At the first The Things Conference on Tour event in Maribor, Slovenia, held on October 4, we gathered more than 150 participants from 74 companies and 11 countries. Together, we got familiar with the latest IoT trends, LoRaWAN technologies and The Things Network.
Building a global Internet of Things network together
Johan Stokking, the co-founder and Tech Lead of The Things Network & CTO of The Things Industries, presented The Things Network and the technology behind it – LoRaWAN.
Compared to other wireless technologies, LoRaWAN is designed specifically for Internet of Things. It is license-free and offers high capacity, enabling placement of as many gateways as needed; it is also low power, low bandwidth and often deep sleep, which enables the devices to run for months or years on batteries, or autonomous on solar panels. LoRa uses spread spectrum modulation, which makes it robust to interference, multipath and fading. The theoretical maximum range in free space is 850 km (US915 regulations) compared to Wi-Fi, which is only 550 meters. In practice, an incredible 702 km range has been achieved already. Unfortunately or fortunately, this doesn’t mean that only one gateway could cover the whole Europe, since in real world scenarios there’s attenuation, reflection and diffraction, and Fresnel zone. Still, the performance of LoRaWAN is simply great! For example, for a city like Maribor only a couple of gateways are enough to have full city coverage. LoRa is therefore designed and perfect for applications in agriculture, lighting, low value object tracking, smart metering, utilities, maintenance, smart parking, smart building and any power constraints.
The story of The Things Network started in Amsterdam in 2015, where a community decided to explore the potential of LoRaWAN and built an open, crowd-sourced and decentralised IoT network, owned and operated by its users. In the last years, this initiative has grown rapidly and today The Things Network is present in more than 95 countries, 700 cities, with 8 servers routing 6M packets per day, with more than 4500 gateways connected to their network, and more than 51.000 users.
One of such networks has also been built in Slovenia – The Things Network Slovenia currently consists of 6 communities, from Koper to Maribor, and 33 active gateways. As explained by Luka Mustafa, founder and CEO of Institute IRNAS and initiator of The Things Network Maribor, the Slovenian network would become richer for another 25 gateways after the conference. 25 participants of the workshop “Build your own gateway”, that was led by resin.io engineers, learnt about gateways hands-on. Each participant of the mentioned workshop has built their own device and afterwards took it home to deploy at their location. This is how we are expanding the coverage of the open IoT network and empowering innovation, exploration and experimentation of different use-cases.
At the conference, we also got the opportunity to get familiar with the latest v3 The Things Network Stack that comes with the ability to easily run the stack for private networks, either in a private cloud or on-premises and features the exchange traffic (peering) between public and private networks. All of this is making the whole system even more powerful and robust.
LoRaWAN use-cases: from Space to 500 m under the sea level
At a panel session, we looked into some of the successful use cases with LoRaWAN, to explore not only the technology but also the advantages it brings to the market. Klemen Logar from Solvera Lynx shared their experience of creating a custom-made solution to optimize energy-intensive production processes in the biggest cement production factory in Slovenia, while Dejan Jancic from Pessl Instruments and Matic Šerc from Elmitel d.o.o. talked about intelligent solutions for agriculture, from crop management to weather monitoring and irrigation optimization.
We have also dived into some advanced as well as some specialised applications. Thomas Telkamp from Lacuna Space explained how they are flying gateways on satellites to fill the gaps in coverage between the cities and in remote places on the Earth, enabling monitoring in remote locations or tracking of mobile ‘things’, no matter where they are. Whereas, Luka Mustafa presented all the “exotic” use cases of LoRaWAN that we are creating for wildlife protection. Studying wildlife in remote areas of the world, with a goal of implementing informed conservation strategies, requires a simple and time-efficient method to build a network covering vast inaccessible areas. As an answer we have developed a bundle of solutions – from animal trackers and static sensors, to drone automated signal coverage mapping across water, tree-tops and other inaccessible locations for projects of Green Sea Turtles monitoring on Principe Island, Arboreal Monitoring Platform in Peruvian Amazon rainforest, and others.
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To show one of the attractive and promising use-cases we have built a demo network in Maribor – in collaboration with Kerlink Group, we have deployed three Kerlink gateways, covering the whole city to show the geo-location functionalities through LoRaWAN only, without using GPS technology. We tested it together with a local utility company to see how they could benefit from tracking their moving devices and improve their operation. Thanks to TTN mapper we were able to nicely visualise the geo-location test run in Maribor.
Exploring LoRaWAN hands on
In collaboration with microclimate.network, we provided all conference participants with MicroClimate sensor devices for temperature, relative humidity and air pressure measurements, which can be used with great benefit in smart city applications, in precision agriculture, in smart buildings and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), in data centres and for energy audits. During the conference, the sensor units were used as a learning tool – at one workshop we integrated them with Wolkabout IoT Platform using LoRaWAN technology and The Things Network to visualise data and control the remote device via WolkAbout web and mobile apps. Whereas, at the workshop dedicated specifically to the teachers, participants installed temperature sensors on Colibri IoT open source platform and integrated data streams in microclimate.network platform – all with the mission to equip the teachers with the right tools to bring IoT topics to the classroom and start educating future IoT developers.
With the right knowledge, skills and professional connections, brought by The Things Conference on Tour Maribor, we are empowered to create the next generation of IoT solutions for health, smart cities, agriculture, industry, power and boost the innovation in IoT sector. Let’s build this thing together