Connecting embedded sensors in the Internet-of-Things

Embedded sensors are enabling numerous smart services in domains ranging from healthcare to smart homes and cities. They are waiting to be connected to the internet and rapidly becoming crucial components of a valuable Internet of Things (IoT).

by KU Leuven (DRAMCO)

LoRa connects Ghent Technology Campus and international researchers

The variety of wireless sensor applications demands for appropriate wireless connectivity. Several new technologies and standards are popping up, fit for both short and long range, and various data rate requirements. Dedicated networks are being deployed for Machine Type Communication.

One of the emerging technologies to support a wide range of IoT applications is Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN). This type of wireless communication allows you to send small messages over a long distance with little energy. In this way IoT systems can be fed with small batteries or even through power harnessing techniques. Despite the widespread knowledge of the existence of these technologies, a necessary understanding of developing IoT nodes with low power wireless communication is generally absent. DRAMCO, a Ghent-based KU Leuven research group, tries to address this challenge by sharing knowledge and experience through tutorials and hands-on experience.

LoRa allows you to send sensor data and simultaneously monitor the power consumption in real-time

A sensor module featuring an LPWAN technology, called LoRa (Long Range), has been developed by DRAMCO. The module allows you to send sensor data, and simultaneously monitor the power consumption in real-time.

In addition, a gateway has been deployed on the Ghent Technology Campus. As a result, researchers can not only conduct experiments, but their LoRa ecosystem is also part of a larger crowd-sourced network. More specifically, everyone can contribute to expanding the infrastructure of the network. This can be done by adding devices and gateways.

Enabling Future Research

The DRAMCO LoRa module is the next step in the research into new wireless communication technologies for IoT. We take on the challenge of enabling wireless connections that at the same time consume very little power, and yet can bridge a long distance. We want to break this intrinsic contradiction, i.e. low transmit power over large distances, by using many antennas on the side of the base station. The basic module will also be extended to a multi-sensor and multi-mode platform that performs flexible experiments and make many applications possible.

With the LoRa module you gain hands-on experience in both low-power wireless sensor design and LPWAN technologies.

Extending Education

By using the DRAMCO LoRa module, students from the KU Leuven Faculty of Engineering Technology (Electronics and ICT) gain hands-on experience in both low-power wireless sensor design and LPWAN technologies. The module also serves as a valuable sensing platform in several master theses (not only in Electronics and ICT). Additionally, LPWAN technologies are being incorporated into the STEM workshops, showing secondary school students the power of the IoT.

Get hands-on with IoT!

In October last year, the researchers provided tutorials on wireless connectivity for IoT at the IEEE PIMRC conference in Montreal and on IEEE sensors in Glasgow. Researchers from all over the world went to work with the DRAMCO module in the hands-on session, with success! The tutorial made the participants familiar with state-of-the-art wireless communication systems to connect embedded sensors in the Internet of Things. The lectures first explained the challenges related to providing low power and reliable wireless connections, adapted to the typical needs of embedded sensors. Fundamentals of wireless communication were introduced to provide the basics for understanding the different technologies that are proposed for wireless IoT connections specifically. In the hands-on session the attendees experienced the development of a wireless sensor node. More specifically, how low-power operation can be achieved by clever utilization of the available resources.

Because of the success, on April 19, 2018, the researchers plan a similar workshop on the Technology Campus in Ghent. The workshop will have an emphasis on low power design and easy integration. You are also welcome to get hands-on with IoT! At the end of the workshop, you will be able to take your own connected IoT node with you! More information