From the sidewalk to the grapevine: how LoRa technology is becoming the backbone of IoT communications.

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Amazon Sidewalk is an Amazon project to extend the connectivity of low-bandwidth devices beyond the distance limits of home WiFi networks. Whether it’s a dog tag or a motion sensor on a long driveway, devices can’t always rely on being in WiFi coverage.

IoT sensors for agriculture, smart cities, and other away-from-home sensors face similar connectivity issues: WiFi is not readily available. Cellular communications might have limited coverage and carry a hefty monthly subscription cost.

Recently, Amazon announced that it would use LoRa technology as the backbone for Sidewalk. 

LoRa uses the 900 MHz license-free frequency band (the exact frequency depends on the geography) to enable low-power, long-range transmissions. Depending on the particular conditions, devices that use LoRa can transmit to a LoRa gateway up to 10 miles away.

That same LoRa technology is already available in the SolTag, Sol Chip’s solar tag. This tag combines an everlasting solar-powered battery with IoT data collection and control capabilities. For instance, a SolTag can report soil moisture and air humidity sensor data to the cloud and then open an irrigation valve based on this data. This zero-maintenance solution enables high-impact precision agriculture applications as well as other uses that need reliable power and communications.

Why is the LoRa range important? Cost. A single gateway can serve a significant area. In ideal conditions, a transmission range of 10 miles means coverage of over 300 square miles or about 200,000 acres. Using shorter-range technologies would require many additional gateways, or alternatively embedding a cellular modem in each device and paying its monthly cell fees.

With Amazon’s adoption of LoRa technology, we expect LoRa-powered equipment to become even more prevalent, and find its way to multiple locations: from the sidewalk to the grapevine.