by CIO New Zealand

Spark builds long-range IoT network for urban centres

Dec 13, 2017
Artificial IntelligenceBig DataCareers

This new network will change how our cities and businesses operateMichael Stribling, Spark

Spark says it has begun building a long-range (LoRa) IoT network to cover around 70 per cent of the population by the middle of next year.

Sites in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland are being switched on in the lead up to Christmas. A further sixteen cities will be connected early in 2018, according to Spark.

The network will allow businesses and local councils to connect to ‘things’, like waterways, traffic lights, and machinery.

The sensors will send information over the LoRa network, providing real-time insight into the infrastructure New Zealand cities run on. In turn, it will help local councils and asset-heavy organisations run better, with lower costs.

“The ways we’ll be able to use this new network are huge – it will change how our cities and businesses operate,” saysMichael Stribling, Spark GM IoT Solutions.

“We can put sensors on vehicles and equipment so we know where they are and how they’re being used. Sensors will be able to tell our councils when to carry out maintenance. There are so many examples of how it will help us manage assets better,” saysStribling, in a statement.

In addition to the country’s urban centres, Spark plans to extend the network to rural parts of the Waikato, Manawatu and Canterbury.

By 2020 Spark’s IoT networks will cover around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s population

By 2020, Spark’s IoT networks will cover around 80 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

Spark is working with Levno, which plan to use the network to provide fuel tank, grain silo and milk vat monitoring services to farmers. This will enable farmers to react quickly to issues and increase the efficiency of their operations.

The national network is being built by Kordia. It will suit low-power, low-data uses, complementing the high-power LTE network (LTE Cat-M1 or ‘M1’) that Spark began trials on this month.

Spark has been trialling LoRa network technology for the past year, and now has over 30 operational sites across Auckland, Waikato, Christchurch and Wellington. A number of partners have been involved in testing use-cases for the technology.

An example is BoatSecure, a boat monitoring system developed by IoT Ventures and business owner John McDermott. Sensors on a boat continuously check the boat’s battery, bilge pump, location, and shore power supply. This information travels over Spark’s LoRa network to an app on the boat owner’s phone. ?

Farmers from the Matamata-Piako region and South Island have also been trialling the network for the past year as part of the Connecting Farms project. Data sent from sensors across the farm has helped inform important decisions for farmers, such as when to irrigate, spray or harvest.

Spark says it is working with leading global platform providers to enable New Zealand companies to seamlessly connect to its networks.

“There will be so many different uses of IoT, so we’re seeking to provide the broadest set of IoT options to customers,” says Stribling.

“To do this, we’re making sure New Zealand has access to a range of world class networks and management platforms,” he adds. “We’re also continuing to take advantage of the data analytics power ofQrious, to help make sense of all the information coming our way as our environment begins talking to us.”

Cameron Harris (left) of Beacon Marine Electronics and John McDermott (right) of BoatSecure, a new venture using Spark’s LoRa network technology to let boat owners monitor their vessels in real-time.