We are on the verge of something really cool: things around you will start coming online, get a life of their own. Well, at least in Amsterdam… for now.
Soon everything around you will have a sensor and you will be able to know things like:
- Your front door will tell every time it was opened and closed
- Your bike will tell you at all times its location or if it’s moved
- Your boat will report back as soon as there is water inside
- On a farm, the animal feeder will tell you when it needs to be refilled and which animals stopped eating in the last two days
And these are just a bunch of scenarios I can think of. As soon as this technology is widely available it will create a wave of amazing applications. Just imagine what problems you would solve if you could track in real time things like: movement, acceleration, temperature, humidity, air pressure, location or air composition among others.
Why now and how does it work?
The sensors aren’t new, but there’s a brand new way to connect to them. Presenting LoRaWan, a sort of Wi-Fi network for sensors/ iot which:
- has a huge coverage – up to 10-15 Km
- is designed for transmitting really small amounts of data (not 4k video streaming)
- can listen to a large millions of sensors simultaneously
- enables sensors to consume very little energy -> battery life in excess of 10 years
In more scientific (and more accurate) terms LoRaWan is “designed to provide Low Power Wide Area Network with features specifically needed to support low-cost, mobile, secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine (M2M), and smart city, and industrial applications. It is optimized for low power consumption and to support large networks with millions and millions of devices. It has innovative features, support redundant operation, location, low-cost, low-power and can even run on energy harvesting technologies enabling the mobility and ease of use to Internet of Things.”
To function a LoRaWan network needs three parts:
- a gateway – a receiver that listens constantly for signals from the sensors around it
- a node – a sensor that transmits the signal
- a platform (network server with app server) that takes the information received by the gateway, decodes it and sends it further via internet to our smartphones and computers.
So why in Amsterdam?
Because Amsterdam is already covered in LoRaWan. So, if you buy a humidity sensor tomorrow and set it in your boat, it will be able to alert you as soon as you have water in your boat. At the moment the data is in raw format, but here’s where you come in. You can build a smartphone app that uses that data to trigger a notification. You have a white canvas!!
When was Amsterdam covered?
Amsterdam was covered in LoRaWan by TheThingsNetwork (THN) a few months ago. They did that in 6 weeks with only 10 gateways. And unlike any other similar initiatives this effort was crowdsourced by the citizens of Amsterdam.
Get in at the ground floor.
At the moment everything is at the very beginning. If you want to be part of something exciting, this is the time to get on board.
Last week I was sitting with a bunch of geeks, in basement with no windows, with devices all over the table, listening to the very basics of what this network is capable of. For a second I felt like I was in the at the first Twitter meetup, when nobody knew about it yet. I felt like I would look back one day and say: “I was there when that happened”.
I see a great opportunity in this and I definitely recommend to anyone to check out the full potential of this.
Where to start?
As product manager you should start by understanding the technology.
As a developer you should start tinkering with the devices.
And here are some useful links to get you started:
- LoRa Aliance webste: https://www.lora-alliance.org/
- Attend THN meetup on: http://www.meetup.com/sensemakersams/
- Keep an eye on https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/419277966/the-things-network/posts/1420973
- Buy a node and start coding.