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Innovation

CableLabs Announces Major Update to the Open Source LoRa Server

Daryl Malas
Principal Architect, Advanced Technology Group

Dec 18, 2018

Last week, in my blog post “CableLabs Open Source LPWAN Server Brings Diverse LPWAN Technologies Together,” we announced our LPWAN Server. This project is open source and:

  • Provides new capabilities to bring IoT LPWAN wireless technologies together
  • Is a flexible tool to enable the use of multiple servers across multiple vendors

The LPWAN Server was designed to work with the CableLabs sponsored open source LoRa Server and, together, provide a comprehensive solution to enable many LPWAN use cases. It has been nearly 18 months since we released the first major revision of the LoRa Server and, during this time, many improvements have been made.

In this blog, I’ll discuss why we invested in the LoRa Server, how the project continues to improve and how it aligns with the latest specifications released from the LoRa Alliance. If you need a refresher on the LoRa Server, please see my blog post “CableLabs Announces an Open Source LoRaWAN Network Solution.”

Why Did CableLabs Invest in the LoRa Server?

The LoRa Server project was conceived and started by Orne Brocaar. His goal was to develop a fully open source LoRa Server that could be used by anyone looking for the opportunity to gain an introduction into LoRaWAN and LPWANs. Due to limited time and resources, the project remained minimal in functionality and progression for nearly a year.

CableLabs had a goal to find a fully community-based open-source LoRaWAN server to provide the cable industry with the ability to easily prototype, test and trial LPWAN services using unlicensed RF spectrum. We discovered the LoRa Server and began investing heavily into developing the functionality to align with our goal. Shortly after this, Orne joined the CableLabs team to lead the development of the LoRa Server into the exceptional tool it has become.

Our design strategy began and continues to focus on these key areas:

  • Full functional compliance with LoRa Alliance specifications
  • Extensive debug and logging tools
  • Protocol transparency to the operator of the server
  • Scalable for any sized testing, trial or use

While our goals are to provide a tool for testing, trials and related use, the server is fully open-source under the MIT license. This allows it to be used freely for any use from testing to production. We desire to enable growth and creativity in the LPWAN ecosystem using the LoRaWAN protocol.

Introducing a New Version of the LoRa Server

In the summer of 2018, we released LoRa Server v2. We have released several additional updates to introduce new features and improvements since then while maintaining backward compatibility with LoRaWAN 1.0. Where v1 (released in June 2017) was focused on the first stable release since many test versions, v2 focuses on an improved API, User Interface (UI), compliance with LoRaWAN 1.1 and additional interesting new features.

LoRaWAN 1.1

The major feature of LoRa Server v2 is support for LoRaWAN 1.1. LoRaWAN 1.1 is an important release for many reasons:

Enhanced Security

LoRa Server v2 enhances the security of LoRaWAN devices by providing LoRaWAN 1.1 support. Not only does LoRaWAN 1.1 add better protection against replay attacks, it also adds better separation between the encryption of the mac-layer and the application payloads. This also facilitates the implementation of roaming in the future. It is important to mention that LoRa Server v2 still supports LoRaWAN 1.0 devices.

Re-designed Web-Interface

Another major feature of LoRa Server v2 is the completely redesigned and re-written web-interface. The fantastic new interface is more responsive because of smarter caching and it is more user-friendly and easier to navigate.

Redesigned Web Interface LoRa

API improvements

As many users are integrating LoRa Server into their own platforms using the LoRa Server APIs, we want to make sure these APIs are easy to use and are consistent. LoRa Server v2 removes many inconsistencies present in the v1 API and makes it possible to reuse objects so that code duplication is avoided.

LoRa App Server

Multicast

Multicast was a feature which was long requested and is finally present since LoRa Server v2.1.0. This feature makes it possible to assign devices to a multicast-group, so a group of devices can be controlled without the need to address each device individually, reducing the required airtime. One of its use cases is Firmware Updates Over The Air (FUOTA) which was recently released by the LoRa Alliance. In an upcoming version, we are planning to further integrate this into the LoRa App Server component of the LoRa Server.

Geolocation

Since LoRa Server v2.2.0, the server provides geolocation support. By default, it integrates with the Collos platform provided by Semtech, but by using the provided geolocation API, other platforms can be used. Please note this requires a v2 LoRa Gateway with geolocation capabilities, as a high precision timestamp is required for proper geolocation.

Google Cloud Platform integration

A common request we have received is how to scale LoRa Server. Since LoRa Server v2.3.0, it is possible to make use of the Google Cloud Platform infrastructure to improve scalability and availability. LoRa gateways can directly connect to the Cloud IoT Core MQTT bridge (using the LoRa Gateway Bridge), and the LoRa Server and LoRa App Server integrate with Google Cloud Pub/Sub.

Open Source Community

The open source community is encouraged to take advantage of our efforts and further functional support for even more gateways, solutions and use cases. There are many LoRaWAN gateways and applications and we would like the development community to help us integrate these. 

To find out more information about the LoRa Server and become involved in this project, go to the LoRa Server site.

Subscribe to our blog for updates on the open source LoRa Server.


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Innovation

CableLabs Open Source LPWAN Server Brings Diverse LPWAN Technologies Together

Daryl Malas
Principal Architect, Advanced Technology Group

Dec 11, 2018

CableLabs is excited to announce a new open source project called LPWAN Server. The LPWAN Server provides new capabilities to bring IoT LPWAN wireless technologies together.

Before we go into more details on the LPWAN Server, let us first get some background into this space. In my previous blog post, I discussed the Internet of Things (IoT) as a growing industry comprised of a massive number of devices that connect to each other to benefit our lives. For example, a soil moisture sensor can help a farmer determine when to water their crops rather than potentially wasting water through a legacy timed-based approach. In that blog post, CableLabs announced the release of an open source LoRaWAN solution, LoRa Server.

What is LoRa Server and LPWANs?

LoRa Server is a community-sourced open source LoRaWAN network server for setting up and managing LoRaWAN networks. LPWANs connect sensors designed to last for years on a single battery transmitting information periodically over long distances.

There are many potential use cases shown below:

LPWA Use Cases

LPWA use cases graphic by LoRa Alliance member Actility at the occasion of its collaboration with Softbank in Japan.

LPWANs are designed to cover large geographical areas and minimize the amount of power required for sensors to interact with the network. There are many solutions available to enable these use cases, including:

  • LoRaWAN™: LoRaWAN is a partially open unlicensed spectrum solution developed through the specifications efforts of the LoRa Alliance: While the specifications are developed within the Alliance, they are made available to the general public upon completion.
  • Mobile solutions from 3GPP: 3GPP defined Cat-M1 and NB-IoT for varying connectivity requirements. These are also open standards, but they require licensed spectrum.
  • Weightless: Weightless is an open specification effort but has struggled in gaining traction in the LPWAN space. It should be noted, there are many other proprietary LPWAN technologies with active deployments and use in this ecosystem.

Why No One Solution Will Own the Technology

We believe no one LPWAN technology will fully own this IoT space. Our reasoning for this belief comes from multiple factors. As we look at the sensors in this space, some are intended for real-time applications with consistent and verified uploads, while other sensors simply wake-up periodically and transmit small data payloads. Without going into more specific examples, we believe some LPWAN applications are better suited for licensed spectrum mobile networks, while other LPWAN applications are better supported with unlicensed solutions, such as LoRaWAN™. LoRaWAN services can be further explored through some of our member offerings via MachineQ™ and Cox℠ .

Our New Open Source Solution

With these considerations in mind, we developed a new open source solution to enable easily moving data from devices and applications across varying network types and related solutions. The LPWAN Server was designed to enable multiple use cases:

  • First, it can be used to simply migrate or operate between two LoRaWAN™ network servers, such as the LoRa Server and The Things Network.
  • Second, and more importantly, the long-term design intention is to enable the routing of multiple LPWAN technologies, such as LoRaWAN™ and SigFox or LoRaWAN™ and Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT). In order to integrate IP-based devices, the server will include a “relay server” of sorts. This allows for the IP traffic to mix with LoRaWAN™ traffic for a single upstream interface to an application or data collector, such as Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Our goal with this project is to see developers add more back-end integration with network servers and technologies to enable this routing of traffic across many LPWAN technologies.

LPWAN Server Use Cases

The LPWAN Server was designed to support the following use cases:

1. Multi-vendor LoRaWAN™ environment: Using the LPWAN Server in a multi-vendor LoRaWAN™ environment allows a network provider to:

  • Test multiple servers from multiple vendors in a lab,
  • Trial with multiple network servers from multiple vendors
  • Run multiple vendor solutions in production

Multi-vendor LoRaWAN environment

2. NB-IoT & LoRaWAN™ device deployment: The LPWAN Server will allow you to operate a single application for devices deployed on both LoRaWAN™ and NB-IoT networks. The LPWAN Server will enable an IP relay-server for connecting with NB-IoT (and Cat-M1) devices commonly behind a 3GPP mobile network Evolved Packet Core (EPC). It also allows for managing devices on the LoRaWAN™ The devices are managed under a single application within the LPWAN Server. This allows an application to receive data over a single northbound Application Program Interface (API) rather than maintain API connections and data flows to multiple networks.

3. Simplify device provisioning across multiple LPWAN network types and solutions: The LPWAN Server simplifies provisioning to one or more LPWAN networks. A major challenge for a back-office solution is to integrate provisioning into a new network server. This is further complicated with multiple new network servers and types. In order to simplify this, the LPWAN Server manages the APIs to the networks, and the back-office solution only needs to integrate with a single API to the LPWAN Server. The following figure illustrates this.

Multi-vendor LoRaWAN environment

4. Create consistent data order and formats from LPWAN devices: The final use case explains how the LPWAN Server can normalize data from varying devices on one or more networks. Unfortunately, even in a single network environment, such as LoRaWAN™, there is no standard for data formats from multiple “like” sensors. For example, a weather sensor from two different vendors could send the same type of data but reverse the order. An application will need to interpret the data format from multiple sensors. In order to simplify this, the LPWAN Server can be used to reformat the data payload into a common format for sending up to the application server. In this way, the application server will not need to interpret the data.

Simplify device provisioning across multiple LPWAN network types

CableLabs & the Development Community Together

The LPWAN Server is intended to be a community open source project. The initial release from CableLabs provides support for a multi-vendor LoRaWAN™ use case. The back-end has been designed for future support of all of the use cases, and the UI is flexible to support them as well. We currently are using the server for data normalization, too; however, this is via a back-end process.

The open source community is encouraged to take advantage of the initial CableLabs development and further the development into a useful application for even more servers, solutions and use cases. There are many network types and related servers, and we would like the development community to help us integrate these. 

To find out more information about the LPWAN Server and become involved in this project, go to https://lpwanserver.com.

The LPWAN Server was designed to work with the CableLabs sponsored open source LoRa Server. In an upcoming blog, I will discuss how that project continues to evolve and align with the latest specification releases from the LoRa Alliance. The LPWAN Server and LoRa Server provide a comprehensive solution to enable many LPWAN use cases.


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Innovation

CableLabs Announces an Open Source LoRaWAN Network Solution

Daryl Malas
Principal Architect, Advanced Technology Group

Jul 24, 2017

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a growing industry comprised of a massive number of devices that connect to each other to benefit our lives. Examples of these include the Nest thermostat, security cameras, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple Watch. Refrigerators can talk with the internet to order milk and Fitbits tell you when to step more to meet your daily exercise goals.

A new area of IoT involves the use of sensors designed to last for years on a single battery transmitting information periodically over long distances. The infrastructure to support all of these connected devices is commonly referred to as a Low Power Wide Area Network (LP-WAN).

LP-WAN networks are designed to cover large geographical areas and minimize the amount of power required for sensors to interact with the network. There are many solutions available to enable this network, including Ingenu, Sigfox, LoRaWAN, 3GPP and Weightless.

CableLabs is pleased to announce an open-source LoRaWAN solution. LoRa is a semi-proprietary solution as it is owned and licensed by Semtech, and a closed consortium (i.e. LoRa Alliance) develops the LoRaWAN specification around the Semtech solution architecture.

Once the consortium concludes a revision of this effort, they make it publicly available. Ingenu and Sigfox are examples of fully proprietary solutions with closed development and ecosystems. In an effort to be more open, they have software development kits available for sensor manufacturers to create sensors for their networks. Of course, these are merely examples of many more solutions emerging in this space. All of them are attempting to create their own advantage and benefits for network providers and consumers. We attempted to highlight some of the more commonly known solutions available, but these are not meant to be preferential or endorsed by CableLabs and are not an exhaustive listing.

LoRaWAN is a long range, low power wireless protocol that is intended for use in building IoT LP-WAN networks. IoT devices send small data packets to any number of “gateways” that may be in the several-kilometer range of a sensor via the LoRaWAN wireless protocol. The gateways then use more traditional communications such as wired Internet connections to forward the messages to a network-server which validates the packets and forwards the application payload to an application-server.

CableLabs chose to develop a LoRaWAN open-source solution because we believe it is a good compromise between proprietary and open solutions, and it provides many of our members an opportunity to compete in the low power wide area (LPWA) space.

Figure 2 - LoRaWAN Example Network Architecture

In the past, CableLabs has often developed solutions specific to the cable industry, but we believe open-source provides consumers a great benefit as it will spur growth in an industry intended to enrich our lives. This enrichment comes through devices intended to inform us of many things. For example, many of us have driven by a city park during a rain storm and noticed the sprinkler system running. This is a waste of water and further impacts our climate. What if we had soil moisture sensors that could communicate with a sprinkler controller to inform it when it requires water? This could save countless gallons of water, which is extremely valuable, especially in drought-stricken regions.

Another example could be to inform a loved one when an aging relative has taken their pills for the day, gets out of bed or sits in a chair too long. All of these are examples of the benefits of sensors enabled by LP-WANs.

In order for us to realize these benefits, LP-WANs need to be deployed broadly across national and international regions. This will enable the use of many sensors across these same regions. As we make use of the sensor data, it will enrich our lives with information to make better choices, ensure higher quality results and guide us towards a better future. By making a portion of this network available for open-source, our goal is to lower the barrier for the cable industry and other industry participants to enable these solutions for consumers and governments. Together we can truly change the world, and it should not be limited by costly barriers.

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More information on the CableLabs LoRa server, including documentation and code repository, can be found here.

With a strong focus on innovation, CableLabs develops technologies and specifications for the secure delivery of high-speed data, video, voice and next generation services. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to read more about our innovative technologies in the future.

 

 

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