Semtech Unveils Next-Gen Chipsets for LPWANs


By: Michael Vizard

The range of low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) might be extended by as much as 20 percent later this year following the delivery of next-generation LoRa chipsets introduced today by Semtech Corp. (SMTC). Semtech also says these chips could reduce the amount of power consumed by as much as 50 percent.

Announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the latest generation of LoRA chipsets are 45 percent smaller than the previous generation and could extend the life of batteries employed in sensors and smart meters incorporating the chipset by as much as 30 percent.

Focus on IoT Battery Cost

That capability is critical because it provides organizations implementing LPWANs the ability to reduce the battery costs associated with smart meters and sensors, which has proven to be the most expensive hardware component associated with Internet of Things (IoT) projects, says Vivek Mohan, director of wireless IoT products at Semtech. In addition, Mohan says in some cases a more efficient chipset also gives organizations implanting an LPWAN the option to use smaller batteries if they so choose.

“Sensor hardware costs today are still pretty high because of the batteries required,” says Mohan.

The extended range enabled by this latest generation of LoRa chipsets will also make it possible for LPWANs to provide connectivity deeper indoors in addition to covering a broader area outside. That should result in the expansion of LoRa chipsets being employed in smart sensors and meters in areas such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, media and advertising, logistics/shipping, and asset tracking, says Mohan.

New Command Interface

Semtech also revealed today that it has also added a command interface that simplifies radio configuration and shortens the development cycle. Only ten lines of code are now required to transmit or receive a packet.

Mohan says this latest generation of chipsets is the result of 10 years of continuous research and development effort that is now starting to pay off for Semtech. The semiconductor manufacturer has emerged as the dominant provider of wireless chipsets for smart sensors and meters at a time when demand for those capabilities is starting to accelerate. It’s not clear to what degree concerns over being locked into chipset architecture might have on the rate at which organizations will embrace Semtech chipset. But interest in LPWANs enabled by LoRa chipsets is expected to continue to rise as an alternative to more expensive LTE wireless networking services provided by telecommunications carriers. To mitigate those concerns Semtech has been promoting a global LoRaWAN open standard. The latest Semtech chipsets also support FSK modulation to allow compatibility with legacy protocols.

Cloud service providers such as Alibaba, says Mohan, are making extensive investments in LPWANs to reduce dependencies on cellular networking technologies. Those use cases include implementation of LoRa tags on paper substrates that are then physically attached to parcels, notes Mohan.

Semtech expects to be in full production of its latest generation of chipset by the end of this quarter, which Mohan says should result in a new generation of smart sensors and meters based on those chipsets coming to market by the end of the year.