The most common thing I hear from developers who are building internet of things (IoT) solutions is: It isn’t easy. And it’s not. Not because of a lack of skill—the developers I interact with are incredibly talented. There’s also no shortage of technologies to choose from for deploying an IoT solution. The challenge often comes down to a gap in available educational materials and learning support when in the development phase.
We’ve moved from the early stages of the IoT when there was a lot of talk but not a lot of application. Now, we’re coming into the “reality phase” where cheaper, large-scale IoT solutions are feasible. In this phase, developers are tasked with identifying, building and deploying technologies that they’re likely having to figure out as they go. It’s a tall order to expect today’s developers to know the ins and outs of all of the moving pieces required for an IoT solution, including the wireless technologies that help to enable them.
While developers are renowned for being effective at independent learning, they still need better access to educational resources and tools when it comes to IoT technologies. This is especially true for newer technologies that you won’t yet find in a textbook or college course.
One example of this newer IoT technology is low-power, wide area networks (LPWAN)—specifically using the LoRaWAN standard. It’s an area that I not only expect to become increasingly relevant for IoT developers but also one that can greatly benefit from more robust educational resources.
IoT Development Is Relatively New
Modern LPWAN technologies have only been around for the past decade, and LoRaWAN became an open standard when the LoRa Alliance was formed in 2015. In the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty new. It’s not a concept that’s widely included in higher education curricula and, although we see more inclusion each year, it can be difficult for developers to find peers who have experience in building with LoRa devices.
ABI Research forecasts that by 2026, LoRa will be the leading non-cellular LPWAN technology. This means that over the next five years more and more developers will need to understand the basics of LoRaWAN but may not have foundational knowledge or experience to draw from.
From what I’ve seen, that gap can lead to teams biting off more than they can chew. Without enough training or support, developers risk building LoRaWAN deployments that may have inadequate coverage or go over scope or budget or that simply don’t live up to their vision.
Complexity in Developing With IoT
The other major reason IoT technologies operating with LoRaWAN need more robust educational support is due to their complexity. Developing an IoT solution requires several different skillsets that well-equipped teams either have to account for in their staffing or—as happens in many cases—rely on a single developer to figure it out and wear many hats.
There are many aspects to building and deploying a LoRaWAN solution; for instance: Hardware engineering, device stack choice and application fit, gateway deployments and networking coverage, cloud considerations and application development involved for deployment. That’s a lot of moving parts.
So, if enterprises and IoT vendors are expecting developers to make large-scale IoT deployments a reality, we have to provide the proper resources and training.
Resources and Communities for LoRa Developers
As the industry works on ways to better educate developers about LoRa technology, there are some good places to start for developers who want to hit the ground running. Here are some resources where you can learn the basics, build prototypes, get advice from other developers and test and certify solutions.
- LoRa Developer Portal—A hub where IoT developers can learn, connect with peers and accelerate their builds with resources like tutorials, dev kits and a free network server. Helpful for every level of expertise, from learning the basics of LoRaWAN to creating a network to rolling out a full-scale commercial solution.
- LoRa Alliance—A nonprofit association where members collaborate and share experiences working with the LoRaWAN standard. They offers events, webinars, a resource hub and more.
- LoRa Basics Station —A GitHub Repository for the open source software that runs on gateways operating with the LoRaWAN standard.
- AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN—A guide for AWS IoT developers, spanning coverage development and deployment from connecting gateways to monitoring and logging.
- Azure IoT Hub—Guide for connecting the ChirpStack open source network server using LoRaWAN to the Azure IoT Hub.
I expect higher education institutions to begin further integrating LoRaWAN into their curricula over the next several years, which will help to fill the education gap for the next wave of developers. At the same time, IoT vendors can step up and provide additional support to developers who are learning how to build with technologies like LoRa for the first time. This is critical for the success of large-scale deployments that all of us IoT believers hope to see across enterprise environments, cities, regions and beyond.