LoRa in Malaysia? Probably in Indonesia too?

If you follow our activities (Cytron’s activities) you might had notice we involve in LoRa (Long Range) ecosystem quite a lot. Of course it started with the Microchip seminar back in 2015 when they announced the solution for LoRa. I was amazed with the coverage distance and open standard. LoRa is fairly new wireless technology, emerged to fill in the gaps for LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network). Yes, we already have WiFi and BLE, but WiFi is still within 100 meters range and it is power hungry, while BLE is low power, but still within 100 meters range, that we called PAN (Personal Area Network). How about 2G, 3G, 4G, LTE and all those cellular network that we use for our smart phone, can’t that cater for Wide Area Network? Yes, that is WAN, but there are 2 concerns:

  • Currently cellular network is not Low Powered, look at your smartphone or even non-smartphone, the battery can only last for 1 to 2 days, and even in sleep mode (non-active), it can only last for a week. Maximum is 1 month without charging. But we are looking at years of sensor node with battery powered only.
  • Cellular is licensed network, only big Telco company can afford the infrastructure (the base station, huge antenna, licensing, network, deployment, etc), private company and individual cannot afford it. If a particular area is not covered with cellular network, you cannot use it and you cannot deploy it without the infrastructure and license 🙁

LoRa came into the picture, it is open standard, and it uses unlicensed frequency band (at least in Malaysia and most of the country), of course it is meant for low powered devices too. To know more about LoRa technology, please check the LoRa Alliance. Anyway, from my view, the important features of LoRa are:

  • It is fairly new wireless technology meant for LPWAN.
  • The devices (sensor node) can be powered with battery and it should able to last for years(1 to 2 years in most cases, but in some special cases, it can last for 10 years). Well, the application determines how long will the battery last 🙂
  • LoRa (Long Range) is the radio protocol, while LoRaWAN is the network protocol.
  • It is a star topology network.
  • It uses sub-GHz frequency to communicate, and it is still regulated by each country regulatory body, for Malaysia it is 919MHz to 923MHz.
  • Individual can deploy your own LoRaWAN if you like.

Now, you might have noticed too, we have been carrying several LoRa shields:

  • Cytron LoRa shield – uses Microchip’s RN2903 LoRaWAN module, loaded with Malaysia LoRaWAN frequency settings.
  • Cytron LoRa RFM Shield – Uses HopeRF RFM95W (LoRa radio design for 915MHz band).
  • Atilze LoRa Shield – Uses Gemtek GL6509 LoRaWAN module, loaded with Malaysia LoRaWAN frequency settings. And comes with 6 months free subscription to access Fabrick (Application server platform from Atilze).

If you have tried LoRa, you will notice, to deploy it, there are 3 important elements:

  • The LoRaWAN node – this is the sensor node, or in this case, the LoRa shield that will grab information from the sensor and send it to LoRa gateway (wireless). And in order to get information from sensor and package the data into LoRaWAN format and send to the shield you will need a controller. Therefore Arduino main board is needed. We are coming out with the tutorial to do this soon.
  • The LoRa gateway – It is a few channels RF concentrator, able to receive LoRa radio packet in several frequencies simultaneously. Normally it comes in 8 channels concentrator, there is single channel gateway, which can only receive 1 channel of LoRa radio packet at one time. There is also 16 channels contretractor, off course it will cost more. Anyway, there are quite a number of LoRa gateway in the market, we are coming out with a Raspberry Pi 3 based 8 channel concentrator, stay tuned! The gateway basically receives and forward the LoRa packet to LoRaWAN network server.
  • The LoRaWAN network server – last but most of beginner did not notice the needs for it. LoRaWAN network server is needed to decode LoRaWAN data packet, consolidate several data packets from several gateways as the nature of LoRa RF is broadcast, and all gateways within range are able to receive the same packet. Thus, the name, network server. And the decoded data can further be send to application server for display, data analysis and other purposes.

Now this LoRaWAN architecture diagram illustrate better:

Cytron has been trying to enable everyone to deploy LoRa, yet our resources are limited because we are not network or server developer, it is not our expertise. But as you can see network server is crucial in LoRaWAN architecture and we have been talking to many parties such as TTN, Orbiwise, Loriot, LinkLabs, etc, to get things up and running for Malaysia. But due to some technical issues, most of these LoRaWAN network servers do not support Malaysia LoRaWAN frequencies. Of course makers or developers can still do some tweaking to enable the whole system, but it is not really preferable as it will required firmware update at either node, or gateway, or worst, both.

Now, with Atilze LoRa shield, we solve this problem. Atilze LoRa shield comes with the free access to their platform, Fabrick which consist of LoRaWAN network server and application server, and everyone can register an account, individually. We are coming out with guide for user to register an account and start using LoRa technology, stay tuned!

In the nutshell, Atilze LoRa Shield:

  • Arduino compatible LoRaWAN shield
  • Comes with Arduino UNO/CT-UNO example code.
  • Free access to Fabrick platform for 6 months which consist of LoRaWAN network server and application server.
  • Free access to 28 industry grade outdoor gateways in Klang Valley area. Here is the coverage area. Yet you will have to try it out yourself. Wireless coverage depends on many factors. Anyway the coverage is:
    • Damansara Jaya
    • Jalan Templer
    • Taman Kinrara
    • Kuchai Jaya
    • Taman Teknologi Malaysia
    • Puchong
    • Puchong Prima
    • Cyber View
    • Cyber Jaya
    • Bangi
    • Kajang Town
    • Tasik Semenyih
    • Jalan Semarak
    • Jalan Pudu
    • Taman Cahaya Ampang
    • Neo Damansara
    • Seksyen 4 Kota Damansara
    • SS7 Kelana Jaya
    • SS15 Subang Jaya
    • Seksyen 13 Shah Alam
    • Sri Muda
    • i-City
    • Klang Sentral
    • Teluk Gadong Klang
    • Pandamaran
    • Jalan Kebun
    • Westport
    • Pulau Indah
  • Scalability with existing and growing number of LoRaWAN gateways, network server and application server.
  • Step by Step guide for beginner.

Why Indonesia in this case? The gateways are in Malaysia only. Well, as far as I know, Indonesia is finalizing the LoRa frequency and it will most likely be 919MHz to 923MHz too, and Atilze do have some gateway install in Indonesia. Contact them for more info.

Here is the link to Atilze LoRa Shield. We would really like to see what you did with LoRa, share with us at our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cytrontech/

And if you have any comments or questions about this shield, you are welcome to discuss it in our technical forum: http://forum.cytron.com.my.

Now, everyone can “LoRa” 🙂

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