In the first half of this two part blog series, Alistair Fulton, VP of IoT and Wireless Product Marketing for Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group, shared his perspective on what to expect from Semtech and its its LoRa® devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology) in the future, and the evolution and future of the LoRaWAN® open source protocol. In this final installment, Fulton discusses the ideal LoRa Technology use case, and how Semtech is working to enable IoT solution availability for businesses. Read part one here.
Are there a use case that stand out to you as perfect examples of how LoRa Technology delivers business value?
In IoT overall, really the promise, the killer app if you like, to me is being able to understand the whereabouts and condition of every asset or machine you have in your supply chain, factory or home. The promise of the IoT is that, instead of imperfect knowledge and guesswork, you can make business decisions based on a near complete knowledge set, but only if you can generate that data, ingest it and process it in a power efficient, secure and flexible way. The perfect example of that in action is asset monitoring and asset tracking which is a very clear illustration of what LoRa Technology has to offer. The fact that you can afford, with LoRa Technology, the power budget and the hardware cost to monitor everything that’s being produced, packed or shipped, means that in theory you can generate perfect knowledge about everything that's within your production facility in a way that no other technology really allows.
LoRa Technology is really the only one that I believe offers the promise of making it easy and simple to track everything, wherever it is.
With LoRa Technology, you don't have to pick one truck or one palette to track, or a single unit in a lot of a hundred. You can track everything. You can take the guess work out of process management and operations, you can manage every aspect of process based on data not hunch, and with LoRa, you can do that over very long ranges using sensors that can manage on a single coin cell battery for many years of active service.
Is there a unicorn LoRa-based use case that doesn’t exist today?
I think in the future we will see expansion of that core use case of asset tracking to different scenarios. The ability to track something and know where it is located extends to things, people, animals. You're starting to see a lot of that in areas like livestock, wine production and other smart agriculture uses.
I don't think there is some magic use case that no one's ever thought of yet. Actually, I think in some ways that has been part of the problem which affected the early stages of adoption. Business owners have a way of running their business and the value of a solution, in many ways, rests on the extent to which that solution fits with the way that they run their business. Finding some massively novel way to attack a problem ― if that problem is an existing problem and the current solution doesn't exist or there is no solution ― then yes, there’s an opportunity for an IoT solution, and for LoRa Technology.
Semtech demonstrated the LoRa Tag™ in the LoRa Alliance® booth at MWCA18. How does the LoRa Tag provide an example of an asset tracking use case based on LoRa Technology?
The LoRa Tag™ is one way of producing a realistic way for tracking everything, in a disposable and ultrathin form factor that can be attached to anything from packages, to prescription drug bottles, even to magazine advertisements. The underlying capabilities of LoRa Technology and the research that Semtech has done to develop the product as it stands is something that can be applied to multiple, diverse use cases. Instead of tracking parcels, Semtech’s LoRa Tag can be used throughout a cold chain management system. Rather than tagging the refrigerator or the box inside the refrigerator, “tag” the item that you're tracking. And not only can you track where a package is, you can also track if the package has been opened or tampered with.
If every single item has a LoRa Tag on it, then you know where it is at any given moment in time and that takes the guess work away. Then, the competition becomes more about who has the best technology versus who has the best ability to guess based on experience. So, that will be an interesting impact on competition. The Semtech LoRa Tag demonstrates an innovative application of LoRa Technology in a disposable form factor, and has the potential to open up possibilities we hadn’t thought about before.
How will Cloud micro-services simplify the deployment of LoRa-based solutions to market?
This is something that is central to Semtech’s role in the ecosystem and the investments that we're making. Our job is to rapidly simplify the process of building solutions with LoRa Technology. In addition to working with the ecosystem and providing design support to customers, which is moving toward a model where we build flexible hardware platforms, we’re focused on removing some of the inherent complexity of working with radio-based hardware platforms, so that we can better enable and support application developers who want to create new and innovative solutions.
Semtech is also focused on reducing areas of friction in solution development. Location services is clearly one of those areas. By building multimodal location services that allow customers to accurately understand where a device is, such as in the asset tracking use case I described, you need to use multiple location methodologies. It becomes complex and costly very quickly. That's why we looked at that challenge and said okay, we're delivering a simple geolocation service that's an API call, so we can simplify development. There are other similar areas around device management and provisioning where we think there's opportunity to open the ecosystem and simplify deployment by offering services that application developers can use to more rapidly build solutions for their customers' problems.
How can Semtech, and the ecosystem as a whole, come together to help businesses overcome the age-old challenge of deploying IoT solutions quickly?
Semtech’s LoRa Technology R&D and Cloud micro-services efforts are both primarily about reducing time it takes to get an IoT solution to market – we want to make it easier, faster and more efficient to develop these solutions. Typically, a development cycle takes about 18-24 months, and for a lot of customers that's just way too long. Customers are looking for solutions to the problem they have today. For many customers, the first thing that they have to do today is embark on either a sourcing exercise to identify which hardware solution and options are available, or, in many instances, undergo the process of designing custom hardware. Abstracting them from some of that complexity and reducing the need to do that is Semtech’s goal – it’s all about getting them through pilot and production quickly and getting to value.
What we have to do as an industry, and this is where I think Semtech's role is crucial, is to make the process of developing an application to track a vehicle or a cow as simple as it is to develop the applications which drove the smartphone app revolution. That's partly about time to value, but it's also partly recognizing the nature of the developer community and supporting their needs to make it even easier to develop LoRa-based solutions.
Connect with Semtech’s LoRa Technology experts in the LoRa Developer Portal, an online forum for IoT developers to get support, gain access to exclusive content, and shop the LoRa products and services catalog.
Semtech, the Semtech logo, LoRa, and LoRaWAN are registered trademarks or service marks of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates.