What is the Helium IoT network? How does NOWi use it?
What is NOWi?
Our water monitoring and leak detection solutions enable property owners to get in control of their properties water usage and reduce their water bills. Our solution suite includes full building monitors and toilet monitors that can detect a leak anywhere within a building, and in most cases localize exactly where the leak is coming from. All while being cost-effective, and simple to deploy.
What is Helium?
The Helium IoT (Internet of Things) network is a wireless network built for sensors like our water monitor and toilet sensors. It’s decentralized meaning that anybody can deploy a radio (sometimes called gateways or hotspots) to extend the coverage of the Helium network. It’s like allowing anybody to deploy their own cellular radio tower (here's a quick video on Helium). The Helium IoT* network uses a wireless protocol ( sort of like how WiFi is a protocol) called LoRaWAN to communicate with the sensors.
What is LoRaWAN?
Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) is a great protocol because it can reach a long distance (in some cases 1+ miles) and consumes very low power which enables battery-powered sensors with a long battery life.
How does NOWi use Helium?
NOWis' sensors send water usage data to the internet through the Helium network. In urban areas where coverage is nearly ubiquitous, we can deploy sensors without needing to deploy radios. In some cases where our clients are deploying numerous sensors, or where coverage is weak, they can deploy Helium gateways to help extend coverage.
What are the advantages of using the Helium network?
There are 3 main advantages.
The 1st is that in many cases we don’t need to deploy our own gateways which make deployments cheaper and easier. Even when we deploy our own gateways, devices can receive redundant coverage from any other gateways around a building. This can be particularly helpful in tall buildings since each level of the building blocks coverage of gateways deployed inside the building. Think of shining a light from the outside of the building vs inside the building, the outside light can go through windows into each floor more easily.
The 2nd is that because Helium uses LoRaWAN which can some low power so devices can have really long battery lives, up to 7 years.
The 3rd is that Helium is very cheap to use so we can pass on the savings to our customers!
Why not use cellular?
Cellular has two disadvantages. The first is that it consumes a lot of power, so even with large batteries devices last only 1-2 years. The second is that when coverage doesn’t exist, it’s very expensive to extend its coverage relative to Helium's LoRaWAN network. Many times our sensors are deployed in basements or pits where wireless signals are much weaker, meaning a cellular device would not be able to connect to the internet.
Why not use WiFi?
Most of our customers are multifamily property owners who do not have WiFi in their buildings, just their tenants do which we cannot use. Furthermore, WiFi uses more battery than LoRaWAN.
Zigbee or Z-Wave?
What about other IoT protocols like Zigbee or Z-Wave? None have the range, low power consumption, and nearly ubiquitous coverage that Helium’s LoRaWAN network has.
Helium is a wireless network that anybody can extend the coverage of with their own gateways. NOWi uses Helium because it enables deployments without the need for gateways (making deployments cheaper and easier), it's cheap to use, and enables extended battery life sensors (up to 7 years).
* Specifying the IoT network because there is a separate network called Helium Mobile that is for Mobile phones, SIM cards, etc.. these networks require different kinds of radios.
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