Swiss Post developing “Internet of Things” project
In a statement issued today (2 March), Swiss Post said that it will be trying out “various areas of application”, with initial testing slated to start this month.
LoRaWAN is an open low-power radio standard that was initiated only a few months ago by companies such as Cisco and IBM.
Swiss Post said that it is now exploring the potential of setting up its own nationwide LoRa network, which will enable it to create an infrastructure for the “Internet of Things” in Switzerland in the near future.
Swiss Post is planning to go live with its first test network between Berne and Biel at the end of March.
Swiss Post explained why the project was important to a postal operator, and its customers: “This technology makes it possible to connect a diverse range of objects and devices (vehicles, parcels, letter boxes, etc.) to the Internet at very low cost and with minimal energy consumption. This would enable Swiss Post to offer its customers innovative and intelligent services. Unprecedented business opportunities are arising from the ongoing miniaturization of sensors and their cost-effective operation.”
An example of the kind of applications that could be developed using this technology, said Swiss Post, would be an intelligent sensor connected to the Internet via LoRaWAN which triggers an automatic
order placement every time stocks on a shelf run low. Swiss Post could then replenish the supplies of its logistics customers as and when needed and when there is sufficient space in the customer’s warehouse.
The technology could also help with security applications. According to Swiss Post: “Sensitive consignments can be equipped with sensors which trigger an alarm as soon as a consignment is opened by an unauthorized party or the maximum temperature for a medicinal product is exceeded. An additional GPS sensor could also provide the exact location in which a consignment was opened. This would permit the safe transport of valuable or sensitive consignments, and if need be, their tracking.”
And there is also a delivery on demand angle. “Small transmitter units, so-called smart buttons, could be used in order to trigger a specific service on demand: for instance, to notify the mail carrier in an area in which home delivery service is available,” said Swiss Post. “These small devices require no configuration and are therefore easy to use; orders can be triggered at a simple push of a button.”
Swiss Post was also enthusiastic about the technology’s ability to provide a wide reach at a low cost.
“LoRa antennas have a reach of 5 to 15 kilometres, depending on the topography. As the sensors and buttons send actual signals to the network only sporadically or on demand, the battery charging cycle has a service life of up to 5 years,” said Swiss Post.
“The devices are roughly the size of a 5 francs coin and are expected to become even smaller over time. LoRa technology does not require a SIM card or a mains connection. This also makes it suitable for use in remote or mobile applications.”