From its start on Kickstarter, The Things Network has grown into a global crowdsourced data network for the Internet of Things, and arguably has become one of the main driving forces in making LoRaWAN the leader in the war for low-powered, long-range, but low-bandwidth wireless connectivity.
However the Things Network has stumbled along the way, especially when it comes to the production of the the cheap gateways promised in the network’s original Kickstarter, which shipped a year and a half behind schedule.
Despite that, at €250, the promised gateways were only a fifth of the cost of the then cheapest available off-the-shelf models, and they drove the market. There are now a number of other LoRaWAN gateways, including the Arduino Pro Gateway which is shipping—at least in Europe—right now, and the PiSupply LoRa Gateway which is now in pre-order and should be generally available next month, all around the same price.
So it’s really rather intriguing to see The Things Network pushing things again, with the announcement of a LoRaWAN Gateway priced at just $69, and that price “includes shipping.”
Announced The Things Network Conference in Amsterdam at the beginning of the month, were two new gateways—a weather-proof Outdoor Gateway will costing $399, and an Indoor Gateway which will be available at just $69.
The Outdoor Gateway, also know as the “Industrial” Gateway, features a 3G/4G backhaul and has an onboard GPS radio. The gateway should work out-of-the-box, pre-configured to The Things Industries, with an already inserted SIM.
The new Outdoor Gateway is priced competitively with a lot of the lower-end LoRa gateways currently on the market. So depending what The Things Network mean by “outdoor” it could be very cost effective to the current crop of gateways. Yet there’s currently no details as to what rating we can expect from the enclosure, look out for a IP67 or IP68 ratings.
However, it really is the Indoor Gateway that is the market disruptor — priced at $69 the gateway is less than half the price of any we’ve seen on the market.
Unlike most of the existing gateways on the market, which tend to be built around the Semtech SX1301 chipset, the new Indoor Gateway will be built around the SX1308 a baseband chip designed for indoor LoRaWAN pico gateways. It will provide an 8-channel gateway and use Wi-Fi as the backhaul.
Measuring just 80 x 80 x 40mm and weighing 145g, the Indoor Gateway will initially ship as in EU (863–870MHz) and US (902–928MHz) models, with an AS model coming later in the year, it will come pre-configured to connect to The Things Network. Although it can be used on any LoRaWAN network.
While it was announced at the conference that the Things Indoor Gateway would be “available next Monday” that has now past with no confirmation on an updated release date. But I expect we’ll hear an update, either from The Things Network or RS Components, on that soon.
However the new gateways weren’t the only announcements at The Things Network Conference, because there was also the Generic Node.
The Generic Node is built around a Microchip SAM R34, a 32-bit Arm microcontroller and LoRa radio integrated system-in-package. The node is intended to be an off the shelf LoRaWAN sensor node capable of sensing orientation, motion, proximity, light, touch, temperature, and moisture.
It offers end-to-end encryption, firmware updates over-the-air, and should be ultra-low power and running of a standard AA battery. Something that makes it very attractive to deploy into the wild, especially in those parts of the world where supply chain can be problematic.
While it comes with firmware pre-installed with some generic applications on board, you can also build your own firmware for the Generic Node using Arm’s Mbed OS and provision through LoRaWAN over-the-air throughout the lifetime of the node.
The Generic Node will be available via RS Components later in the year, and you can sign up for the early access program on the Generic Node site. The node will cost $25 in what is being referred to as “medium” volume.