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KotahiNet plans a New Zealand-wide network using LoRaWAN; a new wireless technology designed for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Earlier this month the first part of the network launched in Wellington.

LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) is one of a range of promising wireless technologies competing for IoT business. Another is Sigfox. They all aim to work around the limitations of cellular networks which are expensive and need devices that chew through batteries too fast.

Some critics argue LoRaWAN is the new WiMAX. Maybe. The IoT means different things to different people. There may be applications that need faster speeds and greater data throughput that would suit, say, a low-power version of LTE. Huawei appears to be heading in this direction.

Although LoRaWAN data speeds are low compared to LTE and other wireless technologies, that’s not an issue for most IoT applications. They tend to send small, frequent data packages. Devices use far less power and, as the name suggests, can transmit over long distances.

LoRaWAN uses unlicensed spectrum

Another advantage of LoRaWAN is that it uses unlicensed spectrum. The international LoRa Alliance promotes the technology. It has powerful backers including IBM and Cisco. In some countries mobile carriers are building their own networks.

New Zealand’s KotahiNet is the brainchild of Vikram Kumar, who was formerly CEO of both InternetNZ and Mega. He says the network provides carrier-grade reliability and service level agreements.

Kumar also says LoRaWAN complements existing wireless data networks.

No spectrum licence fees and low-power requirements mean customers can cheaply roll-out hundreds of sensors. Devices can have five to 10 years battery life and a long range — up to 20 km away from urban areas.

It sounds like a technology designed for New Zealand’s rural economy.

It’s some years since we first heard of the internet of things. The subject is a regular feature of industry conferences and seminars.

Now things are coming to a head. Frost & Sullivan vice-president Andrew Milroy says thanks to low-cost sensors, cloud computing, advanced data analytics and mobility, the IoT is about to move centre stage.

And, he says, next year will see the rise of a professional services market centred on the Internet of things.

Transport, logistics first

Milroy says the big opportunities – at first – will be in the transport and logistics sectors.

He says it’s now relatively easy to put connected sensors in things that move as well as in things that are being moved. The Airbus A380 has sensors monitoring wear and tear on key components in real-time which means dynamic maintenance and make it easier to optimise performance.

Smart cities, connected cars, connected health and manufacturing are also at the front of the IoT queue.

Milroy names Salesforce, Microsoft, VMWare, Amazon and Google as the companies who will battle for IoT dominance. In particular, there will be opportunities for those who offer analytical tools capable of dealing with large volumes of real-time data. He also says there will be new cloud computing opportunities.

A report in CommsDay says New Zealand and Australia have higher than average use of smartphones compared to non-smart phones. The numbers come from the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne.

Globally Cisco expects non-smartphones to be 50 percent of devices by 2017.  In Australia they will be just 2.4 percent of the total and in New Zealand 7.4 percent.

New Zealand is ahead machine-to-machine connections which will hit 29 percent of all connections in 2017 while in Australia they will account for 28 percent of the total.

Cisco also said by 2017 mobile devices will consume over 5GB of data each month. That’s up from today where the average smartphone uses 342GB or 1.3GB if on an 4G or LTE network.