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AWS Internet of Things Core for LoRaWAN

George Hardesty
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AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN: Key IoT Trend for 2023 and Beyond

AWS IoT is Amazon's revolutionary platform for supporting large-scale deployments of IoT devices. Not only can IoT devices and gateways be set up, organized, and managed via this platform, AWS IoT also provides seamless integration to the significant computing and storage resources of AWS Cloud-based services including:

  • Amazon S3
  • AWS Appsync
  • Amazon SageMaker
  • AWS IoT Analytics
  • Amazon CloudFront.

In 2020, Amazon Web Services entered into a significant collaborative partnership with the LoRa Alliance which has led to the release of AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN. This represents a significant advancement in the adoption of LoRaWAN networking technology which could now easily become a market leader and set industry standards for IoT. Amazon also is likely to increase its market share and make inroads into becoming a dominant IoT service provider.

LoRaWAN is a common IoT networking solutionDonna Moore, CEO, and Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance said of the collaboration: “The rapid acceleration of growth in both private and public LoRaWAN networks has been key in the expansion of LoRaWAN deployments worldwide. AWS’ launch of AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN offers an innovative solution to accelerate private network deployments by offering a simple, reliable, cloud-based method that allows customers to easily and cost-effectively deploy private LoRaWAN networks.”

This comprehensive guide explains what the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN is, and how it can be used to connect and manage LoRa IoT devices and gateways. It also explores how LoRa networking works and the features of LoRaWAN networking technology that make it competitive.

LoRaWAN is a common IoT networking solution

LoRaWAN is a leading IoT networking solution that has eclipsed other Low-Power Wide-Area Networking (LPWAN) technologies like Bluetooth or WiFi for IoT networking. IoT devices are often sensor-based, battery-powered and transmit their data over long distances. LoRa is a networking technology that can match the requirements of this type of common IoT device exactly as it provides connectivity over long distances while consuming very little power. LoRaWAN already has an established reputation for performance in supporting IoT applications as diverse as environmental monitoring in farms and buildings and telemetry of industrial equipment.

What is AWS IoT?

AWS IoT is an IoT networking platform that is provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Networked IoT sensors and devices can connect via AWS IoT to exchange data that can be processed, analyzed, and stored using the significant computing power of the AWS Cloud.

It can be used solely for the connection and management of IoT devices or in partnership with AWS Cloud services to create software for turnkey IoT solutions. AWS IoT is also capable of managing integration with other IoT applications and networks meaning that the most suitable and up-to-date technologies can be used in IoT solutions for consumers, the commercial sector, and industry.

AWS IoT can be used with four key IoT protocols that are used for the transfer of IoT device and application data to the AWS IoT Core:

  • Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN)
  • Message Queuing and Telemetry Transport (MQTT)
  • MQTT over Websockets Secure (WSS)
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol - Secure (HTTPS)

The remainder of this article will be concerned with the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN as the means of AWS IoT data transfer.

The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN

AWS IoT can be used with IoT protocolsThe AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN is a new feature within AWS IoT that enables the direct connection of wireless IoT devices that use LoRa with access to the AWS Cloud. It provides a robust and secure means of connecting IoT devices to the Cloud without needing to provide and configure an intermediary server. It is used to manage the connected IoT devices and gateways in a network. AWS clients can set up their own private LoRaWAN networks using AWS IoT to manage their participant devices at scale for enterprise and commercial applications. The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN can support billions of devices with a throughput of messages in the trillions, routing the data to specified AWS Cloud destinations securely and consistently. AWS services can then be used to act on the data transferred from the connected LoRaWAN devices.

AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN does not require a LoRaWAN Network Server (LNS)

For LoRaWAN devices, the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN means that a LoRaWAN Network Server (LNS) is not required to establish a data connection. Network Server provision can be a challenge with private LoRa networks requiring the expense and expertise to set up an in-house server or pay for a managed LNS. With AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN network engineers save the time and complexities of the LNS by connecting devices and gateways directly to AWS in an almost plug-and-play manner.

About LoRa

LoRaWAN is a Low Power, Wide Area (LPWA) networking protocol that is specified by the LoRa Alliance. It was developed in France and then sold to the US company Semtech. It is now overseen by the LoRa Alliance which releases LoRa networking protocols and standards.

This wireless networking technology is used to connect battery-powered sensors and IoT devices to the internet so that they can transfer the data they have generated and be managed remotely. LoRaWANs are capable of supporting a bidirectional flow of traffic and networks vary in scale and scope. LoRaWANS span anything from local networks to coverage of large regions or even countries. LoRa networking is also able to support features that are critical to IoT networking including end-to-end encryption, mobility and tracking, and localization of transmitting network nodes.

LoRa operates in the unlicensed portions of the radio spectrum, making it a cost-effective method of supporting large numbers of IoT device connections. It uses Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS) modulation, to adjust the bandwidth of transferred data for optimal speed and energy consumption. The LoRaWAN networking protocol is open-source, meaning that anyone can use it to set up their own LoRaWAN network. LoRa chipsets used in IoT devices have decreased in size and improved in energy consumption over time, leading to widespread adoption of this technology.

LoRaWAN networks provide far less bandwidth than other wireless technologies for IoT. It compensates for this through the method of modulation it uses, Chirp Spread Spectrum (CSS). Its narrowband waveform is resilient against interference and means that data can be transferred over long distances as the radio waves do not lose energy as quickly as broadband signals.

Notable features of LoRaWAN:

  1. As its name suggests, LoRaWAN technology can support long-range communications that can exceed 10 miles (16.1 km) where there is a line of sight.
  2. The LoRa signal has deep building penetration.
  3. It is also able to support high-capacity networks.
  4. LoRaWAN networks have low energy consumptions, making them ideal for battery-powered devices that may not transmit frequently. Battery life of up to 10 years is common and can be enhanced by adjustments to latency and the amount of data transmitted by the device in a single transmission.
  5. These networks and the participants tend to be low maintenance.
  6. The costs are lower than the cellular networking solutions for IoT
  7. The data rate of LoRa networking is 0.3 kbit/sec to 37 kbit per second
  8. The maximum payload size is limited to 241 bytes.
  9. CSS modulation enables adjustment of bandwidth used.
  10. LoRa data transmissions are resistant to in-band and out-band interference, fading, and doppler shift
  11. LoRa can provide localization via participant nodes rather than energy-intensive GPS saving battery life and cost.

AWS IoT Core for LoRAWAN network structure

Amazon Web Services LoRa networks have a star of stars network topology. LoRaWAN gateways and IoT devices connect directly to the AWS IoT Core which is the center or hub of the network. This is a hybrid topology that has groups of start networks configured as nodes that surround a central hub or root node. It is this central node that controls the network and manages data flows. This topology is advantageous because it is reliable, flexible, and easily scaled. Faults in the network are contained within a particular subset of nodes and do not bring down the entire network.

Downstream IoT devices communicate with the AWS Core via connected and AWS IoT managed LoRaWAN gateways.

  • Participant IoT devices use the LoRa communication protocol to connect and transfer data to their nearest LoRaWAN gateway.
  • The LoRaWAN gateways are directly connected to the AWS Core. This is achieved using the LoRa Basics Station , a proprietary gateway software developed by Semtech that is used to manage and transfer the data flows from downstream devices to the AWS Core.
  • The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN then manages the LoRaWAN gateways and participant IoT devices in accordance with the IoT device protocols and policies. AWS IoT is able to communicate via the gateway with devices and also forward data to specified Cloud-based destinations. Data can also be sent by the AWS IoT Core to other permitted applications and services using a variety of messaging techniques.

More on LoRa Basics Station

LoRa Basics Station is open-source software that is used by LoRa gateways to connect to the AWS Core for LoRa or a LoRa Network Server (LNS) in alternate (IoT) network setups. It has replaced the UDP Packet Forwarder and now provides the preferred way of connecting gateways so they can transfer data for edge or Cloud-based computing. The protocol used is designed to simplify the management of the IoT network, especially where they are large. LoRa Basics Station has key advantages including:

  • A central interface for updating and configuring the gateway
  • Provision of Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Token-based authentication
  • Channel plan management

Connecting gateways and devices to AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN

Only approved gateways and devices can be connected to the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN. AWS provides a partner device catalog that outlines qualified gateways and devices that are compatible with the LoRaWAN AWS IoT Core. Gateways and devices are added to the AWS Core via the console interface. A wireless API alternative is available for adding large numbers of devices and gateways to the AWS IoT Core in a more efficient, automated manner.

Gateways, devices, profiles, and destinations that are connected to the AWS Core for LoRaWAN have specific naming conventions, with AWS assigning unique IDs to each network component which can be edited to something more specific to aid in managing the network(s) more easily. Network components can also be tagged via the central AWS core.

Processing of IoT device data by the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN

Data sent by IoT devices to AWS is often encoded to conserve bandwidth. Device vendors often have unique idiosyncrasies that are specific to the device or version of LoRaWAN the device uses. If other AWS Cloud services are used in the processing or management of the data, it may require conversion to a compatible format.

The AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN has functionality that can decode device messages, presenting them in a format that can be readily used by other Amazon Web Services. The necessary rules for decoding IoT device data can be set up via the AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN by providing the data format used by the IoT device, the service that will use the transferred data, and the format that the destination service requires.

Antennas are mission-critical hardware for AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN

Robust, reliable long-distance data transfer needs a performance antenna. For the optimum performance of your AWS IoT network, consider using one of our performance high gain antennas that can be precisely matched to your network's PHY layer specification at both device and gateway levels.

Data Alliance LoRa antennas for AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN networking

Using external LoRa antennas for LoRAWAN IoT applications means that you can position your antenna for maximum coverage of your LoRa network. Browse our comprehensive range of external antennas or for specific requests contact our team with your requirements directly by phone or email.

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