11 Aug 2022

Activation of LoRaWAN Class B to help control and upgrade millions of devices

The world of Internet of Things (IoT) is very innovative. New applications and ideas follow each other in rapid succession. 

KPN, a telecommunications, and IT provider in the Netherlands is operating a public LoRaWAN networkThis nationwide IoT network, powered by Actility’s ThingPark IoT platform, has activated LoRaWAN Class B leveraging its low latency commands functionality, allowing to control and easily upgrade millions of IoT devices for a  variety of applications such as asset tracking, smart grid balancing control, air quality sensing, remote patient monitoring or public emergency systems, making life smarter for Dutch citizens.

LoRaWAN as the backbone of low-power IoT

As an operator, it is important to keep up with IoT developments in the market. Actility’s customer KPN has always been at the forefront of LoRaWAN-based IoT innovations.

Actility and KPN have been pioneering together the world-leading development of the European Internet of Things since 2014. Within a year of the start of the rollout in 2015, KPN was the first to deploy and operate a nationwide Low-Power Wide-Area LoRaWAN-network in the world. KPN remained the frontrunner on a global level with new developments, introducing services such as roaming, ultra-low-power network-based location services, and end-to-end security based on hardware. The latter is now a standard within KPN.

KPN’s network already addresses a wide variety of markets with very different requirements, but sharing the common need to connect sensors cost-effectively, over long distances and in both built-up areas and wide-open countryside’s. KPN is leveraging its ThingPark Wireless solution to connect a wide range of objects in markets as diverse as agriculture, smart building, transport infrastructure and healthcare applications. For example, tens of thousands of Clickey Smart Building IoT Sensors have already been deployed in the Netherlands using LoRa.

Why does Class B matter for LoRaWAN-powered IoT use cases?

With the recent activation of LoRaWAN Class B (for Beaconing), KPN is ready to support the ‘next generation’ of LoRa devices and use cases. Where previously it was mainly about receiving uplink information from sensors, Class B makes it possible to keep devices precisely synchronized, enabling low latency control applications and multicast transmissions toward the devices. With this innovation, KPN is the first operator in the world to implement the Beaconing functionality in their national production network.

In legacy “Class A”, no control command can be sent to a device unless it has previously sent an uplink message. This is perfect for sensing applications but requires periodic uplink transmissions when the use case also requires commands, and this overhead increases with the frequency of such uplinks. By contrast Class B enables low latency control applications, without requiring frequent uplinks from the device, and therefore conserving power. Several device manufactures and solution providers are already planning to leverage the new feature.

A typical application would be to change the configuration of a device with immediate effect, for example switch a tracker to high frequency positioning for a lost asset. Perhaps the most striking and innovative application of Class B is to multicast control signals or data transmission:

Advanced smart grid balancing, for example, will require near-real time commands to potentially millions of endpoints (e.g. EV car chargers, HVACs) to slightly adjust their power consumption in real-time.

Public emergency systems are another extremally useful application. Sensing earthquake warning signals to shut down millions of meters and valves within minutes. The traditional cellular M2M networks provide only multi-unicast, which cannot be used for such massive use cases.

Class B can also be leveraged to multicast firmware upgrades. For example, a smart-building application can upgrade thousands of air-quality sensors at once. KPN has worked not only on such massive file transfer applications, but also on optimised differential firmware compression schemes, which further optimise transmission delays and energy consumption.

Growing together while globalizing LoRaWAN adoption

As OCK expands its portfolio of services and workforce, the need for reliable tracking solutions has arisen for them. Actility and Abeeway are the right partners for this offer, as through their know-how, acquired throughout years of experience, thousands of use cases deployed, and wide relationships with global partners in hardware and vertical applications, they offer the confidence to believe the will bring many smart solutions using LoRaWAN technology to the Malaysian market.


Company info: Actility