LoRaWAN protocol now supports OTA firmware updates

31 January 2019

The LoRa Alliance has introduced new specifications for its open LoRaWAN IoT protocol. In what’s said to be a unique capability among low power WANs, LoRaWAN now supports firmware and standardised updates over the air (FUOTA). The three new specifications include: Application layer clock synchronisation v1.0; Remote multicast setup v1.0; and Fragmented data block transport v1.0.

The specifications were developed to allow the LoRa Alliance ecosystem to perform FUOTA in a standardised way. The alliance says the ability to update devices remotely is critical for the IoT, where many sensors are in remote or difficult locations to reach but may require updating. It reckons that making FUOTA part of the specification contributes to future-proofing LoRaWAN and ensuring that supported devices will continue to operate over long lifetimes.

For example, the remote multicast setup protocol can be used standalone to send messages to a group of end-devices; fragmentation can be used on its own to send a large file to a single end-device (unicast); and time synchronisation can also be used as a standalone capability.

It also points out that security was a “strong focus” and is addressed in the multicast and fragmentation specifications. For multicast, the alliance says the protocol has a means to securely deliver a cryptographic key to the group of end devices. This key exchange is described with its security implication. In fragmentation, a section is dedicated to file integrity and authentication recommendations.

According to the alliance, these enhancements are accompanied by “significant growth” in deployments and certification, with an increase of more than 50 per cent in the number of LoRaWAN certified products compared to October 2017. The number of public networks using the protocol globally is said to be rapidly approaching. Recent examples from Japan include NEC providing LoRaWAN network servers for remote liquefied petroleum gas meter reading, and SenseWay deploying a LoRaWAN network on the Kashiwanoha Campus to acquire and visualise the city’s environmental information to build a true smart city.