This year I once again attended “The Things Conference 2019”, the international conference held by The Things Network (hereafter “TTN”) which leads LoRaWAN on a global scale.
The Things Conference 2019 was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on 31 January and 1 February 2019. (Click here for the official conference website). Around 1500 people attended over the two days, twice last year’s figure of 750 attendees. This reflects the rapid proliferation of LoRaWan and TTN. Attendance pricing had three tiers as shown below, depending on the number of workshops attended.
The following is the opening video for this conference, used on-site:
As shown in the video, the usage figures for The Things Network as of the end of January 2019 have grown to the following:
- Gateways installed globally: 6000
- Registered users: 60000
- Nations/regions: over 100
- The Things Conferences held: 5 locations
- LoRaWAN packets processed per day: 5500000 packets
The night before the conference, a party was held with the keynote speakers at Hotel Jakarta in Amsterdam. Hotel Jakarta is a long and narrow building, and the party room had floor-to-ceiling glass along both sides, creating a very open feel.
In the below photo, on the left is Jan Jongboom, Arm MBed developer/evangelist, in the centre is me, and on the right is Mr Tsuzuku, M2B Communications Director. We had a lot of fruitful conversations, including about transferring LoRaWAN stacks to Mbed OS, and joint development of FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) with TTN and Tech Lead Johan Stokking.
31 January, the first day of the conference, was a chilly morning with skies threatening to snow. A charter boat from Amsterdam Central Station swayed its way for 10 minutes, and I was sniffing from the cold when I entered the conference site.
Pointing the advance reservation QR code on the smartphone app at a terminal at the registration desk automatically prints a ticket tag. Semtech, a platinum sponsor, had a booth at the conference site entrance. Then both sides were lined with booths for about 20 companies providing LoRaWAN-related services, devices, and gateways. Towards the back was a space for the keynote speeches.
Conference site layout
The first keynote speech on the first day was a joint speech by Mr Weinke Geizeman, CEO of The Things Network (The Things Industries), and Mr Johan Stokking, CTO. The speech started at 9:30 am but I entered the space around 9:00 am, and got to watch the two of them practice their speech. I greeted them but they were really intent on fine-tuning their speech content. (I had never seen them like this before.)
Before the opening keynote speech
The seats filled up quickly before the start time. This opening keynote speech was full of content that the two of them had scripted well, so I will give a summary here. Mr Johan Stokking, CTO of The Things Industries, spoke about the intention and objectives of this conference. He had clearly put a lot of thought into it.
Taking turns with Mr Weinke Geizeman, CEO of The Things Industries, they explained the sponsors of The Things Conference. During this section, they announced that in addition to Semtech, Microchip Co. would also release an MCU with an Arm Cortex-M0 installed on a LoRa transceiver. Microchip Co. had demonstrated their passion for LoRaWan at the party the night before, including their executive giving a welcome speech.
A photo of Mr Xavier Bignalet, an executive from Microchip, was displayed. He would be the keynote speaker after next. The title of his speech was:
How to build a secure provision workflow and strengthen authentication to TTI’s join servers
Then a new featured product was announced: a multi-function LoRaWAN sensor node called the “Generic Node”, to be released soon. The “Generic Node” is a device based on the latest Microchip ATECC608A and Arm MBed OS, providing the following eight sensing functions with one AA battery.
Generic Node prototype displayed at the booth
Generic Node ecosystem:
- Paid service from The Things Industries
- arm MBed OS
- TWTG, also the developer of first-generation Things Gateway
- Sold by RS Components
Also, two low-priced LoRaWAN gateways will be released as OEM brands, made by Gemtek in Taiwan.
Finally, The Things Gateway Mini (retail price US $69), to be given to 100 people by lottery.
This product will be available next month on a dedicated RS Components website.
In addition to the public LoRaWAN network “The Things Network”, the number of gateways for the paid B2B LoRaWAN service “The Things Industries” was released. Active and inactive gateways for The Things Network can be seen on this website, but information on The Things Industries had not been disclosed until now.
The screen on the right shows businesses contracted with The Things Industries, including European communication carriers.
Suddenly there was a video with a Chinese comment, and I didn't recognise who it was. It was Mr Pony Ma (Ma Huateng), CEO of Tencent. I didn't recognise him with his new buzz cut. He said: “We are going to speed up the development of the IoT developer community in China.” (Note: The adoption of LoRaWan by Tencent Co. in China was reported in the news in Japan.)
This is my personal viewpoint: When I visited Shenzhen last November, I had the chance to speak with Mr Albert, Seed Studio CTO, and they were already using IoT management with TTN for tea plantations. He showed me samples of their second generation LoRaWAN gateways and nodes. My impression was that companies in Shenzhen are early adopters. I think the involvement of the local IT giant Tencent will further accelerate the spread of LoRaWAN.
Mr Suda from BeMap, who was visiting Amsterdam from Japan, won this lottery and got a Things Gateway Mini unit. I’m jealous!
Other interesting keynote speeches will be covered later in my blog, but here I will only mention Mr Jan Jongboom from Arm. I have eaten with him a couple of times in Japan and he has a mischievous side. Perhaps it was because we drank together at the party the day before, but in his presentation, he used a photo of Mr Weinke and Mr Johan holding a copy of my book, “The Things Network”.
Jan Jongboom himself transferred the LoRaWAN protocol stack to MBed OS. He is programming a method for stable and efficient updating at low speeds, taking into consideration memory management and fragmentation, to find ways to efficiently update large amounts of firmware on the node side.
Several version upgrades have been made in the past two years. Through joint development with TTN CTO Mr Johan Stokking, they have achieved FOTA (Firmware Update Over The Air) for tens of thousands of nodes at once. He also described an even more secure key encryption system.
The keynote speeches and workshops held over the two days are shown below.
On the morning of 1 February 2019, the second day of the conference, it snowed in Amsterdam.
At this year’s The Things Conference, I was particularly looking forward to the keynote speech by Mr Hiyama, CEO of Abit Co., the parent company of M2B Communications, the only participant from Japan. I sincerely wish other Japanese companies would also take on a global challenge like Abit Co.!
Positioning of ABit Co. and M2B Communications Co., and introducing Hachioji where Abit Co. has its headquarters.
20 LoRa gateways are already installed in Hachioji City. For verification testing, monitoring is being performed with 45 LoRa water level sensor nodes.
The current status of the water level sensors and the on-site cameras can both be checked using the management screen. In the Kanto region, a total of 500 water level sensors have been installed. This is IoT infrastructure on a considerably large scale.
These sensor nodes are very interesting. No manufacturer in the world is making sensors like these. That was my reaction when I first saw a sample last year. Mr Hiyama's fluent English and the content were easy to understand, and his speech was very good.
P.S.: If this crustal movement node could be linked with the electromagnetic fluctuations in earthquake prediction studies by Professor Hayakawa of Tokyo University of Electro-Communications, I feel that this could become a system that could be exported into the global market. It could be developed as a seismic prevention/prediction system with Deep Learning.
I believe it is possible to expand IoT solutions from Japan to overseas. I want other Japanese companies, regardless of their size, to take on the challenge of participating in The Things Conference next year! You have my assistance.
Like last year, there was a display of wall-mounted samples called the Wall of Fame again this year.
Bosch, a German conglomerate company, also had a dedicated booth. I had already heard about the development process of this LoRaWAN-compatible multi-function sensor, so I was able to clearly understand the conversation with the presenter. The global release will be on 3 April.
Bosch XDK (Cross Development Kit) equipped with LoRa extension communication function.
The Bosch booth also displayed a LoRa-based parking sensor system.
Another unusual booth was a French company incorporating a blockchain module into a LoRaWAN gateway.
The two-day conference ended without incident, supported by many volunteers, bringing The Things Conference 2019 to a close.
* If you are curious about The Things Network, please refer to this book.