Smart-Building Management the LoRa Way

This article appeared in Microwaves & RF and has been published here with permission.

What factors are driving building managers to adopt IoT-enabled building management solutions?

System integrators in the commercial real estate (CRE) market constantly look for ways to increase efficiencies and digitize processes. Upgrades in technology and connected systems in CRE have been shown to simplify management, spark cost reductions and energy efficiency, reduce environmental impact, increase employee retention, increase property value, and enhance safety.

What are the keys to success to using IoT-enabled building management solutions?

Several factors must be considered when choosing an Internet of Things (IoT) technology for one’s smart-building management solutions. Is it available today? Does it have proven capabilities and a track record in home and building applications? Is there an ecosystem of companies using the technology? There are other benefits to consider, and, of course, cost.

Semtech’s LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN protocol are leading technologies for LPWAN-based IoT today, with over 600 known use cases and over 100 million devices deployed on every inhabited continent. LoRa-based sensors are simple, easy to use and deploy, and their low-power capabilities enable operation for up to 10 years with no external power source or wiring.

Advantages of LoRa devices for long-range connection make it possible for sensors and the LoRaWAN protocol to track assets that stray from the home. Sensors in smart-home and building applications can detect danger and optimize utility usage to improve the safety and convenience of everyday living.

What kind of impact does a connected environment bring to smart buildings?

IoT-based building-management solutions create efficiencies and connect home devices to the cloud for smarter management. These factors lead to safer, more cost-efficient buildings and homes. For example, connected HVAC systems with integrated IoT solutions enable remote management by home and business owners. These systems can be prescheduled to operate at times of the day when energy cost is lowest, reducing monthly bills.

In addition, some IoT sensors offer capabilities to protect the building from damage or crime. Connected sensors for security, water leaks, foundation durability, and fire prevention are all proven and effective IoT use cases.

What is the Corecell reference design that you recently announced?

The LoRa Corecell reference design provides the “minimum optimized solution” to build a gateway application. The reference design is comprised of two new integrated circuits, enabling customers to deploy cost-effective indoor gateway solutions.

What types of features and functions set this reference design apart from competitors?

The LoRa Corecell reference design’s key features, including low power, a smaller package, and higher integration with improved performance, aim to eliminate design complexity and accelerate time-to-market in the smart-home and building industries. The ICs are designed to dramatically reduce power consumption up to 1/10th the power of legacy products, enabling power-constrained, USB-based gateways and mobile battery-operated gateways.

As we announced earlier this year, Semtech is committed to developing a LoRa product roadmap that simplifies IoT applications, resulting in faster time-to-market for IoT solution providers and systems integrators. This new reference design is key to our LoRa offerings as more real estate and commercial managers, as well as consumers, look for solutions that solve their daily challenges, such as meeting-room occupancy and temperature/humidity monitoring.

What are some of the key challenges that the reference design addressed?

The new products allow for bill-of-materials (BOM) cost reduction and provide a small-package form factor while increasing performance based on a larger number of modulators and demodulators. In addition, spreading factors 5 and 6 were added to support higher data rates, reduce time-on-air, and decrease power consumption.

Pedro Pachuca has over 22 years in the semiconductor industry, specifically focusing on wireless radio-frequency devices. Mr. Pachuca currently is the Director of IoT Wireless at Semtech and is leading in product management for LoRa devices. His previous experience includes product management at Renesas, Silicon Laboratories, and Freescale Semiconductor.

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