How Amsterdam is getting the most out of its city-wide IoT network

LoRaWAN could be the ideal IoT network. An open-source, crowd-sourced variant has just been launched in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam city-wide IoT Internet of Things network

There's been much speculation as to just what kind of wireless network will emerge as the go-to network of choice for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE, 802.15.4, and 5G are among the balls on the field. Those kicking the metaphorical objects around will experience varying levels of distance-propagation, battery longevity, bandwidth, cost, and, in the case of 5G, availability.

Nothing has really jumped out as an obvious go-to choice.

However, that might be about to change if LoRaWAN experiments underway in Amsterdam work as hoped.


LoRaWAN technology is a wide area network that proffers slow, low bit-rate communications. The low-range WAN is geared towards M2M and smart city applications.

In this Dutch case, it's being used for The Things Network, an open crowd-sourced Internet of Things data network.

The network's unique crowdsourced approach is one of its strengths, Ger Baron, CTO of the City of Amsterdam, has said.

"I do not think this has happened before and it is interesting to see how traditional telcos will cope with this disruptive new idea of building networks," Baron told The Next Web.


The slight hiccup for a free service is that the LoRaWAN gateway devices cost around $1,200. A city like Amsterdam needs 10 gateways, according to the website for the network.

Amsterdam currently has two, but the organizers have agreed to hosting sites for multiple gateways from third parties, such as the Port of Amsterdam, accounting firm KPMG, and consulting firm Deloitte, which have well-situated offices in the city.

Use cases

Some of us will know the mythical legend of the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in a hole in a dyke when he noticed water trickling out of it on his way to school.

Though he was a small child, he averted disaster by acting quickly. The moral of the story is to act quickly to avert disaster. Even if you're a weakling, you can save the world.

So it's amusing that the first project from The Things Network is a boat water-detector.

Rain and boats—two things Holland has a lot of—don't mix. Leisure boats can be left unattended for days at a time there. The idea is that the sensor will send a distress SMS text if it detects excessive water inside the hull.

Stolen IoT bicycles

Another thing Holland has is a lot of bicycles—it's a flat country, so cycling is an appropriate mode of transport.

A bike-movement detector on the network sends a low-energy message if the bike is being moved, suggesting that it was stolen.

The sensors use the free, low-bandwidth, low-energy LoRaWAN network, rather than over-kill, expensive mobile networks. And, importantly, the objects being detected can remain unused for a long time.

The organizers say that they want to build out the system in other locales. It suggests an anti-poaching Rhino locator for Zimbabwe, for example.


LoRaWAN technology is being explored elsewhere, too. French company Sigfox is working on the same kind of low-throughput communications.

The key to the project, though, is getting the cost of the gateways down, Wienke Giezeman, one of the organizers, has said.

He plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund production of a smaller, $220 self-designed version, according to the Next Web article.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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