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  • Ben Jones

What is a LoRa Mesh Network? And How Dryad's is Changing the Game

Updated: 5 days ago

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what is a lora mesh network

Introduction


Wireless sensor networks are revolutionizing the way we monitor and interact with the world around us. LoRaWAN networks, a type of wireless sensor network, have become the de-facto standard in the unlicensed spectrum to connect devices over long distances with minimal power consumption. This makes LoRaWAN perfect for the Internet of Things (IoT), in particular for outdoor applications such as smart metering, environmental monitoring, and countless other applications.


The LoRa/LoRaWAN Standard


A key component in the architecture of Silvanet is the well-established LoRa/LoRaWAN standard, a cornerstone in long-range communication designed explicitly for IoT use-cases. Developed and licensed by Semtech (an early investor in Dryad), the LoRa ecosystem has flourished since its inception in 2012, now boasting over 176 certified devices, including chipsets, modules, sensors, and gateways. This diversity, endorsed by the independent, non-profit LoRa Alliance, ensures a wide selection of interoperable components for constructing multi-vendor solutions.


Operating in the unlicensed spectrum across various regions (868Mhz in Europe, 915MHz in the USA and Australia, and 433MHz in Asia), LoRa enables private networks without the need for spectrum licenses or regulatory fees. This aspect is crucial, reducing operational costs and simplifying deployment for our customers.


lora mesh network graphic

Why LoRa for Dryad's Silvanet Suite?


After evaluation of available network standards and protocols, LoRa/LoRaWAN emerged as the superior choice for the specific needs of our customers:


  • LoRa offers unparalleled advantages for long-range, low-energy wireless communication, and is among the best-in-class in the LPWAN category.


  • The LoRaWAN protocol supports essential features like FUOTA (Firmware Updates Over The Air), which is indispensable for limiting maintenance costs and ensuring the longevity and reliability of sensor networks.

  • LoRa operates in the unlicensed spectrum enabling low OPEX, avoiding potentially costly service fees associated with other LPWAN network technologies relying on licensed spectrum owned primarily by mobile operators.


  • The mature LoRaWAN protocol and stable ecosystem cater perfectly to our targeted use-cases, particularly considering the operational longevity required in forestry applications.


  • Tapping into a large and vibrant ecosystem, customers have a broad choice of LoRaWAN compatible sensors and network components, enabling the development of tailored solutions that can address a range of ecological and environmental challenges including forest health and biodiversity monitoring or even verification of carbon credits.


Leveraging LoRaWAN, Dryad's Silvanet can become the generic network infrastructure of the forest, literally building the 'Internet of Trees'. Silvanet can lay the foundation for proactive forest management applications, such as aiding in the early detection of pests, diseases, and the impacts of climate change. This approach not only could enhance the resilience and sustainability of forest ecosystems but also provide vital information for conservation efforts and policy-making.



forest lora mesh network

The LoRa Mesh Network


At Dryad, we’re taking LoRaWAN networks even further with Silvanet, extending the LoRaWAN standard with our proprietary LoRa mesh implementation. But what does that mean? Let's properly define the terms and spell out the differences:


LoRa: Stands for ‘Long Range’. LoRa is a wireless technology promoted by Semtech, renowned for its ability to transmit data over vast distances (think multiple kilometers) while using very little battery power.


LoRaWAN: Stands for ‘Long Range Wide Area Network’. Building on top of LoRa, the industry standard LoRaWAN defines a protocol for sensors, gateways and network servers to communicate with each other. LoRaWAN specifies a star-of-stars network topology where a central network server manages multiple gateways which in turn handle communications with sensors in a single hop network topology. 


LoRaWAN Relay: LoRaWAN relay is a recent addition to the LoRaWAN standard allowing LoRaWAN devices to communicate with gateways by using a relay device that acts as a single-hop bridge between the end device and the gateway.


Mesh Network: Unlike traditional 'star' networks, like LoRaWAN, where devices are connected via single hop to gateways, a mesh network is like a web. Devices communicate with each other, relaying data across multiple devices in the network. Multi-hop mesh networks offer redundancy and extend the range beyond what a single hop network could achieve. 


By extending the LoRaWAN standard with mesh networking, networks gain incredible range (ideal for remote forests, nature reserves, or disaster zones), enhanced resilience (nodes can reroute data if one fails), and the flexibility to easily scale with growing needs.



The Dryad Approach to Wireless Mesh Networks


Dryad's innovative approach is to extend the LoRaWAN standard with a proprietary LoRa mesh network implementation while retaining compatibility with the LoRaWAN industry standard. Our patent-pending Silvanet gateways stand out for several reasons:


  • Extended Range: Traditional LoRa gateways have limitations – they can't extend network coverage beyond a single hop (about 10km), making them unsuitable for vast forest areas that often lack mobile network coverage. Our Silvanet Mesh Gateways enable large-scale network expansion with a multi-hop network architecture.


  • Compatibility: towards sensors on one hand and towards the network server on the other hand, the Silvanet gateways remain compatible with the industry standard LoRaWAN. This means that unmodified 3rd-party sensors can participate in and benefit from the extended coverage provided by the multi-hop mesh network.


The Silvanet gateways are designed to operate in the most remote locations and include special features to match these challenging requirements:


  • Solar-Powered: Unlike most existing LoRaWAN gateways, the Silvanet Mesh and Border Gateways operate on solar power. This means they can be deployed off-grid in even the most remote locations.


  • Energy efficient: The gateways are designed to minimize power usage and also work when deployed in partially shaded environments, like in a forest - attached to trees.


  • Resilient: The Silvanet gateways have been designed to operate maintenance-free for 10+ years in the harsh environment of the forest and offer resilience features including IP67.


  • Safe: The Silvanet gateways use supercapacitors instead of batteries, avoiding the potential fire hazard, temperature issues and limited recharge cycles of lithium ion batteries.

silvanet mesh gateway






silvanet border gateway







Dryad’s LoRaWAN Mesh in Action


The true power of Dryad's mesh technology lies in its real-world applications. Here's a glimpse of how Silvanet is set to transform wildfire mitigation across the globe:


Dryad has partnered with Vodafone to install an AI-driven wildfire detection system in Andalusia, Spain. This project demonstrates the scalability of our LoRaWAN mesh network. It can cover vast forest areas, providing early warnings to help protect this biodiverse region from devastating fires.


The Sicilian town of Castelbuono has integrated Silvanet sensors to bolster their firefighting efforts. The LoRaWAN mesh allows for real-time monitoring of critical fire-risk areas. This data empowers local fire brigades to make more informed decisions and react swiftly to potential threats.


CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection), a leader in wildfire management, piloted Dryad's Silvanet system. This pilot demonstrated the network's ability to detect wildfires significantly faster than traditional methods, enhancing response times and potentially reducing the cost and devastation associated with uncontrolled fires.


In December 2023, Dryad's Silvanet system detected a small, unauthorized fire in a Lebanese forest. The network's long-range communication capabilities ensured that the alert reached authorities quickly, facilitating rapid intervention and mitigating the risk of a larger, uncontrolled wildfire.


Conclusion


Dryad’s innovative approach in harnessing the potential of LoRaWAN and enhancing it with proprietary mesh technology signifies a transformative step forward in remote area connectivity, particularly within critical sectors like forest management and conservation.


The highlighted examples showcase just a few ways Dryad's LoRaWAN mesh network is revolutionizing wildfire management worldwide. Our commitment to continuous innovation promises even broader applications and advancements that will shape the future of forest monitoring and environmental protection for years to come.


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