In 2016 the Netherlands became the first country in the world to cover itself with the Internet for Things (IoT). The fact that we are on the threshold of the era of the Internet of things, did not sound unless lazy. Nevertheless, from the announcement of the operator KPN, who built the same network in the "country of tulips", it really is not clear what exactly happened. And most importantly, what is special about the Netherlands, which is not the case with the rest of the world's inhabitants (after a similar network was launched in Singapore, so there are at least two such countries), and why we are here in Ukraine – or not – this is to be desired.  On the technological level of the Netherlands in our information space is audible a little. Yes, the Internet of things, yes, the world's first unmanned bus, "smart" (though rather "green") tracks for cyclists and motorists. Yes, incubators for start-ups and trains, which completely switched to wind power. But these are only grains that can not be seen as the main thing – the Netherlands has become so technologically, comfortable and friendly to all citizens and guests for so long and densely, and not just politicians and oligarchs like us, that they do not even see the point of this boasting. Probably, therefore, it is almost impossible to find information on the Internet about how the channels, trains and luggage at the main airport of the country are now managed in an intelligent way. But this does not mean that this is an empty and uninteresting undertaking.
What is it
It is assumed that the Internet of things will seriously develop already in the era of 5G – the standard that is at the stage of development and testing (in which even Ukraine participates ). Networks of this generation will provide sufficient capacity and energy efficiency for the work of a heap of sensors, "smart" household and city devices, and other subjects of the Internet of things. But this does not mean that before 5G life in this segment will not. Already, many ATMs are connected to the Internet through operator networks, smart traffic lights, urban lighting, elevators, medical equipment. This is all enough 2G to transfer small data packets. But the second and third generation networks are not rubber and are designed for other tasks. They are made for people. Plus, they are not very energy efficient, which is critical for the Internet of things, because it's one thing to charge a smartphone every two days, another is to change the battery in sensors in the fields or in wagons, say, once a month or two.
Aware of all the shortcomings of existing networks , several companies from the IT industry have created LoRa Alliance (it includes vendors, operators, IT companies, a complete list). The Alliance is developing a standard that takes into account the needs of the Internet of things. Namely – the transfer of small amounts of data over long distances (the Internet of things is primarily a b2b-story, in "fields" it is important to cover fewer stations with longer distances) and economically the charge of the battery of the device. This standard was LoRa. It is also called LPWAN or LoRaWAN (the first term describes the radio layer, the second two refers to the communication protocol and the system architecture of the network). It was such a network that the KPN operator built in the Netherlands on the same cellular towers in addition to existing networks.
Wikipedia has an excellent scheme that explains the specifics of existing data transmission standards and shows the location of LoRa among them.
 How the LoRa network is constructed
LoRa stands for Low Range, that is, low range. Accordingly, the network operates in the lower frequency range, which provides a better coverage radius with a minimum number of base stations. The standard works exclusively in non-licensed ranges of the spectrum, the so-called ISM (industrial, scientific, medical). Such spectra can be used for LoRa in different countries around the world.
LoRa uses CSS-modulation (Chirp Spread Spectrum), which is also used in military and space industries. In fact, the national Internet of things in the Netherlands is the first example of its commercial use.
LoRa, though not a mobile connection in our usual sense (that is, you can not buy a SIM card and connect your smartphone to it), it works by that same principle. The data from the sensors in the network is encrypted with the AES-128 key. More details of the operation scheme and technical details are described on the website dedicated to this standard.
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The data transfer rate in the LoRa network ranges from 300 bps to 50 kbps, It falls off from the antenna, and can drop to 11 Kb / s, which, in fact, is still enough to transfer small amounts of data.
There are hundreds of antennas on the territory of the Netherlands, to which sensors that operate in the required standard can be connected. The range of the antenna is up to 15 kilometers. The sensors are connected to antennas according to the LoRa standard, but the antennas are farther to the network – through more familiar interfaces. This can be Ethernet or cellular communication over the TCP / IP protocol. Through the Internet, information from the sensors enters the "cloud", and from there – to the user's device. For example, in a mobile application, where information about the object is displayed. The one that the sensors collect. Here is the scheme of work (Actility is a company that provides a network connection service).
In fact, the only difference between this scheme and the previous one is that it shows that Actility is responsible for the server.
The power consumption of devices with LoRa support is minimal. Sensors working in this standard are able to last from one charge for 10 years. Just imagine, if in such sensors installed, for example, on ships or on lanterns, the battery required replacement once a month.
How the network for the Internet of things in the Netherlands is used
When announcing the launch of the network, the operator KPN added that demand in the pilot cities (The Hague and Rotterdam) was huge, it could connect to the network up to 1.5 million devices. The press release said, about new fantastic opportunities for automation of lawn watering, about wonderful anti-theft sensors on bicycles, which will easily protect the beloved Dutch property. Unfortunately, the company does not provide data on how many people used this network for such purposes. And it looks more like LoRa will "take off" in the b2b segment, because it is here that the era of the Internet of things has already come. We cite several successful case studies of the use of the LoRa network in the Netherlands.
"Smart" channel management
The Netherlands is a lowland country. And a large number of channels on its territory perform one function – they divert excess water from the precious territory. Shipping is an important part of life in the Netherlands. To the romantic flair of the Amsterdam channels did not kill unpleasant accidents on the water, shipping should be effectively managed. It's clear that even before the advent of the Internet things in the country somehow coped with ships on the water, but new technologies opened new prospects.
Smartlog, a company specializing in the Internet of things for business, creates a platform for automation and information gathering. In the Smartlog portfolio, the software collects data about the status of the channels in Amsterdam from sensors in the LoRa network. Earlier radio sensors were used for the same purposes. They record the information about the water level in the canals and transmit it to the state control bodies in real time. If the level rises above the norm, the sluice is opened to drain the water. So in Amsterdam, prevent flooding of homes and shops in the risk zone.
Intelligent baggage logistics management in Schiphol
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol started experimenting with LoRa in the spring of 2016, literally one of the first. First, in waste management, as will be discussed below. Secondly, in tracking luggage. Unfortunately, there is no more information on how the history of luggage works. But there is a video that demonstrates the "journey" of the suitcase from the check-in counter to the desired gate. Schiphol is a huge airport, and its baggage management system is considered very complex. Obviously, here without sensors that track suitcases along the way, they can then be searched for long if something goes wrong.
Monitoring of switch shifts at the railway station of Utrecht
LoRa sensors are used at the central station of the city of Utrecht for monitoring the switch arrows for trains. There is also no information on the procedure in open sources (in any case, in English), but we risk assuming that it is a matter of monitoring that switching takes place, collects statistics and understands the position of the arrows at any given moment.
Intelligent Mobilock bicycle lock and smart bicycle rental
Bicycles are the most popular personal transport in the Netherlands. And they steal them there with enviable regularity. The operator KPN presented an "anti-theft" bicycle lock with the support of the LoRa standard in March 2016. Shortly before the deployment of the Internet of things around the country.
Mobilock enables you to rent a bicycle in one click through the application. To do this, you need to create an account in the service. The mobile application shows authorized bicycle users nearby. They can be booked and taken away, paying rent through the application. Leaving a bicycle is also easy. It is enough to find a suitable parking in the city – and click the appropriate button in the application. This video demonstrates Mobilock in action.
According to the operator, the castle received a large number of applications from the bike rental services. Mobilock allows you to track the exact location of the vehicle and the name of the person who is currently using it. Separate GPS is not required, so the battery costs of the device are minimal.
Smart Waste Management
Suez, which is engaged in waste management in the Netherlands, also resorted to LoRa to monitor its processes. Suez has equipped sensors with containers with different types of waste – medical, confidential and harmful. Information on their movement from the facility that created the waste to the place of disposal is collected by Suez and provided to the company's customers. The control is important for a number of reasons: in order to ensure that the disposal procedure has been carried out and to be able to account for the result to the bodies that have the right to control the company's activities.
When it comes to conventional waste, the sensors on the tanks carry out and the most obvious function – signal that they are filled with the appropriate service. This makes it possible to monitor the cleanliness in the city more qualitatively, but at a lower cost.
The sensors also equip cars that collect waste containers. They transmit information about the fullness of the services that they manage. This makes it possible to better control the cleaning process, to forecast the workload of the services and to collect large data on the waste situation in the city or even the country. In the long term, on the basis of these data, it is up to you to decide how to improve the situation.
In the end,
The Internet of things in its current form is a useful tool for business that allows you to collect a huge amount of information without human participation, in a timely manner to respond to extraordinary situations. In such a large and agrarian country like Ukraine, such networks are useful in agriculture and logistics at least. It is difficult to imagine an average Ukrainian adjusting the automation of lawn irrigation or renting a bicycle protected by an intelligent lock. But this does not mean that in our country there is still no great need for technologies like LoRa. It remains to be hoped that in the implementation of 5G Ukraine will not differ in the same way as with 3G.