IoT and Smart Cities: Why LoRaWAN is an emerging leader

Cities and regional centres around Australia are devising strategies to become more liveable and sustainable communities by becoming ‘smart cities’.

This is driven by the huge potential for connected ‘things’ to reduce energy consumption, decrease the cost of operations for core services, provide more reliable and timely services, prevent problems such as theft, increase safety, optimise mobility, and dramatically improve liveability for the people who live and work in these centres.

The realities of building a ‘smart city’

The only thing is, the idea of a ‘smart city’ isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. It suggests an integrated system, a coherent entity in which all components function as parts of an integrated whole.

That, of course, is not the real world. Cities comprise multiple private and public entities – local councils, local transport bodies, energy and water utilities and more.

Each will likely have its own ideas of how smart city technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to realise the vision. Each is coming from a base of installed infrastructure, operational systems and ongoing services that must be maintained.

As different entities look at how they can ‘get smart’ by making use of IoT there will be overlaps and duplications, such as multiple wireless networks to communicate with the various ‘things’.

This begs the question – what would you do if you had a clean slate, a community not yet built, and total control over it. What IoT infrastructure would you put in place? What IoT applications would you look at first?

That is not a theoretical question. Such a project is underway in Australia and LoRaWAN, supplied by NNNCo has been chosen to provide the underlying IoT infrastructure. Here’s how it came to be.

Lendlease Communities, is an arm of construction giant Lendlease charged with developing greenfield sites in Australia into fully functioning townships with homes, business, schools and all the other facilities needed to create a community.

A new smart city 30 years in the making

Its projects – of which there are over 100 — are huge and extend over several decades. One of its largest such projects is Yarrabilba, 45kms southeast of Brisbane. It’s an area of some 2,000 hectares that, when completed by approximately 2041, will be home to 45,000 people in 17,000 dwellings. Work started in 2011 and today Yarrabilba has around 4,500 residents in 2,500 homes, a retail precinct and parks.

For such a long term project a focus on the future is essential. So it’s no surprise that Lendlease Communities is looking closely at all aspects of what it takes to create a smart city, or a smart community.

Senior Design Manager of Lendlease Technology, Steven Bird, says the company has chosen Yarrabilba to develop a smart city template that can be applied to other communities.

“We chose Yarrabilba in part because it is one our biggest developments and because of where it is in the development cycle: it had some development in place but it still has a long way to go.”

“For us that was a question of working out what solutions deliver benefits, to test out the technologies, see what works best, and to work with different partners and companies to see who and what performs well.”

The case for LoRaWAN

Lendlease Technology soon realised that a wireless network designed for IoT was necessary to underpin IoT applications.

Steven explains, “We looked at the solutions we might want as a smart community and saw an IoT network as a foundational piece of infrastructure that we would need to deliver IoT solutions.”

“We were keen to try a few different IoT networks but we wanted an open standard and a relatively open network. We were conscious that whatever we put in is likely to eventually be handed over to the Yarrabilba Council. We knew they would value openness over proprietary networks.”

After looking at LoRaWAN in depth, Steven concluded that it was the strongest emerging standard for low powered star topology networks for IoT.

NNNCo has now been awarded a contract to install and manage a LoRaWAN network in Yarrabilba and Lendlease is taking its first steps in setting up smart city applications to use the network.

Steven says it’s still early days. “We will trial a whole bunch of things and those that go well will become part of our business as usual development planning and implementation.

First Smart Community applications

“We have installed some of NNNCo’s smart lighting controllers, proved we can control the lights and are looking to install a few more. Then we will evaluate those and see where we go from there.”

“We have a mix of solar powered compacting smart bins and regular bins with sensors communicating over a 3G network. When the LoRaWAN ones become available we will run side-by-side trials.”

NNNCo’s Founder & CEO, Rob Zagarella, adds “LoRaWAN’s capabilities are extremely well suited to smart city requirements. The technology is already used in cities across Europe and the US and has proven to be reliable, secure and affordable at scale. Being a global open standard technology also provides the capability to build an ecosystem over time rather than a silo solution.”

With the LoRa Alliance (the global association behind LoRaWAN) growing rapidly now with more than 500 members, 250+ trials and city deployments of LoRaWAN underway there will be no shortage of ideas, examples and devices for future LoRaWAN based smart city applications.