Top 5 things you need to know about NB-IoT v. LoRaWAN applied to Smart Parking

IoT detection systems that allow parking space management using wireless communication systems have specific properties and functions; these mean that they are more or less recommendable depending on the intended use or requirements of each project. Therefore, in this article we will discuss NB-IoT and LoRaWAN communication systems, what they are like and when to use one or the other.

In both cases we are talking about wireless communications in the LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area network) category for IoT device connectivity. When talking about the specific applications, there are several types of detection sensors for smart parking, depending on the project’s communication needs. At Urbiotica for example, U-Spot sensors are divided into two types:

  • U-Spot M2M sensors, which use 4G/5G mobile communication networks via the NB-IoT protocol.
  • U-Spot 3.0 sensors, which use the LoRaWAN protocol.

When is it better to use one communication protocol or the other? Does the choice depend on the amount of data analysed, the number of parking spaces or their distribution? We will clarify these questions to help parking managers make smart decisions as part of their plan to achieve sustainable and smart urban mobility.

In which projects is it best to use NB-IoT and where is LoRaWAN recommended? Let us clear up the doubts.

What is the NB-IoT system?

NB-IoT is short for Narrow Band-Internet of Things, a wireless communication technology designed to transmit small amounts of data between devices and the cloud in the Internet of Things (IoT). This technology has long been used thanks to the mobile networks, which have served as the basis for the implementation of NB-IoT. It operates in a licensed band reserved for telecom operators, which allows for minimised interference and higher power emission.

Key features of NB-IoT

One outstanding feature of NB-IoT is its low power consumption, designed to optimise device lifetime. This enables direct communication between IoT devices, bypassing intermediary gateways, and using the mobile network for operation. Urbiotica’s U-Spot M2M sensor is an example of a device that draws on the benefits of the NB-IoT communication network.

Developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) since 2016, NB-IoT not only minimises power consumption, but also works in wider coverage ranges than traditional mobile technologies such as 3G and 4G. It also offers stable network coverage with high connection density and is deployed on existing 4G mobile network infrastructure, making it easy for mobile operators to implement.

Operation of NB-IoT

In terms of its operation, NB-IoT allows information to be transmitted with low interference and optimal coverage levels by using licensed bands exclusive to each operator. Device installation is also simple, taking less than 10 minutes per sensor.

Regarding connectivity, it eliminates the need for a gateway by using the mobile network, and communicates directly with the platform.

Associated costs and security of NB-IoT

NB-IoT requires a SIM card for each device, which implies paying for traffic, although the associated costs are low.

NB-IoT is also highly secure, as the SIM encrypts the data, ensuring that only authorised devices can access the telephone network.

What is LoRaWAN?

LoRaWAN is a two-way wireless communications technology developed more than 10 years ago, designed primarily for establishing private networks in enterprise or urban environments. It operates in a band that is unlicensed, allowing data transmission in the same band as other devices.

Key features of LoRaWAN

Under ideal conditions, this technology can reach considerable distances. However, for the Smart Parking application, if the sensor is on the ground, has a car on top of it and the Gateway is installed at a height of 10 metres, its range may be limited to about 500 metres.

LoRaWAN needs a Gateway, either dedicated for Smart Parking or shared with other applications. Although the sensors can be installed in under 10 minutes as in the previous case and the Gateway is simple to install, it is true that it requires a certain height, power supply and sometimes authorisation from neighbours.

Operation of LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN uses a protocol that operates in an unlicensed radio frequency spectrum and is therefore subject to regulations that limit its use and may be affected by massive spectrum usage. LoRaWAN enables two-way communication between sensors and concentrators to form a network.

The LoRaWAN protocol uses uses a special modulation for data transmission, resisting interferences, and having a low power consumption and connecting efficiently to devices of the Internet of Things.

Associated costs and security of LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN does not require individual SIM cards for its sensors; instead, you pay for the Gateway SIM. However, there is an additional outlay associated with the installation and maintenance of the gateway itself, and its location and height may cause the need for multiple devices.

Security in LoRaWAN is based on the use of random keys, Urbiotica being an example of a successful implementation of this approach.

Top 5 things you need to know about NB-IoT v. LoRaWAN applied to Smart Parking

Frequency bandLicensed bands, operated by mobile operators.Unlicensed bands, shared with other devices.
GatewayNo gateway required, uses mobile network infrastructure.Requires the installation of Gateways for operation.
InstallationLess than 10 minutes per sensor.Sensors require less than 10 minutes each. The Gateway will depend on the specific requirements of the site where it is installed.
CostLow costs. It involves purchasing SIM cards for each device.Low costs. It involves purchasing, installing and maintaining a Gateway with SIM. No SIM card is required for sensors.   In the case of public LoRaWAN networks, the costs are similar to those of NB-IoT although their conditions and service are often limited by the use of free bands.
SecurityHigh security with SIM card encryption.Security based on random keys.

NB-IoT v. LoRaWAN: when to use them?

In conclusion, when to choose one or the other? The answer is: IT DEPENDS. Both protocols operate with high reliability and offer a lifetime of up to 10 years, without affecting maintenance. The choice will depend mainly on the characteristics of the project and the type of installation possible, rather than on the characteristics of the devices themselves or their communication network.

When many parking spaces are in close proximity, the Lora 3.0 sensor is recommended, because if the height allows, only one U-Box may be needed (although it will need a power supply). Compared with paying for a SIM for each device, this is likely to limit the price more. As an example we can imagine an outdoor car park in a shopping centre or a Park&Ride where it is usually easier to install the Gateway.

In projects for parking spaces distributed far and wide, such as loading and unloading areas in a city, where a single Gateway is not sufficient, NB-IoT with U-Spot M2M could be preferred. It facilitates and reduces the costs of installation by eliminating the need to install gateways with their electrical connections.

Projects can be combined with AI detection using cameras in suitable areas, further improving the efficiency of the overall solution.

In short, these two cases are at either end of a wide range of possibilities where the optimal technological solution in each case will depend on the context and requirements of the project.

With more than 15 years of experience implementing projects worldwide, Urbiotica provides personalised advice and support through our network of certified partners, adapting to the specific needs of each project. Not only do we offer advanced technological solutions, but we also ensure that your experience is satisfactory.

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