What is the internet of things? Many of us have experimented with connected devices in our homes, offices, and cars. Smart thermostats keep us comfortable, while reducing our energy footprint. Connected garage door openers ensure secure delivery of packages, and remind us if we leave the door open while on vacation. Connected lights add convenience to our bed time routines, and smart voice assistants give a new way to engage with the digital world.
So what's missing? Analysts have told us billions of devices will connect to the internet; that our world will be automated and orchestrated, with the mobile device being a remote control to our connected lives. But this vision has yet to materialize. Most early adopters have battle scars from configuring ZigBee relays, or trying to build out a custom Z-Wave network for home IoT devices. While we were keen on the possibility of useful connected appliances, the reality was becoming an IT administrator to an increasingly complex set of systems. Some items are simply beyond the reach of a wifi network. Others are in a place where it's difficult to plug them in to power.
Why is this the case? So far, wireless networks have been built for people, not machines. People like watching cat videos on YouTube. People like browsing reddit, or playing video games. Machines, however, don't need that much bandwidth, and often don't have that much power to sacrifice.
Enter Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN). LPWAN networks are a new breed of wireless protocols that are Longer Range, Lower Power, and Lower Cost than traditional managed networks (like cellular). What are they good for? Connecting agricultural and building sensors to gather and send important, but often trivial in size, communications. For telling us if there's a rat in the rat trap, or if we left the door open at home, or where that thing we just lost is.