IoT Trends: Low-Power Wide-Area Networks and Standard Consolidation

Lack of standards between proprietary IoT vendors may stifle connected device growth.

(Image courtesy of LoRa Alliance.)

(Image courtesy of LoRa Alliance.)

A recent report from ABI Research looked into the trends of the Internet of Things (IoT) and found that the IoT market growth will depend on the use of noncellular low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs).

The catch, according to ABI Research, is that without a single, unified standard between the proprietary vendors, the growth of the IoT will be stunted. To alleviate this conservative growth, ABI suggests that influential vendors focus on widespread adoption, a vendor ecosystem and revenue models for public networks.

“While network operators typically favor noncellular [LPWAN] technologies for their low deployment and maintenance costs, the lack of standards among proprietary vendors is a drawback to wider adoption of these technologies,” said Adarsh Krishnan, senior analyst at ABI Research. “The closed ecosystem is limiting market innovation and suppressing year-on-year growth.”

Importance of LPWAN for IoT Design Engineers

One of the biggest challenges for engineers working on IoT products is the design of the power system. IoT products become mundane if they do not have the power to connect to the Internet. IoT products are often too far from a constant power source, such as an outlet, to stay on the Internet continuously.

As a result, these products often rely on battery power. Unfortunately, there is only so far a battery can take a connected device. By reducing the energy demand needed to connect to the Internet with LPWAN, engineers can improve the user experience of their products.

However, if the LPWAN system used to connect the product to the Internet doesn’t play well with others due to the web of standards available, then the user experience of the product can once again be affected negatively.

“This is one market ripe for development and there are many application segments out there in which [LPWAN] technologies can be utilized but have not found their place yet, such as connected agriculture and commercial building automation,” concluded Krishnan. “Once the infrastructure for nationwide public networks takes off and standardizations are set, we will start to see these new applications come out of the woodwork and we believe it will signify a big opportunity for the non-3GPP LPWA technologies.”

The Consequences of Little Standardization in the Non-Cellular LPWAN Community

ABI Research predicts that noncellular LPWANs like those from the LoRa Alliance and SIGFOX will start to see a lot of competition from their cellular counterparts such as NB-IoT, EC-GSM-IoT and eMTC. These cellular LPWANs will benefit from an open cellular vendor ecosystem.

ABI Research suggests that one organization that might bring standardization to LPWAN would be the Weightless SIG (special interest group). As said in the press release:

“[Weightless SIG] remains plagued by its past failures to deliver a credible solution. It recently unveiled plans to develop its new Weightless-P technology in collaboration with Taiwanese company M2COMM. The LPWAN technology is expected to be available by Q3 2016 for both public and private network deployment.”

For more on long-range wide-area networks (LoRaWANs), watch this video below:

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.