What does LoRaWAN have to do with Helium?
LoRaWAN is an IoT radio protocol over which part of the data transfer is mapped on the Helium network. By forwarding LoRaWAN data, you can earn the Helium Coin or HNT.
We don't want to delve deeper into Helium here, but rather show you how LoRaWAN works and what the advantages of the IoT technology are. Because the big advantage of this network is the wide network coverage which is created by the individual motivation of the hotspot operation. Good network coverage is elementary for an IoT network and it is in the interest of the hotspot owner to cover areas that are not yet so well covered.
How does a LoRaWAN network work?
A LoRaWAN network consists of three different components
LoRaWAN nodes: These are sensors or actuators that record environmental data or switch relays in the real world, for example. They communicate with the LoRaWAN network server (LNS) via LoRaWAN protocol.
The LoRaWAN gateway is the protocol converter in the LoRaWAN network. It receives the signals from the sensors and then transmits them to the LoRaWAN network server. The LoRaWAN gateway is not a secret carrier. It cannot view the encrypted communication between the sensors and the server.
The LoRaWAN network server communicates with the deployed LoRaWAN nodes via the gateway. It receives the transmitted data and transfers application and control data to the devices. It then transfers the transmitted data to a dashboard for display or data storage.
The front end with dashboards displays the transmitted data. It is not a direct part of a LoRaWAN network, but it is recommended. Depending on the software selected and the configuration, alarm messages can be sent, the stored data can be used for analysis or actions (light on/light off) can be switched.
Sounds complicated? No. In fact, this principle is present in almost all IoT technologies
The typical smart home series that are already widely used have often simplified the process. For example, a gateway or hub already sends the data, through pre-configuration, to the associated platform and its server. The path remains the same:
Sensor → Gateway → Server/Database → IoT Platform
LoRaWAN, unlike these smart home series, has an open ecosystem. The IoT network operator (e.g. you) can intervene much more in the network and adapt the individual components individually to the needs. We recommend starting with simple sensors for which instructions are available and using user-friendly IoT platforms. On this basis, you can then gradually familiarize yourself with the topic and build your own LoRaWAN network.
And what does that have to do with helium now?
Helium hotspots are LoRaWAN gateways and forward the data to an LNS accordingly. An LNS that anyone can use is the Helium Console. All you need for an IoT network are LoRaWAN nodes. You can get them in our shop!
Why can't I use any LoRaWAN gateway for mining?
One of the most frequent questions we have been asked in recent months is whether a particular gateway is suitable for mining. Therefore, we will always clearly indicate in our product names whether it is a hotspot or a gateway. Hotspots, unlike the usual LoRaWAN gateways of the manufacturers, have a special software to manage the blockchain data, which is provided by Helium and installed by the manufacturer. The resulting additional costs of the hotspots are the fees for this software and the additional effort of the manufacturers to install the software. A normal LoRaWAN gateway cannot be used as a hotspot because this special software is missing.
What advantages does LoRaWAN have over other IoT technologies?
Like most LPWAN technologies, LoRaWAN has an enormous range that depends on the immediate environment. In densely populated cities, the range is shorter, while in rural areas with good positioning of the gateway/hotspot, distances of several kilometers can be reached.
Also typical of an LPWAN technology such as LoRaWAN is the low power consumption of the hardware. LoRaWAN technology uses a license-free frequency band and is already widely used in industry, by public utilities, energy providers and housing associations. In Europe, LoRaWAN transmits in the 863 to 870 MHz range, the 868 frequency band. LoRaWAN standards are defined by the LoRa Alliance, including, for example, the classification of devices. The differences lie in the data transmission, which is partly limited to save energy:
Class A works according to the ALOHA method, the sensor sends the data packets to the gateway, followed by two receive windows. During these receive windows, the sensor can receive data. Outside of these receive windows, the data goes into the void.
Class B opens receive windows at specified times, for this the sensor and the gateway must be synchronized in time.
Class C is permanently open and receives data. Class C sensors often require more energy than the devices of the other two classes.