Jan 30, 2019
| 5 min read

Podcast #44: LoRaWAN Powers the Next Wave of IoT - Donna Moore, LoRA Alliance

Donna Moore leads The LoRa Alliance™, a 500-strong consortium dedicated to advancing innovation, interoperability and adoption of the LoRaWANStandard. Our conversation explores the background of the Alliance, the key characteristics of LoRaWANchips and the open standard, and some of the work that the Alliance is facilitating across the ecosystem. LoRa benefits from being a second mover in the low-power wide area market, with much of the evangelizing benefiting awareness of the advantages and implications. Currently there are over 100 network carriers and presence in over 100 countries, so the standard is becoming truly global. With the rapid growth of the ecosystem, The LoRa Alliance™ is helping to accelerate adoption across use cases, industries and markets.   

Recommendation:

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick) by Seth Godin   

 

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Good day, and welcome everybody to another Momenta Edge Podcast. This is Ed Maguire Insights Partner at Momenta Partners, and today our guest is Donna Moore who is CEO and the chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance, which is a unique organization that’s focused on the emerging low power technology known as LoRa, and Donna, it’s a pleasure to have you today.

Thanks, I’m looking forward to speaking with you as well.

First, I’d love to get a bit of context around your experience, and really understand a bit of what has shaped your view of the technology that we’re focusing on, and ultimately what’s brought you to your current role?

Well first for me, start at the gates, the context is correct, so LoRa is the chip on the IP, the chip from Semtech, and LoRaWAN, a wide area network is the specification for the alliance, and we are The LoRa Alliance. So, just as I speak it’s really important that we understand the context of the open standard versus the IP of the chip. So, just to set the groundwork, so your question about my view on the technology, here’s what really excites me about this technology, and that is the ability for LoRaWAN to impact the world on so many levels, and I can give some specific examples; we’re transforming business models from product sales to service sales, we’re improving bottom lines with operations by turning small bits of data gathered over time for new insights that makes actionable data, and can really change how they run the business, how they view the business, and it’s almost like your business is speaking to you and telling you things you weren’t aware that was happening, and it really is impacting bottom lines for businesses.

But I think one of the best things for me is the human welfare part, particularly in emerging economies. So, LoRaWAN helps with food production, clean water supply, efficiency of energy and utilities. For me personally, where I sell it for really helping on a global scale, both financially and human welfare, just a couple of more examples; we help with workers safety, again both in clean air and hazard notifications, then all the rest; waste-management, precision farming, agriculture. It’s so vast and so wide that there isn’t a thing out there that we can’t get information from, learn from, and do better at what we’re doing in terms of our production globally.

Let’s drill in a little bit to the technology, what makes it different from existing technologies, or even cellular technologies?

There is a lot that makes LoRa Alliance, LoRaWAN different, first coming at the gate if you want to look from a very broad market perspective, it’s where we’re coming into the market and our timing, which is exact sweet-spot timing. I’ll give you some perspective, SigFox is another low para-wide area organization, they are a proprietary, not open standard, but they started a few years before LoRa Alliance came out, and I’ll tell you it’s difficult because they were the first player on the market, and so for those first three years you’re just educating in the market, assets draining your resources, and you’re educating the market about what LPWAN can do, and how it can impact businesses.

And so, after three years of a lot of education and draining the funds of trying to get the word out there, now comes in the LoRa Alliance, perfect timing; number two in the market, number one uses up their cash to explain to the market, number two comes in and really starts picking up the bigger deals, the market now – that education has begun and we’re just in a sweet-spot of launching.  Again, we’ve got millions of deployments in the market, andNBIOT which is pure cellular play, which there’s a place for NBIOT in the market, but they’re coming in a few years after LoRa Alliance, which is going to be a little bit late in the market because we’re already deploying. And again, these deployments, you’re looking at battery life that lasts 10+ years, so in terms of market position I couldn’t be any happier with the way the LoRa Alliance sits in terms of entering the market.

So, that’s the market. Let me just go a little bit further in terms of why LoRa Alliance, and LoRaWAN. So, as I mentioned, the chip itself, the low-power long-range is from Semtech and it is best of breed technology, there is no other technology out there that has the battery life and the distance, and the modulation, and the ease of set up like that IP. So, on top of that we have an open standard, an open standard invites member all over the globe, a gigantic ecosystem that we have, to build new applications for the technology.  We have over 500 companies, we are in over 100 countries, we have over 100 network operators deploying LoRaWAN use cases, and so the fact that we have a best of breed ship with an open standard is exactly why LoRaWAN has launched and done so well to date.

Now I can list a bunch of technical reasons why, but I’m not sure you want to hear that, but there are some specific reasons with LoRaWAN versus other technologies, so you let me know if you want to hear those or not.

Sure, I think what you hit on is this ability to provide connectivity for low power use cases where you have sensors that are going to be in the field for years. You brought up a really interesting point which I’d love to unpack a little bit, which is the role of an open standard, and then the role of an alliance in advancing that open standard. You mentioned SigFox which was proprietary and technology, there have always been the debates between going sort of proprietary and open, and at least as what you’ve described with LoRa is a bit of a combination of some propriety technology, but this open standard that’s now starting to be leveraged. Could you talk about the genesis of putting together the alliance, what the rationale was to build it, and then some of that dynamics that are involved with the participants, and the people that are getting engaged with the alliance?

I come from a very successful standards background on the first IoT of Alliance about 12-years ago, and I believe strongly that if you want to capture the global market, and become the global that’s up to standard, you haveto have, it is imperativeto be an open standard, because that is how you create your ecosystem, and that is how you drive again a global market is through an open ecosystem. LoRa was started with this great technology in the chip, and why I’m really proud of that is a lot of times when you have a standard trying to create the technology, because it’s done by votes and consensus many times the technology itself can be watered down to get consensus against all the other companies that are engaged. The technology is again best of breed and not watered-down technology, it is the best out there.

And then what they decided is, the ecosystem came together and said, ‘How do we take on this low power wide area network, we’ve got this great technology. And several of our founding companies created the LoRa Alliance, and again that was felt to create the LoRaWAN specification, so that again the ecosystem can be developed and grow this LPWAN technology. The reason why it’s important, IoT is very complex, and people have been talking about IoT for years, and part of the reason why it hasn’t really taken off is because it takes a village, it takes a full ecosystem to launch IoT, and its complicated. It required chip set vendors, module vendors, device vendors, gateways, servers, operators, cloud and data, solution management, system integrators, it creates all of those ecosystem players to put together a very complex and true Internet of Things, think of a smart city, it’s very complicated.

So what LoRa has done is, our partners have got together, and created a simple solution in all various flavors to implement this very complex LPWAN IoT connectivity, and if you think about it, it really requires expertise in each specific area. Not everyone is an expert in sensors, or in Big Data, and not every company we have is an expert in security, or privacy, or customer integrations, or business analytics, so that’s what it takes for true IoT. And so our alliance creates partnerships, its brought all these expertise together,andthey have pack-strapped IoT in a way that is very easy for the consumer to understand, very easy for the consumer or the business partner to implement because they’ve put all the pieces together, and didn’t have someone to run around and find the security guy, or what’s the best sensors, or how do I integrate this? So, the Alliance as a partnership has made the very high-hurdle of implementation, ease of use for the customers. That is one of the most critical pieces in IoT.

Could you talk about the role that the Alliance plays, that’s 500 different companies, there’s a lot of different types of expertise, and in the past  you could see it could be pretty challenging to organize the collective efforts across so many different potential points of views or areas of expertise, could you talk about some of the work that the Alliance does to facilitate that collaboration, and some of the resources that come out of the work that you do?

The Alliance particularly exists to develop the LoRaWAN specification, which is the application layer on top of the chip, that is the communication layer. So, that’s one of the main goals, is developing and continue to develop the specification.

The second is marketing, taking this whole umbrella and forwarding low-power wide-area networks in specifically LoRaWAN globally for our members.

The third is developing and implementing our certification program. We have a LoRaWAN certified mark, and in order to get the LoRaWAN certified mark you must go through our certification program of how the devices get certified, and then you get the mark. If you are a customer and you’re burying millions of devices in the ground again for 10-years, you want to know that device or that sensor has been developed to, and tested to, the LoRaWAN specifications, because the last thing you want to do is unbury millions of devices. So, the certification mark is your assurance that it’s been LoRaWAN certified, and that is together a leg that the Alliance provide, so, it’s really the technology, the marketing, the certification program, and the LoRaWAN certified assurance.

Are there some lessons that you’ve learnt from other alliances or consortiums? There certainly are a lot of them in IoT, but for one reason or another some have managed to be regarded as pretty successful and some have challenged. What are some of the potential obstacles, and on the flip-side some best practices that you’ve looked at, that they’re looking to drive the efforts at LoRa Alliance?

Yes, the philosophy is outside of the Alliance our members compete, inside of the Alliance a high-tide floats all boats, and they’re all working to develop the best LoRaWAN specification, they’re all working to educate the market, and again particularly in LoRaWAN, like I’ve discussed many-many of our members are working together as partners because it is so complex. So, it’s really about the philosophy of, you’re not going to tackle this gigantic market as a single proprietary, or a single company, you mustcome together and work for the common good, and then you can go outside and compete. But internally, again, it helps everybody to support LoRaWAN and the LoRaWAN Association.

And I’ll tell you this, for alliances its interesting, most alliances it takes about 8-years for most standards to be created, specification written, the certification program put together, your membership to grow enough to scale, and to maybe get the first products starting to deploy, average of about 8-years, if they even do. I know many IoT alliances that don’t have any product really out in the market, and they’ve been around longer than 8-years. So, 8-years is probably an average, here’s what’s interesting, and I find this phenomenal; LoRa Alliance has been around for just over 3-years, and in 3-years they’ve come together, they’ve created a spec, they have over 500 members in over 100 countries, they’ve got millions of devices deployed, they have a full-scale certification World Class programme in under three years. Part of the reason is, most technologies, standards are spinning those first 5-years educating the market about why this new thing is good, or why you should start adopting, but like I said, LoRa Alliance came in at a great time.

We’re hitting a crossroad of not just we’re ready and available, but the market is pulling at us. It’s at the very beginning of the pull, but that’s what we’re seeing. I’ve never seen an alliance do this much in three years, ever! I think it’s a testament to the market itself, and to LoRaWAN specifically.

Can you point to any industries or use cases that stand out to you, driving the market, or growing the type of awareness that’s really necessary as a catalyst for adoption?

Yes, we as LoRa Alliance have targeted six verticals specifically, and I would say the markets are the verticals that are really driving forward hard with low power wide area networks, and specifically LoRa Wan, is energies and utilities, smart cities, asset tracking, buildings – so smart buildings, and industrial IoT and agriculture. There are many-many other areas, but those are the vertical specifically as an alliance we’re helping to go deep in this next year. But here’s what’s interesting, so I rattle off these six verticals and it sounds like, ‘Oh, okay’, but if you just take one, even if we said smart building, within this smart building, abuilding, maybe a business office building, there’s thousands of LPWAN use cases within each of those verticals, maybe more than thousands. So, when you say it, it sounds like, ‘Oh, six verticals’, no-no-no, it’s billionsof types of use cases and those are just the key ones.

But every day if you get on Google Alerts for LoRaWAN or LoRa Alliance, you’ll see two to five press releases a day of new use cases, new deployments, new partnerships, new rollouts in these verticals and outside of these verticals. So, we’re at the tip of the iceberg barely of where we are, and what’s underneath the water is such a large iceberg or cap of ice that I can’t even see the bottom of the iceberg, we’re just beginning, it’s such a huge market and that’s why I find it very exciting. And for us as an alliance we’re trying to focus on a few verticals that are very deep over this next year, because we could go in any direction.

That brings up a little bit of the paradox of choice of course for people who are looking to get started. Could you talk a bit about some of the resources, say for companies that are looking to explore uses of the LoRa Alliance. What would you say would be a good way to start if you were a… let’s just take energy, and maybe if you’re a utility, or in the oil and gas industry and you haven’t used the technology before, where would you start to explore particular use cases?

Many of our members are deep in specific verticals that work with utilities or what-not, but what is coming out there just as an example, in water metering, water metering is a huge one and how LoRaWAN is used in water metering is both consumptions for water metering if there is a leak, a leak detection, and because LoRaWAN is bi-directional, if there is a leak detected they can remotely turn off that meter over that water source. And again, any kind of water management, which is critical, and it also helps with conservation of water, so that’s just one of millions of examples in terms of how LoRaWAN works.

Just to divert for a minute, we also have – and what’s making LoRaWAN very successful, is a very, very, very large developer ecosystem. So, in that developer ecosystem are listening to the market, and because we’re opensource they’re developing more and new use cases, again within even say water metering or agriculture, or whatever vertical, based on the needs of the market that they’re hearing; and again, if it’s based on the needs of the market, it’s the markets pulling it. So, that large ecosystem has made a big different for us in terms of growth, use cases, and even deeper used cases within verticals that our members are already in. And because we have over 500 members, if you’re in the utilities business we have many members that are in that sector, and they can work with, to understand the use cases, and the return on investment for their specific vertical. I don’t want to name any companies specifically.

Sure of course. However, there’s an enormous global footprint, and just recently you announced that there is coverage in over I would guess 100 network operators globally, at the end of December.

Right.

What is the significance of that, and to what extent is the alliance actively engaged with operators, and what are some of the advantages of having this type of coverage?

Well, you have to have network coverage in order for the devices to send a signal to, and, be able to go to the application and ultimately to the customer. So, the network is important so that we can deliver the messages and provide low-power wide-area networking, so the coverage is key. We also ran over 100 countries, and we have public operators and we have private operators, that’s part of the beauty about LoRaWAN, and unique as well, is that you can get on a public network, or if you just want to have your own private network, we’ve got members that set up private networks, and they can manage the networks and do it as a service model, this is flexibility for LoRaWAN as well. Or, the company can purchase and do it as a CAPEX model, which is not true with just cellular-type competitors to LoRaWAN.

So, there is a lot of other reasons. I just need to bring this up too, another big key difference is we have firmware update over the air which we just released, and no other LPWAN technology has that, and again when you’ve got millions of devices deployed, or sensors deployed, you can update the devices or communicate with the devices, using this firmware update over the air. That’s critical, critical, especially as mass deployments continue to incur.

That’s a huge difference. I think you also alluded to the fact that you could run either a public or a private network, and that’s quite different. What would be some of the advantages of using the technology in a private network versus a public network, or I should say what would be the considerations that are involved there?

The consideration is, if I maybe want to purchase my own gateways and put them up, and manage them myself, you still look to the LoRaWAN companies to get your technologies, and put it together and integrate, but you manage your own network, so you don’t have to pay an ongoing service fee. Or, if you don’t want to be in a public network, maybe the information you’re providing you just want to keep internally to your own organization, it’s really dependent on specific use cases, and a lot of it again is do you want a CAPEX model or a service model? How wide of an area do you want to go, is it just a building or a whole city?

So, that’s the thing about LoRaWAN, and I think people need to remember, it’s very-very use case dependent on what your needs are. But regardless, LoRaWAN, again I’m sure as most people have heard, it really has the lowest cost; throwing up a network is so cost-effective, the longest battery life. Here’s a key one too, longest range as well, but deep penetration in buildings; so, many of our competitors and particularly cellular, they can’t get in deep in buildings when you’ve got concrete walls, or where there’s no cellular coverage, or over the sea where again there’s no coverage, or areas where it’s really hard to get to, buried underground, LoRaWAN is phenomenal at this deep penetrating connecting, which is another key differentiator.

When you’re talking to your members, are there any challenges in terms of market confusion or misperception that they still face? You certainly alluded that there’s a lot of advantages to be in that second mover, because usually the first mover is the one that takes the arrows in the back I guess, that’s the old joke. But what are some of the potential market misperceptions, or challenges at least when your members are going to market and evangelizing the technology?

I don’t know that there are big misconceptions, and I’m not sure that there’s a big disconnect. I just feel it’s really about, again, we’re still early in the days of LPWAN, I’m not sure there’s a big disconnect. What I’m seeing is, and again in 2018 especially for smart cities and some other big deployments, we saw a lot of trials happening, so they deployed, and they were trialing, and what we’re seeing in 2019 is those trials and a lot of very large trials, are converting into actual signs we’re moving forward in a 10-year plan or whatever. So, that’s what we saw a lot of in 2018.

With 500 companies, being worldwide, and a larger developer ecosystem, I don’t know that there’s a big disconnect, it’s just a matter of time and continuing to drive the market and do deployment. So, I think it’s just a matter of time versus disconnect, and again because of our ecosystem the barrier of IoT which is so complex has really brought that down to a much lower barrier.

How do you see the LoRa technology co-existing say with 5G, how does it end up being complementary? I know there’s an enormous amount of hype and interest around 5G, but thinking about deploying different technologies together, has that become topical for you?

Oh yes, NB-IoT is a cellular version that’s more light on battery. If you compare it to 5G… well let me just say it this way, the IoT market is vast, I don’t think we can even begin to understand just how large it really is, no matter what number gets thrown out there, and I will say this; a low power wide area network which requires low-power, 5G is high-power, requires small signals throughout the day or the month, not a lot of bandwidth, where 5G is gigantic bandwidth, emergency services, immediate services and connection. So, they’re very different in the use cases that they serve, and what I’ll say is this, if you need emergency services, entertainment-type data, then it would be 5G, because its higher bandwidth and cellular right away and it will be more expensive, but that is not LoRa’s use case. So, LoRaWAN use case is again, the low powered 10-year battery life, small messages, in order to get the data to change or monitor whatever you’re monitoring.

Now here’s the interesting thing, of this gigantic market what we’ve been learning so far is, 75 percent of the market use cases will fall into the small data rate, small bits of data markets. 25 percent they predict will be the high band rate, emergency services, entertainment, video at the door, and that all sits in the 25 percent market, which is where the fuel will sit. So, I think we have a really good market and a big market at the 75 percent! And again, the use cases are very different, if you need low power, you’re not going to go with 5G, and another bunch of data points I could go on down that road as well.

Absolutely, I think that’s super helpful when you’re looking out at the opportunity, and this is really global technology, can you draw any distinctions between what you see happening in the different regions? Are there any regions that you see that are really leading in adoption?

Well, for sure Europe. Europe is very strong, China’s very strong, Japan is very strong, US is strong, I mean it’s hard, I would say right now primarily Europe and Asia, but it’s hard because we’ve got deployments everywhere, India is huge and we’ve got many deployments happening in US, so its global, that’s what I can say, many people say, ‘Well, where is it at?’ it’s all over, its global.

As you look forward, what do you see as key drivers going forward in the market and over the next say 5 to 10 years, how would you see the adoption and the market evolving?

I think in the next 5 to 10 years, again it will explode at a rate that I don’t think anyone’s even calculated yet, use cases will continue to evolve. But I think one of the biggest things that we’ll see is even with the bits of data that we get with the lowpower wide area networks, I think the thing we’re going to start seeing is predictive analytics will emerge, because over time it’s about data, or emergencies, water leaking or whatnot, or a refrigerator that the degrees are less than it needs to be, and you need to get it fixed right away, but there’s also data over time, so I think we will start leaning towards more predictive analytics and not just monitoring and responding.

That makes an enormous amount of sense. Just in terms of resources I always like to ask our guests, do you have a good book or resource that you would recommend for anyone that’s interested in diving a bit further?

Yes, I’ll recommend this one because I know you work with a lot of startup companies, one of my favorite books especially for startups is, ‘The Dip’ by Seth Godin. Have you heard of The Dip?

I’m familiar with Seth Godin, I don’t know that book of his.

I always give this book to all college grads too, but it’s great for entrepreneurs, it’s just a fun little book with a big reminder about when to quit, and when to stick, and what the dip is all about. Again, it’s just a fun, quick, fast read, but the gist of the book is that winners quit fast, they quit often, and they quit without guilt. When they commit to the dip, they commit, and they get through the dip. The bigger the dip, i.e. barrier, the bigger the reward on the other side, because so many people, companies, can’t get through the dip and they give up in the middle of the dip, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right dip.

It talks about becoming number one in you niche and you’ll get more shares of the profits and the glory, and the last thought of the book is, people who tend to not be successful fall into two types of traps, they either fail to stick through the dip, which is why the greater the dip, and you get through it, the greater the reward, but they fail to stick through the dip, or, they don’t even find the right dip to conquer. I love that book, I just think it’s a reminder, especially for entrepreneurials running their companies, and when they hit the dip, are they in the right business. It’s just a great philosophy little fun book.

That’s a great recommendation, and I hadn’t heard that before and I know a few teenagers and college students that could benefit from that as well!

That’s my annual ‘Here’s your graduation gift’!

Absolutely, and Seth Godin is just a terrific writer, but I hadn’t heard of that one so I’m excited about that.

I have many of his books, and I love the way he looks at the world.

Terrific. Donna, it’s been a terrific conversation with you, I think we’re very excited at Momenta about the work that you’re doing at the Alliance, or the work that all the partners are doing rather, and the potential for the technology. We’re certainly quite optimistic about the growth and innovation that’s being unleashed as this technology starts to propagate throughout the economy.

So, wrapping things up, this is Ed Maguire, Insights Partner at Momenta Partners, and we’ve just been speaking with Donna Moore who is CEO and Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance. Donna, thank you once again for taking the time to speak with us.

Great, thank you Ed, I’ve enjoyed it.

 

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