Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9 - 28

A Cross-Layer Measurement
Approach to Assess LoRa Wireless
Technology in Presence of Noise
Pasquale Arpaia, Francesco Bonavolontà, Dominique Dallet, and Annarita Tedesco

T

he Internet of Things (IoT) paradigm refers to the
extension of the internet network to the world of
physical objects ( " things " ), embedded with sensors,
actuators, and other technologies that allow them to evolve
and become smarter and connected ( " smart things " ) [1]. The
physical objects can be anything. The smart objects can sense,
monitor, react to the environment, and communicate autonomously the information they process and collect to other smart
things or cloud services. A set of smart things can interact together to realize amazing smart applications that improve
users' experience, quality of life, and safety [2]. The easiest
service provided by IoT is the ability to remotely control and
monitor the physical environment over the internet network.
As an example, thanks to IoT it is possible today to easily monitor heart rate, manage home lighting, check the availability of
parking and much else besides [3]. IoT applications are rapidly
changing environments and ecosystems, giving rise to smart
cities, smart grids, smart industry, smart communities, etc. The
opportunities offered by IoT are endless, since IoT can make
everything smart (Internet of Everything - IoE) [4].
Focusing on a network perspective, IoT can be described
as a heterogeneous network infrastructure, either wired or
wireless, that is capable of guaranteeing very different needs
compared to the traditional internet network. In particular,
while the internet network is designed to transfer massive
texts, images and streaming video (i.e., applications requiring wide bandwidth), in the IoT paradigm the situation is
upturned: in devices with limited hardware resources and
power supplied by battery, such sensors and actuators need
to transmit only a few bytes (relatively to measures of temperature, humidity, etc.) with a lower data rate. To meet these
constraints, several new lightweight network protocol specifications are arising: a wireless link with the aim of reducing
wiring; narrow bandwidth; and low power, suitable for lowperformance IoT devices [5].
At present, wireless protocols can roughly be divided into
short and long range. Short-range protocols cover distances
up to 1 km in line-of sight (Bluetooth LE, ZigBee, Wi-Fi, WirelessHart) and are used essentially for wearable and smart

28	

home applications. Long-range protocols are instead capable of covering long distances, up to 15 km in certain cases.
Long-range protocols are divided into unlicensed (SigFox,
LoRa) and licensed spectrum (GSM, 3G, 4G, LTE-M, NB-IoT,
5G). SigFox, LoRa and NB-IoT are characterized by low-power
and are thus defined Low Power Wireless Area Network
(LPWAN) protocols. In LWPAN systems, the low power consumption is obtained by ensuring that the communication can
be started only by the IoT end device and not by the server. In
this way, the IoT device does not need to consume considerable electrical power by continuously listening for a possible
communication from the server. This performance over long
distances can be achieved by exploiting modulation schemes
that make communication extremely resilient to interference
and noise. Therefore, LWPANs are ideal for applications involving low-power sensors that send small amounts of data
over long distances, as can be encountered in automatic watering machines in the agricultural sector, smart lighting in
industrial buildings, and sensing technologies associated with
smart energy meters. Moreover, different from NB-IoT, LoRa
and SigFox operate in unlicensed spectrum and their own devices are entitled to transmit without requiring any fee. All of
these positive aspects contribute to making them adequate
networks to develop for IoT applications on large scale, in such
a way as to be considered actual enabling technologies for IoT.
Thanks to its versatility, LoRa communication technology is
emerging as the leader among LWPANs.
However, every time that a new application is added in the
same area of others, interference is inevitable, especially when
the adopted standard shares unlicensed frequency bands. Interference and noise impact directly on the performance of IoT
devices because transmitted data can be lost, and device operating range and battery life may decrease. To design new
IoT devices, it is necessary to evaluate their ability to provide
functional wireless performance in different RF environments
by testing their robustness to intended and unintended/interference signals or noise. However, characterizing only the
physical (PHY) layer does not prove appropriate to determine how the signal degradations affect the behavior of higher

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	
1094-6969/20/$25.00©2020IEEE

December 2020



Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9

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