LPWAN IOT, or ‘Low Power Wide Area Network Internet of Things’ is already changing the way that businesses function, and this is set to explode in the forthcoming years.

IOT is all about improving business efficiency by collecting information (via sensors) about the physical world (Inputs such as: temperature, pressure, location etc), and then using this data to trigger an automated action, based on the data.

Main Features Of LPWAN

  • Low power RF technology
  • Low current consumption, therefore long battery life
  • Wide area coverage, compared with other technologies like Bluetooth Wifi.
  • Lower cost than mobile networks, such as 5G
  • Enable wireless connectivity of remote ‘field’ sensors to internet gateway devices.
  • A key component in the internet of things.
  • Suitable for devices and applications that require low speed data rates.
  • Not suitable for devices & applications requiring high speed levels of data transfer, such as cctv links. Wifi is a much more suitable technology for cctv links.


LPWAN History

The term was first introduced in 2013 for a technology designed for M2M communications, which is short for ‘Machine-to-Machine’ communications.

What is LPWAN

LPWAN is short for Low Power Wide Area Network.

As a technology it provides a niche gap solution between mobile cellular (3G, LTE), and short range  technologies, such as LoraWAN, Bluetooth, Wifi & Zigbee.

LPWAN is designed for machine communication rather than between humans.

Human communications consist of voice, video & data, and have different technical requirements to M2M.

Human electronic communications require high data rates and low latency (signal delay), while the user is moving around.

M2M requirements by contrast require low data transfer rates, infrequent transmission, and a low mobility requirement.

LPWAN technology is used by businesses to create their own secure data communications network, such as LoraWAN networks.

Current LPWAN Technologies

It is available operating both on licenced radio frequency spectrum, and unlicensed radio spectrum.

Licenced Radio Spectrum IOT Technologies

  • NB-IOT
  • LTE-M
  • Thingstream


Unlicenced Radio Spectrum IOT Technologies

  • Sigfox
  • LoraWAN
  • RPMA
  • Weightless
  • nWave
  • SAT4M2M
  • hiber
  • Telensa
  • NB-Fi
  • helium



LPWAN Installation Considerations

Installing the sensors that provide the ‘inputs’ to your IOT system is usually fairly straightforward in most environments, however potentially explosive environments require special considerations.

When installing any electrical or electronic device in a potentially explosive environment, the device must be rated as ‘EX’ , also known as ‘intrinsically safe’.

Intrinsically safe electrical equipment is available as components such as electric fans, cable glands, and hand-held two-way radios.

This is a business opportunity for IOT device manufacturers to create ‘EX’ rated sensors.

The main thing to consider at all times when designing your install, is will my equipment cause a spark, potentially causing an explosion.

First consider your sensor itself. An example is a sensor located in a ships battery room to monitor and report on voltage and specific gravity of the lead acid batteries, used for emergency backup.

The sensor you use to collect the information MUST be EX rated / intrinsically safe, to be compliant.

The next consideration is how you are going to get the data from the sensor ‘out’ of the potentially explosive area and to the location where the data is processed.

Wireless technologies such as Zigbee, WIFI and LORA could be used, but by definition produce RF radiation which could potentially cause an explosion. Therefore it is crucial that only equipment that is EX rated is used.

In the case of environments hostile to RF (Radio Frequency) Radio Waves, such as ships, oil rigs and other buildings high metal content, an alternative would be a fixed wired solution.

When using wired methods to transmit sensor data, the cable glanding must be designed so that the explosive area remains gas tight, to prevent explosive gases interacting with electrical components outside the intrinsically safe area.

Glands for this purpose exist, and can be found online.

To conclude, the key to installing the Internet of Things (IOT) in a potentially explosive environment is to ensure that every piece of IOT equipment that is installed is EX rated to prevent explosion risks.

You also need to think about and ensure that any wiring that leaves the intrinsically safe / explosive area goes through properly rated EX glands, to ensure safety.

Applications of LPWAN

Smart Metering

The Internet of things can monitor the following variables remotely using wireless sensors.

Wireless technologies such as LORA  provide long range low bandwidth communication of the data, back to the ‘gateway’. The gateway is the device that puts the data onto the Internet cloud.

Some things that Smart Metering can monitor include:-

  • Fuel tank levels, such as amount of fuel oil used over a period of time, and levels in the tank.  This can also warn tank owners of fuel theft or leakage.
  • Photo Voltaic (Solar) installations. How much energy is being generated, and which sites are producing how much.
  • Water flow, such as for billing domestic & industrial customers. This can save costs of manually checking meters.
  • Calculation of stock in a silo, for audit & ordering purposes

Smart Water Monitoring

Smart Water Monitoring encompasses a number of possible solutions.

Wireless IOT (Internet of Things) technology can monitor the following:-

  • Monitoring of Potable water, such as water quality, flow rate & leak monitoring
  • Chemical leakage detection in rivers
  • Remote monitoring of water quality & safety in Swimming pools
  • Pollution levels in the Sea
  • Water leaks in pipes
  • Flooding of river banks

The data is collected in real time, and can be used to automate counter measures using cloud based processing.

Smart Environment

The ‘Smart Environment’ means the use of low power wireless sensors to detect changing variables in the environment.

There are three distinct stages of a Smart Environment system, which will be considered in terms of INPUT-PROCESS-OUTPUT.

The input stage is concerned with the gathering of the data source, and getting it to the process part of the system.

In terms of a typical LPWAN, or Low Power Wide Area Network system this might consist of a ‘sensor node’ that measures an environmental parameter, such as the ‘Ph’ of the soil in a field.

The sensor node gathers data and the data is transmitted via a suitable Low Power, Narrow Bandwidth wireless technology, such as Lorawan, Weightless or Sigfox.

At the receiving end of the transmitted data, the data is received by a device called a ‘Gateway’. The job of the gateway is to receive the wireless data signal, and put it onto the internet.

The sensor node, Narrow band Wireless Link, and Gateway device, can all be considered to be part of the INPUT section of the system.

The PROCESS part of the system occurs online, and is where software can be used to make smart automated decisions relating to the environment, based on analysis of the available data received from the INPUT section of the system.

An example of an automated decision, might be a vending machine that sends data onto the internet reporting that the machine is out of salt and vinegar crisps.

The online software would then logically decide a course of action, based on the received data. This is the PROCESS section, capable of automatically carrying out decisions that are normally done by human beings (clerical workers).

The OUTPUT section carries out an instruction, based on the decisions made by the online software, in the cloud, which is based on data from the INPUT section.

In this vending machine example the received data could notify a mobile delivery driver on a screen in his vehicle, to go to the machine and restock it (with salt and vinegar crisps, in this case).

The system could also automatically order new stock, as and when necessary from the crisp manufacturer.

Parameters that could also be monitored and analysed are, which products are the most popular, and if data is sent in real time, what products sell at what time of the day.

Knowing the time of day that a product sells can help marketing departments determine the socio-economic & demographic profiles of users,

How could marketers use this information you might wonder?

If the vending machine was located at a swimming pool, then data from the swimming pools website on class times, could be combined with product purchase data from the vending machine at the pool, to determine what products were most popular when the ‘Women Only’ swim session was on for instance.

Another possible data source could include ticket type sold (adult, child, senior citizen).




Some other uses of Smart Environment systems include the following examples:-

  • Forest fire detection
  • Early detection of earthquakes
  • Remote Snow level monitoring
  • Air pollution monitoring
  • Landslide & Avalanche protection

This article will be expanded shortly, when we get some more time.

If you would like help with any of the above technologies, get in touch. We are multi-skilled engineers with experience in the marine, land industrial & aerospace industries.

Security & Emergency Monitoring

  • Explosive & Hazardous Gases
  • Perimeter Access Control
  • Presence of Liquids
  • Radiation Level Monitoring


Wireless Smart Cities

Things that the Internet of Things can measure around future  ‘Wireless Smart Cities’ using low power wireless sensors:-

  • Waste Management
  • Wireless Smart Roads
  • Smart Parking, ensuring best use of limited space.
  • Structural Health, such as changes in length of bridge wires on a suspension bridge.
  • Mapping Urban Noise pollution. This affects human quality of life, and can affect wildlife as well
  • Smartphone detection.
  • Electromagnetic Field Levels, caused by power lines, radio transmitters etc.
  • Traffic congestion. Smarter traffic management solutions, based on real time data.
  • Smart lighting, such as street lights that go off and one depending on whether they are actually needed at the time.
  • Wireless Smart Cities

New Ideas Using LPWAN Technologies:

LPWAN Connected Wine Glasses

Benefits of Smart Wine Glasses:

  • Automatic monitoring of diners who need more drink
  • Notification of ‘idle’ glasses, that are ready for collection
  • Opportunity for happier customers
  • Opportunity for increased drink sales revenue
  • Save employee time, monitoring restaurant tables*



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