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Open standards for the long term

Open standards for the long term

In the low power, long range IoT segment, the two leaders are Sigfox and LoRaWAN with Ingenu following. One aspect that differentiates the two leaders is their proprietary (Sigfox) vs open (LoRaWAN) approach. Which is better?

“Better” is subjective and so the answer depends on the specific angle. What we do know from technology history is that proprietary and open can and do co-exist.

Broadly speaking, open standards enable networked growth and diversity. On the other hand, proprietary approaches often develop faster in emerging tech areas and tend to be better marketed.

Open standards take time to develop and can sometimes face governance issues if not carefully managed. Signs of maturity, such as now being seen in LoRaWAN, include certification programs and resolving friction issues like interoperability.

The graph shows the growth of Sigfox and LoRaWAN. It’s a classic example of the proprietary approach making early gains and growing steadily while the open one takes time to get going properly but then grows exponentially.

From a KotahiNet perspective, backing an open standard approach was both on rational and personal grounds. Rationally, open standards drove the massive growth of the Internet and is therefore likely to be critical in developing an IoT ecosystem. At a personal level, we favour openness in everything we do. Our choice of LoRaWAN was therefore a simple one.

No one really knows how technologies and markets will change in the next few years. At this early stage of IoT, the only given is change. Open standards provide a good, but not perfect, path to evolving with agility and a worldview in mind.

[Image source: Rethink Internet of Things]

2 Comments

  1. Stan. SWAN

    Well presented ! However you perhaps should mention that LoRa™ hardware is still unique to Semtech. HopeRF (at least) apparently are 2nd sourcing, but SX12xx supplies could be vulnerable if factory blunders or disaster occurs. I keenly recall assorted chip supply & QC issues over the decades – quality woes with Texas Instrument’s esteemed DS18B20 just a few years ago was typical…

    1. Vikram

      Thanks Stan. Yes, LoRa™ is, at the chip level, proprietary to Semtech and only open specifications at the network level. That seems to be working well. If there is a supply issue from Semtech for chips, there is a growing diversity of supply. By comparison, Sigfox is really proprietary at all levels.

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