Spark has named agricultural fluid monitoring service Levno as the first customer for its LoRaWAN low powered wide area radio network for IoT — due to launch before the end of March — and has formed a partnership with Levno that will see the network expanded beyond its original planned 20 urban centres.
Palmerston North based Levno launched in 2012 providing monitoring of milk, water and fuel tanks for the agricultural sector. It plans to use the Spark LoRaWAN network from April, initially for its fuel tank monitoring service, and Spark will expand coverage to serve Levno customers in Manawatu, Canterbury and Waikato.
Levno’s tank monitoring system consists of a battery-powered sensor attached to the fuel tank, which immediately reports any change in the quantity of fuel stored. This information is sent in real time to the customer’s device and when levels get low, the fuel distributor is notified that a delivery is needed.
Levno CEO Ray Connor said a suitable low power network had not been available in New Zealand when the company launched the monitoring system in 2012 so it had used cellular networks, which were not ideal.
Batteries for the LoRaWAN devices are expected to last for 10 years compared to five for cellular devices, and the LoRaWAN network will cover locations not served by cellular networks, Connor said.
One early customer, James Griffin who manages the 200-hectare Griffin Family farm in Rangitikei, said the system would enable him to stop fuel theft, which is common on large farms, by enabling him to see when fuel was being taken from the tanks but not accounted for. Also, he said, it would ensure fuel supplies were always available.
“We were constantly running out of fuel a few years ago. Now we can adapt to and monitor seasonal use better, and when we do need more, the system sends a message to Allied Petroleum and they come by with a delivery,” he said.
Launch of the LoRaWAN network follows Spark’s initial announcement of its LoRaWAN plans, in July 2017, and details of coverage plans in December 2017. That announcement came just after the announcement by Chorus of a proof of concept LoRaWAN trial in conjunction with Visionstream subsidiary Vianet.
However, expect for a mention of this trial under the heading of “future opportunities” in its FY18 half year results announcement of February 2018, Chorus does not appear to have said anything further about its LoRaWAN plans.