for several years now. I believe its features and basic technologies are well known at this point, so here I’d like to switch gears and offer a loose introduction to the things that LoRaWAN makes possible.

Basic Sequence of Events in IoT

Using LoRaWAN is not an end in itself. Our purpose is to deliver sensor data to an application.
This is generally what we mean when we speak of “using IoT.”


We can describe the sequence of events in using LoRaWAN with a rough flowchart.
I’ll use this flowchart to explain the kind of work Ryoden does.

Creating the Sensor Devices

We start by building a prototype containing the LoRaWAN chip, which is used to transmit the data acquired from the sensors via LoRaWAN communications, and the sensors.
The amazing thing about LoRaWAN is that just about all of the communication processing can be entrusted to the chip.
LoRaWAN is built according to the LoRaWAN® Specification, which some brainy people put a lot of thinking into to make LoRaWAN as easy for us to use as possible.
When you perform communications using the LoRaWAN® Specification, LoRaWAN does everything from flow control through confirmation of signal strength and support for Japan’s unique LBT to retry processing. It’s an amazing specification.
Even at the device development stage, you don’t have to worry about communications. Simply send the data communication commands to the LoRaWAN chip using UART to perform LoRaWAN communication.
This arrangement dramatically reduces development costs, so it’s probably LoRaWAN’s greatest benefit.

When we reach the prototyping stage, we often ask the customer to use GR-KURUMI, which is provided by one of our partner companies, Renesas Electronics Corporation.
GR-KURUMI is really helpful. It makes development easy, and it’s cute, too.

Installing the LoRaWAN Gateway

Installing the gateway enables the data from LoRaWAN to be received and relayed to the LoRaWAN server on the internet.
To ensure signal propagation, install the gateway in an elevated, easily visible (unobstructed) location.
Gateways have been installed in all kinds of places. Building rooftops are an obvious choice. They’re also installed on transmission towers, the roofs of train stations, utility poles, and so on.
Thanks to the efforts of our customers, LoRaWAN gateways are often installed in some surprisingly high places.

At Ryoden, we mainly use LoRaWAN gateways made by Kerlink, a French company. It is a Linux-based gateway which is high-performance and easy to use.

LoRaWAN Servers Required for LoRaWAN

The tasks handled by the LoRaWAN server can be broadly divided into two categories: device registration and data processing and output.
Each LoRa device has a unique ID (equivalent to the MAC address in Ethernet). Register those IDs to the LoRaWAN server, then select the security and data flow options you need.

The data that flows through LoRaWAN is called the “payload*.” It is transferred to the LoRaWAN server as a base64-encoded character string.
The network Ryoden mainly uses, The Things Network (from The Things Industries), can further process and output this base64-encoded data using Javascript.

The output uses the POST request method, using either the MQTT or HTTP protocol. The decision on which protocol to use depends on the particulars of each case, but Ryoden most commonly uses HTTP.
This is because Elasticsearch, the database we regularly use, accepts POST requests using HTTP.

*Some LoRaWAN servers do not have a feature for formatting payload.
In such cases, the payload is formatted by the application.

Databases and Applications

From this point onward, it’s all about the software.
In this part of the procedure, we save the data to the database, process it and visualize it.
These are the IoT common items. At Ryoden, we mainly use Elasticsearch to save the data and Kibana to visualize it. Of course, we sometimes create dedicated applications as necessary.

Incidentally, as a software engineer, I am often involved in creating applications.
One Friday recently, my boss asked me to create a visualization application for PoC data, adding, “The deadline’s Monday.” Oh, the joys of working at such a cozy workplace!

LoRaWAN is a Powerful Tool for Working with IoT.

As you can see from this sequence of events, we can create actual IoT products using LoRaWAN.
Developing devices, controlling LoRaWAN, creating applications: Realizing IoT requires not only LoRaWAN but a wide range of other technologies as well.
At Ryoden, we put to work the technology we’ve accumulated through our device and ICT operations to provide a seamlessly integrated response, fusing all the necessary elements from devices to applications.

With LoRa (LoRaWAN), NB-IoT, SIGFOX and other options out there, when you mention LPWA it’s easy to get caught up in arguments about which one is the best.
At Ryoden, we believe it’s important to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each LPWA communication protocol and use the right one according to the application.
Engineers at each manufacturer have poured their hearts and souls into developing each one of these products. They’re all great. So, we at Ryoden are determined to return the favor sincerely, by putting our maximum efforts into using them effectively.

If you’re encountering trouble in your IoT projects, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Also, if you’re an engineer or student who sees the bright future ahead for IoT, we’d love to have you join us as we solve customers’ problems on the leading edge of technology. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.