LoRaWAN® vs Bluetooth
Why Not Both?
When it comes to selecting the right connectivity protocol for your IoT device, there is rarely a perfect fit. Why do developers have to sacrifice cost for power consumption or trade range for bandwidth? Determining which wireless protocol is appropriate for your device’s design is a matter of its intended use case(s), but is there a comprehensive connectivity solution for IoT devices? There might be two.
What is LoRaWAN®?
LoRaWAN® is the communications protocol for LoRa®, a modulation technique used for long-range, low-power communications. With specifications designed to optimize IoT connectivity, LoRaWAN is a Long Range, Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN). LoRaWAN technology uses bi-directional communication, mobility, and localization services to streamline interoperability among smart devices. As determined by the LoRA® Alliance, “LoRaWAN defines the communication protocol and system architecture for the network.” LoraWAN’s architecture (Figure 1) helps determine the battery life of a node within a network, the capacity of a network, the quality and service of a network, and applications within a network.
Figure 1: LoRaWAN® network architecture
Source: LoRa Alliance®
Key Features of LoRaWAN:
· Typical connectivity range of 10 miles in rural areas
· Penetrates urban environments
· Enhanced indoor coverage
· Minimizes battery replacement costs with battery life span of 10-20 years
· Requires minimal energy
· Enables GPS-free tracking applications
· Features secure AES128 encryption
· Industrial asset tracking
· Smart metering
· Smart cities
· Smart home
· Smart agriculture
· Healthcare tracking
· Supply chain and logistics
Disadvantages of LoRaWAN:
· Varied throughput restrictions, especially on the downlink.
· If network is not within range of public LoRa coverage, developers will need to install gateways and infrastructure.
· Not intended for continuous monitoring
· Limited payload of 222 bytes
What is Bluetooth?
Unlike LoRaWAN, Bluetooth is a short-range, wireless form of device communication. With a connectivity range limited to around 100 meters, Bluetooth Classic’s technology is typically utilized for interconnection between headphones, speakers, and other audio devices. There are many versions of Bluetooth, but Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a popular type of Bluetooth due to its enhanced features and operation. Typically, BLE’s connectivity range is limited to less than 100 meters, but BLE 5 is offering developers enhanced range of up to 1 kilometer.
From its inception, BLE was designed to feature the lowest possible latency and power consumption with the widest range of interoperable devices. As opposed to Bluetooth Classic (Figure 2), BLE is seen in applications like wearables, smart devices, and battery-powered accessories. BLE audio has recently been introduced to the market and enables features like multi-cast audio.
Figure 2: Bluetooth Class vs Bluetooth Low Energy comparison
Source: AV System
Key Features of Bluetooth Low Energy:
· Enhanced transmit range and receiver sensitivity
· Ultra-low peak, average, standby mode power usage
· Ability to run for years on standard, coin-cell batteries
· Very low cost
· Multi-vendor interoperability
Bluetooth Low Energy Applications:
· Fitness trackers
· Smart appliances
· Indoor location tracking
· Contact tracing
· Retail asset tracking
Disadvantages of Bluetooth Low Energy:
· Developers must deploy their own gateways
· Limited range
Why Developers are Combining LoRaWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy:
Developers can harness the power of long- and short-range connectivity by combining the power of LoRaWAN and BLE into one hybrid module. Connected Development has found hybrid BLE/LoRa devices and other radios for provisioning/activation to be helpful in use case(s) where field technicians need to interact with devices for provisioning or debugging purposes, but do not want to be cabled into a hardwired diagnostic port. The combination of BLE and LoRaWAN allows companies to benefit from LoRaWAN’s long-range connectivity and BLE’s accessibility. Hybridization of LoRaWAN and BLE in one module allows:
· Data transmission range benefits of LoRa
· High density sensor deployment using LoRaWAN
· Enhanced accessibility with simple sensor control and diagnostics from laptops or phones
· Local provisioning via BLE
Interested in optimizing your IoT connectivity with a LoRaWAN/BLE hybrid module? Connected Development is an expert in wireless communications and is part of the LoRa Alliance®, consult with Connected Development for guidance on how to integrate both technologies into your design.