GPS-free, LoRa-based positioning for the Internet of Things

July 20, 2016 // By Graham Prophet
CSEM (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) has proposed the first commercial solution based on Semtech’s LoRa technology for GPS-free geolocation of connected devices. This allows the geographical tracking of LoRaWAN end-nodes without any material impact on bill of materials or battery life, and will help enhance the industrial development of Internet of Things (IoT).

The use of LoRa, the ultra-low power wide-area RF technology for IoT applications, is growing rapidly worldwide, and the LoRa Alliance today counts over 330 members. Semtech, developer of LoRa, recently announced the addition of geolocation functionality, which is compatible with all LoRaWAN end-nodes and second generation gateways.


According to Machina Research , more than half of IoT applications will need geolocation, in particular applications such as Smart cities, asset tracking and agriculture. However up until now only GPS was available, which is often incompatible with the low-cost, long battery life needs of LoRaWAN nodes. To meet this challenge CSEM, the Swiss research and technology organization, worked with Semtech on a LoRaWAN network deployment in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. CSEM, a member of LoRa Alliance, applied a state-of-the-art statistical algorithm to Semtech’s time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA) approach to calculate the position of LoRaWAN nodes. This statistical approach, while more robust than other types of solvers, also integrates motion models to allow the tracking of moving objects. The pilot deployment used for development and testing of the solver was composed of 10 gateways located in and around the city of Neuchâtel. As a result, CSEM today has announced its own LoRa-based solver allowing tracking of any LoRaWAN node using existing second generation hardware.


The geolocation solver is available under license from CSEM, and can be adapted and optimized for specific client requirements and applications. The availability of low-power geolocation, CSEM concludes, offers exciting new perspectives for the continued massive growth of the IOT.