What’s LoRa Alliance all about? How can they benefit creators of IoT Solutions in India and across the globe? Those were the questions we had in mind, when we got a chance to meet the alliance’s CEO & chairwoman – Ms. Donna Moore. She not only explained membership benefits for device makers, but also the system integrators, enterprise customers and even the network operators! Here are the key extracts in an interaction with ProfitfromIoT.com.
Q) What is the goal of LoRa Alliance? What value does it bring to its members?
The LoRa Alliance is working around the globe to help people improve lives and safety. It is also involved in helping businesses improve their profit. It is incredible what the Alliance is doing to support the global world on such an important scale.
The goal of the Alliance is to promote the LoRaWAN standard. We are an open alliance and we accept all members. The goal is really 3-fold. First, it is to develop the specification and continue developing it as the market changes and needs evolve. Second, is about marketing. We promote the LoRaWAN specifications and its members, through social media, events and whitepapers. So, especially for smaller companies who don’t have the funds to market, we have a very big voice in the market and we use that voice to raise all companies in terms of LoRaWAN specification.
Third, is around certification. Certification is very critical. When you have millions and billions of devices that are in the marketplace, then you need to know that aren’t going to operate as anticipated. For this, LoRaWAN has a very strong and robust certification programme. It is vital that the devices that get implemented are LoRaWAN certified. That would encourage government agencies to include bids for LoRaWAN certified devices.
Q) Can you tell more about the TÜV providing the certification services in India?
We have currently two test houses in India: TÜV, which is ready to start certification and DEKRA, which will be coming along at the end of the year. The need of certification is so critical that we have spent a lot of time and energy over the last period of time researching and evaluating the test houses. We have signed on TÜV and DEKRA to test in India. This makes it easier for Indian companies to not ship their devices out of India for certification.
Another important thing for the LoRa Alliance is that we have a certification test tool that is free to all our members. This is a huge membership value benefit. So, members and device manufacturers can this test tool at their location by downloading it and test the device to make sure that it is working as needed, matches the specification and there is no issue. Once, they do that, they can then go to the test houses and apply for certification. This saves time and money and companies can get their devices into the market. This is a huge member benefit that we have launched in the last few months.
Q) This is one interesting benefit for the members. What are the others that you would pitch to them? Why should device makers become a member of the LoRa Alliance?
Device makers really look at what the value is. We have the largest ecosystems of any LPWAN market and developer ecosystems. The developers are always looking at new and unlimited use cases. LoRaWAN talks about our six verticals and what we focus upon. But anything out there can be connected. If your device maker wants you to have an anchor use case or anchor application such as metering, then once the networks engage, then you can add on more and more use cases. So, device makers have unlimited potential in the market. By being members in the LoRa Alliance, device makers get the test tool for pre-certification. We have local test houses for certification, beneficial especially for smaller companies. We market the actual use cases of the developer companies and how they can be implemented, through social media, events, whitepapers and press releases. So, we do a lot to support our members individually and globally.
Q) What is in it for the telecom or the network operators to be your member?
It is very exciting for the network operators. We have mobile network operators, multi-user service operators, private operators. The split between public and private operators is about 50 per cent. We have seen a big growth in private implementations over the last few years. For operators, one of the biggest value is that it gives them another opportunity to capture the market that they were not able to do so before. Because of the flexibility of LoRaWAN and because of the ability to add gateways to their towers, it is an opportunity to have both cellular and non-licensed opportunities for their networks.
Through membership, you get the opportunity to meet and collaborate with the entire ecosystem. So, you really need to be a member and understand and drive new needs required for network operators. Example, many of our network operators in Europe used to do all their own testing for each device taken on to their network. It used to cost them a lot of money and time. Now, LoRa Alliance is in the process of working with all the network operators in Europe and we are bringing that testing over to the Alliance. So, part of our certification testing is testing for the different needs for specific operators in Europe. And each network has different needs. So, we are doing that testing for them and then putting the devices in our LoRaWAN showcase, which is another huge opportunity for all members to market their services via LoRa Alliance. So, the network operators in Europe won’t be doing all this extra work to see whether or not these devices will work on their network as the LoRa Alliance is doing for them. All they need to do is go to our showcase and see which specific devices can do what in each region. It has dramatically reduced the confusion for device makers and network operators by LoRa Alliance taking on that very important step and having it readily available for everyone to see on the LoRaWAN showcase.
Q) Does that mean the showcase will only be accessible to members and not to non-members?
The LoRa Alliance will showcase the operators and where you can get networks and connect in. We will showcase certified devices only as certification is very important for the success of any standard. If you are a LoRa Alliance member, then you will be able to show what you can do on the LoRaWAN showcase. The LoRaWAN Showcase itself is on the LoRa Alliance website and publicly available for anyone to search for products and solutions.
Q) So I can display information on the showcase only if I am a member. But can I access that information only as a member and not as a non-member?
The access is for the global market. If you are a company and are looking to implement a LoRaWAN solution, then you can go to our LoRaWAN showcase and you can find the operators, the networks and the specific devices that you need. The whole point of LoRaWAN is to consolidate and support complicated LoRaWAN implementations in the IoT world and make it simpler. We have made it easy for customers to access and buy the devices that meet their needs.
The benefit of being a LoRa Alliance member is being in the showcase. And the benefit for any end-customer using LoRaWAN is to be able to access LoRaWAN showcase.
Q) Is there also a membership or value for system integrators who are deploying the complete solution and are neither the device maker nor the network operator, but are implementing it?
Yes. At the end of the day for the system integrators, it is about coming to our meetings and being a part of the LoRa Alliance membership, so that they can collaborate and meet different players and understand who they are, the quality of services and how they can work with them. So, if you are a system integrator and not a part of the Alliance, then it’s difficult to gather all the players separately and understand who they are, who you are going to recommend and who you are going to work with. The LoRa Alliance collaboration and partnership are the key benefits.
Q) Is there a separate registration fee depending on the kind of organisation or it’s standard for everyone?
For the Alliance fee, we have 3 levels which have different benefits. So, the 1st level is for people who do not attend member meetings but get information about marketing and social media and can demo at our trade shows. The 2nd level includes everything mentioned in the 1st level plus can vote when at committee meetings, which is critical because that is the leadership of the organisation and driving where we are going to go next, both in terms of certification and specification in marketing and thus make decisions for the alliance. And finally, the 3rd level is at the board level and having the opportunity to be a member of the board.
We also have a level for free membership for institutions and non-profit organisations, which is also available in India. They can come to member meetings but do not have voting rights, we really want the support from institutional members to provide research and promotion of the LoRaWAN specification.
Q) Is the fee to become a member flat across the globe or countries like India have some concession?
It’s flat across the globe. And it’s really based on benefits. As an alliance, in my role, one of the main things is to make sure that we’re consistent for all members regardless of location or type. Everything we do has to be consistent and even across the globe.
Q) Is there a need or value for being a member for enterprise customers also or the government bodies who are actually adopting and not supplying the solutions but rather the uses of it?
Yes. We have many end-customers and big companies like Target in the US. We have many industrial customers that are members and their benefit is to understand and get to know our very large ecosystem, so that they can know what is the latest specification before it is publicly announced. It is about the collaboration with other members, which is very important to many end-users who are also a part of the alliance.
Q) How many members do you already have from India and what would the ideal number be after 1 year?
We have many members from India and growing. The growth and the need here for LoRaWAN is so strong. The impact that LoRaWAN can achieve for India is significant, especially for the lives and health and welfare of Indian citizens.
Usually when we have a LoRaWAN Live event in any area, the membership increases. It’s also about the make-up of the members. We want the entire ecosystem to grow so that all members across the value chain grow. I do anticipate that India will be one of our biggest growth in terms of membership within the alliance.
Q) Coming back to the showcase, am I correct to assume that it’s more like a web-based interface through which your members can update the information or is there a role that your team also plays in making sure that the right information is going in there?
Both. So, our members do upload the services and products they have to provide. And then we have support teams assisting in the management of the showcase.
The showcase is unlike anything available in the market, in that it is a one-stop shop for finding all of those ecosystem partners to implement it and make it easy and effective for the needs of the end-customer. As we are an open alliance, we have hundreds of members that have all these services to offer. And so, LoRaWAN showcases where to go to get the information and make it simple and certify devices, networks, application servers.
Q) To technologists who are trying to compare LoRaWAN with other competing technologies like NB-IoT and others, what would your message be?
LoRaWAN has been named the de-facto standard for LPWAN in the unlicensed spectrum by multiple sources. And it’s really because of the global massive scale deployments that we have implemented as of now as well as the number of members that we have that are implementing it. So, it’s not a single company-based type of implementation. We have multiple companies that give customers multiple choices of they select in terms of the implementation.
In terms of LoRaWAN vs NB-IoT, we see a very clear play in working with 5G because our use cases are very different. The difference for us in terms of NB-IoT in particular is around the battery life which is tested to be significantly longer. In terms of rural areas, the deep penetration between concrete and underground particularly in areas that cellular cannot reach are just a few of the key areas for LoRaWAN that is not a strength of NB-IoT.
Q) So you mean that NB-IoT would consume much more power compared to LoRaWAN?
Yes. Within addition, LoRaWAN is that we can have private implementations and we can have public implementations. LoRaWAN can be an operation-expense or service-expense. Whereas, NB-IoT does not have that flexibility.
Q) There are some people who say that LoRa is a proprietary technology because of the Semtech aspect. So, what would be your message to them?
LoRaWAN is an open ecosystem and is a global standard. So, the LoRa IP is Semtech’s best of breed technology which is why LoRaWAN is so successful. It can come from a company and not watered-down by a standard type of group.
Having said that, there are several companies that sell the radio chip and not just Semtech. With standards organisations, you can either have the chip in the standard and it would be under RAND licensing, so they would charge every time there is an implementation, or it can be outside the standard as licensed to other companies and you buy the chip and then implement the standard. So, it’s really the same either way. LoRaWAN is an open protocol standard and is the best.