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LoRa and LoRaWAN for Internet of Things

The basic elements of Internet of Things (IoT) that give the functions of the device such as sending and receiving data are sensors. Sensors transform any information received from the environment into meaningful data to process it. A network structure is required to perform this data exchange. Today, this is done mostly with wireless connection technology. However, connections such as Bluetooth, wired, wireless, and cellular data have some disadvantages in terms of some features. The part where end users interact with IoT is mostly mobile and web applications. End users want to interact with our devices no matter how far away they are and not spend too much effort in terms of cost while doing this. However, Bluetooth and wired connection offer us a very limited distance in terms of area. When we look at wireless technologies, although cellular data does not limit us in distance, it imposes a lot of cost and power consumption. WiFi technology, on the other hand, can be implemented at a limited distance. LoRa and LoRaWAN have been developed to both solve this “distance” problem in terms of “cost” and to provide efficiency for many years in terms of “power consumption”.

 

LoRa

LoRa communication technology has 2 basic concepts. LoRa edge devices and LoRaWAN network structure. End devices are sensors that contain LoRa modules. LoRaWAN network structure consists of a gateway and a network server. In the next section, we will examine LoRaWAN in more detail. If we include the application part, we can say that LoRa technology consists of 4 parts – “end device + gateway + server + application”.

LoRa communication is a technology that can be used in low or medium-sized data transfers. The essence of this communication technology is based on radio frequencies. The situation that provides the advantage in terms of distance is the use of radio frequencies. The word LoRa derives from the first 2 letters of the word “Long Range”. This presents us very clearly with the primary purpose of the development of LoRa. The power source for LoRa end devices consists of alkaline batteries. And these batteries can act as a power source for years. The power consumption of the end devices varies according to the LoRaWAN class they are included in.

LoRa end devices consist of 2 parts. These are a Radio module + a microprocessor with an antenna. The LoRaWAN protocol is used when transferring data from the end device to the Gateway. Technologies such as WiFi, cellular, and TCP/IP protocol are used to transfer data from the gateway to the server in the network. Besides TCP/IP, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocol is also used since security is a very important factor. Thanks to the SSL protocol, a more reliable communication channel is created with end-to-end connections.

 

LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN is a protocol developed by the LoRa Alliance for LoRa end devices to communicate. In the LoRaWAN network, “Star Topology” is used, in which there is a device that performs a central task for message transmission and other devices are under this central device. The communication between the end devices, namely the sensors and the gateway, is bidirectional. Sending data from the end device to the gateway is called “uplink”, sending data from the gateway to the end device is called “downlink”.

Due to Star Topology, the sensors cannot communicate with each other directly, they exchange data through the gateway. For direct data transfer between sensors, embedded microprocessors that are part of sensors must use the Radiohead package library. This is an object-oriented library for the direct transfer of data.

Gateways connect to the network server with a standard IP connection, that is, using the TCP/IP protocol. It acts as an interpreter, a bridge between end devices and sensors by converting between IP packets and RF packets. Namely, the data coming from the sensors to the gateway is in the form of an RF packet, but the data sent to the network server must be sent as an IP packet. The gateway is responsible for the conversion between these two packet types. 

The RF layer is the layer where the radio frequency range to be used is defined. In the Physical Layer, there are LoRa end devices. In the LoRa protocol, only one hop connection is allowed between the LoRa end devices and the Gateway at the physical layer. The LoRaWAN part includes the class information of the devices on the network and the application layer. The figure below summarizes what we have said.

 

 

 

Security

One of the most important issues in IoT is undoubtedly the concept of “security”. Having objects in an unsecured network in our home is not that very different from living in a house without a door. Because in both cases, there are high-level vulnerabilities that invite all foreigners and bad events. For this reason, important studies are also included in the structure of the “Internet of Things” for security.

 

In LoRa, two separate encryptions are used for data security. The first is for network security and the other is for application layer security. A unique 128-bit network session key is used for secure communication of data between the end device and the network server. In the application layer, a unique 128-bit application session key is used for end-to-end communication. These 128-bit keys are generated using AES algorithms.

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