Internet of Things

The importance of geolocation in IoT devices

By Marc Pégulu, vice president, wireless and sensing product group, Semtech


eolocation is one of the most compelling and fast-growing Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The anticipated market size for “Geo IoT” is

expected to reach $74 billion by the end of 2025 from its current value of $40 billion, according to Market Insight Reports. This article will explore the clear benefits in knowing the location of any moving or static high value asset.

The National Cargo Security Council estimates that the global financial impact of cargo loss exceeds $50 billion annually. A promising solution to fraudulent theft and loss of valuable goods comes in the form of geolocation technology, which has gained worldwide popularity for its ability to record and keep track of assets.

IoT-enabled asset tracking A variety of industries such as transportation and logistics, healthcare and food services are replacing proprietary legacy systems with geolocation asset management solutions to locate, track and monitor physical assets such as equipment, product, vehicles, and people. By implementing connected solutions, businesses can replace inefficient and burdensome manual processes with IoT-

enabled asset management solutions. Geolocation-equipped devices bring asset management, whether the asset is fixed or mobile, to further optimize operational processes and enable new features such as loss and goods damage prevention. Geolocation in every device can significantly lower the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for any enterprise, smart building, campus or smart city looking at deploying sensors and trackers.

Geolocation barriers

Since it makes perfect sense to be able to track any IoT device, why doesn’t every connected device include and utilize geolocation functionality?

It’s because traditional GPS technologies enabling geolocation are expensive, have technical boundaries that prevent successful deployment and require extensive power to operate. The following factors have prevented the wide adoption of geolocation asset tracking across a number of IoT industries: Battery life - High power consumption from conventional GPS trackers require batteries to be replaced several times per year. In some cases, asset trackers are located in hard-to-reach areas, such as oil and gas rigs or mounted on fleets of vehicles. These deployments make it very costly to change batteries, especially if there are thousands deployed in the field. Installation - When deploying IoT, it is easy to make mistakes. The manual registration process when installing sensors

in a building, for example, is subject to human error. Additionally, trackers may be moved from one location to the next without logs being manually updated. Maintenance - As with any piece of equipment, in five, 10 or even 20 years, a technician will be sent to service the device. Asset trackers are often lost due to batteries dying without notification or changes in business ownership. Cost - How frequently does a solution actually need to check a device’s location? Minute by minute? Once per day? In many cases, traditional GPS technology is overkill as the frequency of check-in relates directly to expense and battery usage. Semtech has been working to remove these roadblocks with LoRa-based solutions for the IoT market. The new low-power LoRa Edge platform is a geolocation solution designed to offer a versatile way of delivering a range of applications for indoor and outdoor asset management. It does this by combining a multi-constellation GNSS scanner, a Wi-Fi passive scanner and a low power LoRa transceiver. Power consumption is significantly reduced to around 10 per cent of that required by existing solutions, as LoRa Edge uses LoRa Cloud geolocation and device management services so that power-intensive location computations are carried out in the cloud.

To guarantee security, the security keys for LoRa Edge use a highly secure hardware module, which means that logistics managers no longer need to carry out costly secure processes or buy in expensive security-based hardware. Also, since LoRa Edge is a cost- effective solution it enables rapid expansion of asset tracking and location services that take maximum advantage of IoT systems. Costs and inconvenience associated with locating and monitoring assets are minimised by the ability of LoRa Edge’s devices to operate for up to three years on a single battery or charge. The advanced design of LoRa Edge chipsets means that batteries on asset trackers no longer need to be changed every three to six months as is the case when using conventional Wi-Fi technology. LoRa Edge devices also offer such a high level of flexibility that it is straightforward to switch to GPS scanning should the asset leave a building or a geofenced zone. For example, a LoRa Edge transceiver makes use of GPS satellite tracking for outdoor applications and Wi-Fi passive scanning for tracking indoor assets. The design of LoRa Edge provides integrators with a low-energy, high- performance solution that works both indoors and outdoors so their customers can now add geolocation technology simply and cost effectively to their future IoT devices.

Components in Electronics October 2020 25

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