Not another post about the opportunities of new technologies!
I can promise you: This one is a refreshlingy new idea. Although, “new” is a relative concept since, admittedly, the technology and its application is almost old news now.
I still believe that LoRaWAN is still uncharted territory for most people out there, even though it has huge potential. I’m going to give a short overview. The idea was born during the LoRaWAN Round Table that met in September 2019 in the Founders Foundation Event Space. The event was initiated by Open Innovation City a federally funded (by the state of Northrhine-Westfalia) project we helped initiate. If you are interested in the whole talk, you can watch the Round Table on OIC’s YouTube channel.
Let us start with an axiom: technology has become a fundamental part of our daily lives. Check. In the morning, technology provides us with the perfect waking-up procedure with our own choice of music and automated light settings. During the day, it is our constant companion, our way of communication, and a font of knowledge; both a source of inspiration and of trivial distraction that helps use to take our minds off things. The last one warrants some skepticism but we surely can all agree that technology has the potential to improve vast swathes of our life.
Thinking of public life, such potential lies in connecting objects and devices, specifically in the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT connects virtual and physical worlds which results in an interconnected infrastructure that can be made use of. Data is what drives this connection. Now, there are many ways to transmit data. If we look at large and complex data packets, we find ourselves immediately in 5G territory. But I want to look at a much more interesting aspect of connecting many objects over large distances: Long Range Wide Area Network, LoRaWan in short.
This kind of communications technology has several charming advantages: The necessary hardware is comparably affordable, has been designed for the requirements of many sensors, and uses a license-free frequency which doesn’t generate transmission costs. Also, a LoRa module has very low energy requirements and can sustain itself with a simple battery for a long time.
Aren’t we in dry tech talk territory again? No, we aren’t!
Let me give you a small use-case for illustration. Let’s imagine some random street in your neighborhood. Imagine that the street lights are regulated according to the neighborhood’s needs, that the trash bins automatedly send reports about their fill level, and that the sewers systems sends early warning reports about possible leakages. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Data Protection as an Asset
Another advantage of LoRaWan that’s especially relevant for the general data protection debate: the network is completely disconnected from the Internet and consequently, the world wide web. This makes unwarranted external third-party access much harder and can, combined with cutting-edge encryption and anonymization, protect the data from unauthorized readout.
Isn’t that exactly the kind of asset which we should want to acquire in otherwise technologically challenged Europe? Even well-known voices from Silicon Valley have started admitting that our view of data protection isn’t all that wrong. In January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) which is loosely based on the GDPR was passed – which makes it the first American act on data protection.
LoRaWan can be a vehicle to cultivate the European demand for data protection and data sovereignty in Europe’s own civic infrastructure. It can be a model for the successful digitization of smart cities that is a beacon for the whole world. Which surely is a great idea – an idea that makes you want to delve deeper into this topic.
Author: Sebastian Fischer
Sebastian has been representing the Founders Foundation in the project Open Innovation City since January 2020. He is fascinated by big visions and has a sixth sense for new trends; that’s how he helps push the topic #innovation forward. Thanks to his background in consulting, he has all the management and technical skills he needs.
Find out more about Open Innovation City, a project we helped initiate.