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December 2019
Interview

AutomatedBuildings.com

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Byron BeMiller and Ken Sinclair

Byron BeMiller, Vertical Lead, Smart Buildings, Semtech

Byron BeMiller is Vertical Marketing Director for Smart Buildings at Semtech and the head of the LoRa Alliance® Smart Building Working Group. He is the former VP of Sales at TrackNet, an IoT solutions provider that was acquired by Semtech. He holds a BSEE from the University of Illinois and an MS in Management from Georgia Tech.

Byron BeMiller

Byron BeMiller,
 Vertical Lead,
Smart Buildings
Semtech
LoRa and the Future of Connectivity

A snapshot of the IoT landscape in 2020

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Sinclair:  We’re seeing a lot of interest into 5G technology and how it will be the next wave in the era of connectivity. How will that affect LoRa and what sets LoRa apart from 5G connectivity?

BeMiller:  Next generation networks are going to reshape the way we think about connectivity but 5G isn’t the answer to everything. 5G is great for critical services but for many IoT solutions deployed in cities, homes and buildings, the power and bandwidth required to support 5G networks does not make it an ideal choice. LoRa devices and the LoRaWAN protocol provides a low power, long range alternative to 5G that is widely adopted by the IoT industry. Over 500,000 LoRa-based gateways are deployed in over 140 countries. We’re expecting over 130 million LoRa-based end nodes to be deployed by January 2020. LoRa isn’t just an alternative, it is the platform of choice for many IoT applications worldwide.

Sinclair:  What are your predictions for the smart building landscape? What services are receiving the most attention?

BeMiller:  We’re seeing a lot of interesting developments in the smart utility space, specifically around leak detection. Sensors are frequently being deployed in areas near pipes and areas prone to water leakage such as bathrooms and kitchens. These battery-powered sensors can last up to 20 years and are programmed to sense humidity and temperature fluctuations. At the onset of a leak, data is quickly routed to a LoRa-based gateway, where it is then sent to application servers or Cloud services to be processed and relayed to the end user, preventing costly water damage to buildings.

Another area we’re seeing a lot of movement in is smart offices. Our partners have been particularly interested in IoT solutions to address evolving trends in the workplace around topics such as intelligent offices, shared spaces and remote work agreements. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from customers who recently made the shift to smart office deployments. For example, after a brief trial period Capgemini was able to increase desk and room occupancy to more than 75% and are now on track to deploy over 85,000 smart office sensors across its 25 locations worldwide. This push comes at a time where the cost of office work spaces have grown significantly and we’re seeing a market demand for solutions to help cut costs. For instance, the average cost annually per a work station in Silicon Valley is a staggering $15,000 according to Cushman & Wakefield and to address this, office managers are moving toward shared spaces and using IoT solutions to improve desk and room occupancy rate.
         
Heading into 2020, we’re expecting significant growth in these two areas as IoT technology becomes more accessible. Office managers will be looking for new ways to manage their spaces and LoRa-based deployments are   well positioned to shake up the industry with intelligent solutions.

Sinclair:  You’ve shared a few articles with us before and a common theme seems to be the importance of connected solutions to help building managers make cost-saving decisions. What are your tips for a building manager looking to deploy their first smart-solution network? 

BeMiller:  Every space is different and needs can differ across companies. Identifying what solution is best starts with some very simple questions:

CatNet Systems Understanding where building managers can cut costs is essential to understanding what solutions will be the most effective. For example, if you require staff to be present daily, identify solutions to manage temperature and electricity. Room occupancy sensors can be used in conjunction with an automated system to turn off lights in unused spaces. 

Sinclair:  How important is an open networking protocol to an IoT ecosystem?

BeMiller:  An open networking protocol encourages solution interoperability and connection to regional, national or global networks. In our case, the LoRa Alliance, a global non-profit organization comprised of more than 500 members, was formed  to collaborate and share experiences to promote and drive the success of the LoRaWAN® protocol as the leading open global standard for secure, carrier-grade IoT LPWAN connectivity.

Sinclair:  Privacy is a priority for many building managers and employees. How do you approach the data collection needed for some IoT deployments? What are your thoughts on the security of IoT networks?

BeMiller:  We completely agree that privacy must be a top consideration for anyone adopting smart building technology. With the introduction of GDPR, IoT solutions must adhere to strict industry regulations. The sensors I’ve mentioned above do not track user specific data and cannot be traced to an individual. For example, a desk occupancy sensor can only relay information on whether or not a desk is being used and not who is using it. IoT security should be taken extremely seriously, especially with the growing number of devices being connected every day. Fortunately, LoRaWAN networks are very secure and its baseline authentication and security framework is based on the AES 128 encryption scheme as implemented by IEEE 802.15.4/2006 Annex B [IEEE802154]. By using separate keys for user data encryption and authentication/network integrity, LoRaWAN technology offers a higher level of security compared to single key implementations. Typically LoRaWAN networks use two methods for IoT device connectivity, Activation by Personalization (ABP) and Over the Air Activation (OOTA), both of which are difficult to hack.

 

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