IoT decision-making tree: Comparing LORAWAN/SIGFOX/NBIOT

This article is part of a series called the IoT decision-making tree where we explain the various options and give some guidelines as to which options to consider when creating your own IOT product or solution. 


  • Article 1 introduced the IOT decision-making tree. how to choose the right IOT protocol, and how to determine the type of IOT connectivity to use as well as the advantages and disadvantages attached to this decision.

In this article we are focussing on the scenario where your device is not IP enabled (as indicated in branch two below) and you can pull data into your own data pipeline via a custom bridge between your back-end to a connectivity gateway, in which case your network technology options include LORA, Sigfox, and NBIOT. The main reasons for choosing this branch are energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness and long-range communication capability. 



Fig 1: The IOT decision-making tree: LORAWAN/SIGFOX/NBIOT branch highlighted


LORAWAN is an open protocol that follows a bottom-up approach and relays messages between end-devices and a central network server. LORAWAN is good for running an isolated or private network on a farm or in a city. It is ideal for sensors that only occasionally need to send a value, like a soil moisture sensor sending its measurements every 10 minutes, or a water trough sending a notification that it is empty. It is also a good system for the tracking and monitoring of wildlife in a predefined area. For example, LORAWAN is currently employed for real-time monitoring of rhinos by embedding sensors directly into the horns of the animals, which utilise LORAWAN tech to communicate with interconnected devices such as computers or the ranger station across long-range wireless networks.

NBIOT runs in the mobile telephone radio spectrum and piggybacks on old, unused GSM channels, or free space between LTE channels. It requires an expensive and dedicated regional frequency or channel. NBIOT is ideal for the upgrading of GSM-based systems and works effectively for sensor readings, tracking and fleet management. 

Sigfox is building out the infrastructure from the top down, and handing APIs to their customers. It is a proprietary network and protocol and is meant for remote meter reading but can be used for any remote data uplink. It is low speed and low power, but also long range. Sigfox is, therefore, more like connectivity as a service. It has been developed to supply wireless connectivity for devices such as remote sensors, actuators and other M2M and IOT devices. 

The IOT decision-making tree begins with the things that matter most to your business. It is about making your data come together in new ways. We ensure we are always expanding and learning about ways to keep clients connected. Contact us if you have any questions about what connectivity or product you should be using. 

About the Author

Richard Barry


Chief Innovation Officer at Polymorph

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