Semtech Driving Expansion of LoRa Asset Tracking in 2020

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By Tancred Taylor | 4Q 2020 | IN-5972

A spate of recent announcements by Semtech has signaled its intention to strengthen its presence in the asset visibility and geolocation space. On October 19, 2020, Semtech made three related announcements.

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Out-of-the-Box Solutions


A spate of recent announcements by Semtech has signaled its intention to strengthen its presence in the asset visibility and geolocation space. On October 19, 2020, Semtech made three related announcements.

The first of these was the expansion of its LoRa Edge line, introducing two products. The first product is the LoRa Basics Modem-E, a software modem that facilitates the connection between LoRa Edge hardware (aka LR1110 chip), LoRaWAN gateways, and Semtech’s cloud services. The second product is the Tracker Reference Design, combining the LoRa Edge hardware, the Modem-E software, and the LoRa Cloud services; in other words, combining all of Semtech’s Edge products into an out-of-the-box device-to-cloud solution for tracking applications. This solution was developed alongside LoRa connectivity provider Actility and application provider TagoIO, relating this to the next two announcements.

The second announcement was the launch of an Evaluation Kit alongside Actility and TagoIO. This combines Semtech’s LoRa Edge hardware, Actility’s ThingPark IoT platform for connectivity and management, and TagoIO’s application server, creating an end-to-end out-of-the-box solution, from chip to enterprise application. The kit is priced at €329 and consists of two LoRa Edge Tracker Reference Designs, one Actility gateway, and access to LoRa Cloud, ThingPark, and TagoIO.

The third announcement was a solution by Semtech (LoRa Edge hardware and LoRa Cloud Geolocation services) and TagoIO (IoT platform and application server); in other words, similar to the second announcement, but without the connectivity element.

Looking back to the near past, on August 20, 2020, Semtech made the further announcement that it was launching an Asset Tracking Kit, integrating LoRa devices with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Internet of things (IoT) services and TensorIoT (providing the integration and application components). The solution is priced from €990.99 in the European Union (EU), and consists of six LoRa tracking devices, one LoRaWAN gateway, and access to AWS services and dashboards. The solution is designed to help enterprises pilot and prove their IoT concepts, before moving to scale.

Tracking All the Trends


The tenor of these announcements is Semtech’s drive toward simplifying asset tracking deployments for enterprises, and helping them move past the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage and to scale. Increasingly, vendors are focusing on providing ready-to-deploy solutions, rather than solution components; aiming to simplify deployment, while maintaining flexibility for the end user. Several models exist, such as solution providers (e.g., Roambee, Tenna) providing the entire solution stack, or hardware/software partnerships (e.g., NimbeLink’s partnership with ClearBlade, or KORE Wireless’ partnership with Sony—both in April 2020). The move by chip and module vendors is another important play, enabling access to connectivity and services out-of-the-box, thus enabling an ecosystem to be built on top of them. Telit is an example of a vendor moving up the stack, supplying not only modules, but also device management, connectivity management, and application enablement/pre-built application software and services. In August 2020, Telit’s IoT hardware portfolio was certified on Microsoft Azure and integrated with the Azure IoT Hub, with the same kind of intention toward simplifying the device-to-cloud process for software providers and System Integrators (Sis). Sierra Wireless is another example, partnering with AWS for the AirVantage IoT platform or deploying its end-to-end Octave full-stack solution alongside Microsoft Azure. Semtech’s announcements should be seen in light of these trends, and can be seen as a response by the LoRa ecosystem to the activities of, for instance, Telit or Sierra Wireless on the cellular side.

What these moves signal furthermore is the increasing role and importance of public cloud providers in developing solutions. Providing these services in-house, as Telit did, risked leading to siloed deployments, while relying on public cloud vendors significantly increases the flexibility of a solution’s deployment, from a hardware and software perspective, by enabling enterprises to choose from the increasingly broad range of services offered at the cloud level. Semtech’s business model is focused around enabling the LoRa ecosystem through silicon sales and a small number of cloud services, and partnering with suppliers with broad ecosystem reach offers an alternative path to scaling sales without moving away from this model. In these developments, this is achieved directly through integration with AWS, or indirectly through partners, such as Actility and TagoIO, with portability across major cloud suppliers. Cloud vendors also benefit from the commoditization of hardware, which these announcements encourage. The solutions are aimed at connectivity, cloud, and software providers to monetize their services further, while licensing the solution for free to the broader LoRa ecosystem, enabling any vendor to sell their hardware, while leaving the rest of the solution to suppliers further down the stack.

Semtech’s first LoRa Edge portfolio deployment came in February 2020 with the release of the LR1110 chip. The expansion of the LoRa Edge portfolio shows an increased focus on asset tracking by building out the capabilities of the hardware and integrating it with further services. Traditional LoRa deployments for asset tracking have focused on campus-based solutions (e.g., airports) or national deployments (where LoRaWAN networks are widely deployed). The expansion of LoRa Cloud Geolocation services in 2019, accompanied by the creation of the LoRa Edge portfolio dedicated to asset tracking-specific use cases, is clear messaging of movement toward enabling global applications thanks to the combination of GNSS, Wi-Fi, and LoRaWAN within a single hardware piece.

Starting Small


ABI Research believes the number of connections for Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) asset tracking use cases will reach nearly 3.6 billion by 2026. By 2023, the number of cellular connections is predicted to surpass the connection numbers for proprietary LPWA networks, due in part to the massive existing cellular network infrastructure and modernization efforts by MNOs. These numbers and the growth rate of this IoT segment have prompted significant interest from all network players. It is no surprise to see increasing energy and dedicated product lines appearing from Semtech.

Semtech’s new offerings are focused around creating a simple solution that enterprises can quickly build up and build out, to enable scalability from the PoC. PoC “evaluation kits” are increasingly a part of software and solution providers’ offerings, giving access to a limited number of devices, software, and services to enable enterprises to see how a solution can be implemented without launching into a full-scale solution. Starting at the PoC stage is the best guarantee of a project moving beyond its initial phases, and should be targeted increasingly by suppliers wanting to become partners to their customers at early stages of maturity in the asset tracking market, with promises of scale from these partnerships further down the line.

Suppliers should also focus on verticalizing their solutions for out-of-the-box deployments. In several more established IoT segments, such as utilities, ready-built applications and end-to-end solutions are more commonly seen, but the relative novelty and breadth of use cases for asset visibility mean that these integrated solutions are less readily available. A significant focus of suppliers has been on the device-to-cloud side. Adding further value with ready-to-use or easily customizable dashboards and applications is key to generating value. Semtech’s integrated solutions address this space, specifically the need for flexibility, fast time to deployment, and the requirement for very little additional IT buy-in.



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