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LPWAN Explained: Here’s What You Should Know

LPWANs, or low-power wide-area networks, are a type of wireless telecommunication wide area network designed to connect sensors and devices. These networks consume very little power and enable long-range communications to connect many objects. It’s this combination of low power consumption and wide operating range that makes LPWANs a powerful option to support Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city applications, such as smart water meters, smart lighting, smart city integrations, energy management, manufacturing and more. In fact, millions of smart water meters are already connected to LPWANs and that number is expected to grow drastically in the coming years.

The Creation of LPWAN

LPWAN technology was created in 2013 for machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT networks to meet the challenges of battery-operated devices and sensors. LPWANs support a greater number of connected devices over a larger area, while operating at a lower cost with greater power efficiency than traditional mobile networks. This creates more opportunity for applications that were previously limited by power issues or budgets.

LPWANs are not a single technology, but rather a group of low-power, wide area network technologies. They come in many forms, each with its own benefits, using either cellular or non-cellular technologies, licensed or unlicensed frequencies and including either proprietary or open standards. Security levels vary depending on the individual technology; however, most LPWANs require some type of network or security authentication, identity protection, etc., to protect connected devices.

IoT and Smart Water Metering

Many water utilities are incorporating IoT-connected LPWAN-supported water meters into their processes and are seeing tremendous success. The IoT opens the door to new opportunities and greater flexibility for utilities, especially those that were previously limited by a fixed infrastructure. And thanks to LPWANs, cities are now benefiting from reduced infrastructure spending, greater scalability and increased mobility, as well as easier integration of smart sensors for water meters. Here are three key reasons why LPWANs are transforming smart water metering:

  • Geographical Range

    Just like the name suggests, LPWANs operate over a large area. Small packages of data are communicated over a long-distance range, up to 50 kilometers in ideal conditions, without needing a large source of power. Because LPWANs don’t require infrastructure, the technology is growing in popularity in rural areas, where technologies previously would not operate.
  • Data Transmission

    LPWANs are designed to transmit small packages of data. The data rate ranges from 0.3 to 50 kilobits per second (kbit/s) per channel. That’s why many IoT applications, like smart water meters, use LPWANs to transmit the small amounts of data they need to send daily. It’s efficient and low cost. LPWANs typically send less than 1,000 bytes of data per day or less than 5,000 bits per second.
  • Power consumption

    LPWAN-connected objects operate on small, relatively inexpensive batteries that have a long life since devices run for short periods of time, likely only four times per day. Instead of weeks or months, these batteries are designed to last years. This is a key benefit when many sensors are being deployed across a broad area, eliminating the time-consuming and labor-intensive process of frequent battery replacement.
 

Choosing an LPWAN Technology

Even though cellular and non-cellular LPWAN technology is relatively new, it is constantly developing and changing to meet user needs. In fact, more than 75 billion devices are estimated to be connected to LPWANs by 2025. As the technological landscape continues to change and rapidly transform the water metering industry, Badger Meter is monitoring and responding to the changes to help water utilities face the challenges ahead.

When selecting a network for your utility, keep in mind that not all LPWANs are secure, nor are they suitable to support every IoT device. Based on the growing number of systems deployed, cellular networks are the LPWAN of choice for water utilities. Cellular networks are known as being both reliable and secure, and since the cellular network is already deployed, deployment is extremely scalable. Cellular networks are also impressively resilient—utilities benefit from unmatched uptime of cellular networks to keep their operations safe and secure. If you have questions about switching your utility to a cellular LPWAN, reach out to our experts.


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