Semtech, the company making chips for the LoRa radio standard, has released a version of its radio and software for the smart home. The standard focuses on the edge nodes of a network — the individual sensors and devices — and complements the earlier release of a gateway standard for the radio tech by Semtech last year.
Pedro Pachuca, director of IoT wireless in Semtech’s wireless and sensing products group, says that companies are already building the new standard into products, such as sprinklers and outdoor lights, that need a radio technology that can deliver data further. Pachuca says Wi-Fi and Bluetooth don’t have the distance to reach too far outside the home, and manufacturers are eager to bring products to the very edge of someone’s property.
If this problem sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon encountered a similar challenge when trying to build devices as part of its Ring portfolio of outdoor safety products. As a result, Amazon launched Project Sidewalk, a radio network that uses sub- gigahertz spectrum to transmit data over long distances. Amazon announced Sidewalk last September and said it had built a dog tracking devices called Fetch, to take advantage of the network.
But so far Sidewalk is a proprietary Amazon-developed tech that Amazon isn’t keen on discussing at any length. And LoRa is an established long-range low power wide area network used by dozens of companies trying to build out campus-wide or even city-wide IoT networks. Comcast’s MachineQ uses a LoRa network for its deployments as does The Things Network, for example.
These networks are focused on serving enterprise and small and medium business clients, but Semtech’s release of a standard technology for devices and gateways means that more products could come to market for the consumer that takes advantage of the technology. The consumer doesn’t even have to care about what radio the device uses, they might only choose to buy a garage door opener or a mailbox sensor that has a LoRa gateway device included.
Like any IoT bridge, the consumer would plug the gateway device in their home and place it on their Wi-Fi network. That device would take the LoRa data and transfer it over to the Wi-Fi network. Judging by the requests we get on the IoT Podcast Hotline about mailbox sensors or gate openers for super long driveways, there is a market for a long-range technology that services the home.
Plus, any company electing to put LoRa gateways in hundreds or thousands of consumer homes, could one day create a large enough network of overlapping LoRa devices to compete with cellular networks for local tracking of pets, people or even new products we can’t yet imagine. Pachuca says that several customers are already working with Semtech to release products, but didn’t give a time frame for when those would be on the market. So keep an eye out for new LoRa-based smart home products designed to work on the outskirts of your home.