Amid all the hype over 5G it’s easy to forget that there are several efforts to augment cellular coverage using alternative low-power, low-bandwidth data networks. TrackNet is one of the companies trying to make a cheaper IoT network a reality.
TrackNet is relying on the LoRa radio standard that Comcast, Beep Networks and others are also working on as a competitive differentiator in a home security and tracking product. The LoRa network makes it cheaper to provide connectivity for a network of people trackers and sensors.
It offers a home security and tracking service called Tabs that works using LoRa and a Wi-Fi router. TrackNet (or an ISP) provides a router and LoRa modules to customers for a set monthly fee. One fee is based on the router and the other depends on the number of sensors deployed. The cost of the connectivity is part of a monthly service fee, and doesn’t change.
TrackNet CEO Hardy Schmidbauer expects that the company can get the router for less than $ 100 and the price of the sensors down to $ 20 or $ 30 a sensor (and below $ 20 in volume). So, for less than $ 250, he thinks he can sell a LoRA based security system and people tracking devices to consumers.
His goal is to strike deals with carriers who are realizing that tacking on a big expensive monthly fee for connected security systems isn’t working. He believes the cost of LoRa modules are so much less than cellular based modules, that it becomes uneconomical to use the cellular network for things like tracking your kid or dog.
He says most cellular modules are about $ 20-$ 30 when fully certified (some companies are saying their IoT modules will be closer to $ 15) while LoRa modules are closer to $ 5 when certified.
He’s a big believer that the low revenue on IoT connected devices will dissuade carriers from investing too much in specialized NB-IoT or even LTE Cat 1 M networks for lower value use cases. So LoRa makes sense for tracking a lost dog, while cellular might make sense for tracking a refrigeration truck.
The plan is to launch a TrackNet based home security and tracking service in June. The service is in trials right now, with unnamed customers.
I’d love to see a way for this type of service to become commonplace if it makes economic sense. I think the threat of competition from alternative low power wide area networks has so far driven carriers to invest in building out IoT-specific cellular networks faster. Now, it should help lower the prices for data.