Spark to switch on first LoRa IoT network sites by start of 2018

LoRa Spark BoatSecure
BoatSecure, a boat monitoring system that has been using Spark's trial LoRa network to track boats and monitor things like battery, bilge pump, location, and shore power supply.

Spark announced it is rolling out a LoRa network to enable the Internet of Things in New Zealand’s most populated urban centers, and will switch on sites in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland by the start of 2018.

Spark has been testing the technology with partners from a range of industries, from agriculture through to marine, and is seeing strong demand for the network as a result. Spark says its LoRa IoT network will cover around 70% of the population by the middle of 2018.

In addition to the country’s urban centres, Spark plans to extend the network to rural parts of the Waikato, Manawatu and Canterbury next year. To deliver this, Spark is working with resource monitoring company Levno, who plans to use the network to provide fuel tank, grain silo and milk vat monitoring services to farmers. This will enable farmers to react quickly to issues and increase the efficiency of their operations.

The LoRa network is being built by specialist network provider Kordia, who will maintain the network once it’s launched. Spark is also partnering with Actility for its ThingPark Wireless platform. Kerlink is supplying the box and antenna gateways.

The LoRa network will suit low-power, low-data uses, complementing the high-power LTE Cat-M1 network that Spark began trials on this month. Spark said it is monitoring the global progress of a second LTE IoT network type, NB-IoT, and is waiting for the ecosystem to mature before moving forward.

By 2020 Spark’s IoT networks will cover around 80% of New Zealand’s population.

Spark has been trialing LoRa network technology for the past year, and already has over 30 operational sites across Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch and Wellington. A number of partners have been involved in testing use-cases for the technology.

An example is BoatSecure, a boat monitoring system developed by IoT Ventures and business owner John McDermott. Sensors on a boat continuously check the boat’s battery, bilge pump, location, and shore power supply. This information travels over Spark’s LoRa network to an app on the boat owner’s phone.

Farmers from the Matamata-Piako region and South Island have also been trialling the network for the past year as part of the Connecting Farms project. Data sent from sensors across the farm has helped inform important decisions for farmers, such as when to irrigate, spray or harvest.

“The ways we’ll be able to use this new network are huge – it will change how our cities and businesses operate,” said Michael Stribling, Spark’s GM of IoT Solutions. “We can put sensors on vehicles and equipment so we know where they are and how they’re being used. Sensors will be able to tell our councils when to carry out maintenance. There are so many examples of how it will help us manage assets better.”

Spark plans to significantly extend the scope of coverage in urban and rural areas over the next two years, and will also partner with customers to extend coverage based on their specific requirements.

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