The A to Z of People Counting

Recently, Terabee hosted the webinar, “An introduction to People Counting with LoRaWAN technology,” which was delivered by Baptiste Potier, Product Manager for Smart Buildings, and Frederic Tabus, Market Intelligence Manager. This article is the first of two articles that provides an overview of the use of LoRaWAN technology in Smart Buildings, from technical fundamentals to specific applications.

The A to Z of People Counting

Image Credit: Terabee

Understanding LoRa and LoRaWAN

LoRa vs. LoRaWAN

While on first glance LoRa and LoRaWAN may appear to have some form of correspondence, they actually have two different meanings.

“LoRa is a modulation technique for a specific wireless spectrum while LoRaWAN is an open protocol that enables Internet of Things (IoT) devices to use LoRa for communication,” explains Frederic Tabus.1,2

Combined, LoRa and LoRaWAN constitute a low-cost, low-power, wide-area communications protocol that is ideally suited for sustainable development projects. “The LoRa network is now global and uses an unlicensed spectrum,” says Tabus.

As LoRa is operational in an unlicensed part of the radio spectrum, just about anybody with a LoRa-enabled device has the capacity to freely transmit or receive data over the LoRa network. Hence an acceleration in the global uptake of the technology.

It is expected that by 2025 there will be half a billion LoRaWAN devices deployed worldwide.

We also expect the share of LoRa in US companies’ IoT deployments to grow from 15% to 30% in the next two years.

Frederic Tabus, Market Intelligence Manager

LoRaWAN Network Architecture

There are four key components that make up a LoRaWAN network: application servers, gateways, a network server, and end nodes. “Starting at the beginning, we have end nodes – also called end devices,” explains Baptiste Potier.

End devices – typically sensors and actuators  – are devices that use the LoRaWAN network to communicate. These sensors and/or actuators transmit LoRa wireless messages to or receive messages from the gateways. The messages are simply forwarded to the LoRaWAN network server via the corresponding gateways.

The network server itself is the core of the LoRaWAN architecture. It enables connectivity, management, and monitoring of devices, gateways and end-user applications. The main objectives of the network server are to ensure secure, scalable, and reliable data routing throughout the network.

Baptiste Potier, Product Manager for Smart Buildings, Terabee.

The application servers are the last key component(s) in the LoRaWAN network. “Software running on the application servers is responsible for application-specific data processes using data from end devices, producing graphics or displaying data, for example.”

Application servers are able to generate and transmit messages to end nodes through the network server.

The A to Z of People Counting

Image Credit: The Things Industries

Using LoRaWAN In Smart Buildings Applications

By facilitating low-power connectivity of IoT sensors and actuators over an extensive area, LoRaWAN summons a number of unique opportunities that can be used in Smart Building applications.3

  • Excellent indoor coverage: The capability for signals to permeate deep into a Smart Building is essential for indoor connectivity, particularly in large buildings or underground utilities such as service and parking spaces.
  • Quick installation: LoRaWAN devices can be installed by a non-specialized worker with general ease. This makes them well-suited to the retrofit markets. 
  • Cheap and simple implementation: LoRaWAN networks can be launched independently of existing infrastructure, which means no additional network operator contracts and ensures complete privacy.
  • LoRaWAN leverages an existing global ecosystem.

LoRa Smart Buildings Applications

Smart Buildings applications for LoRa can be separated into two distinct categories: technical management applications, which relate directly to building management systems (BMS), and workspace management applications, which are uncoupled from the building management system.

While technical management applications generally manage the air conditioning, heating and ventilation (HVAC) and lighting systems, workspace management applications include building and room occupancy monitoring as well as desk monitoring.

Both of these application scenarios are crucial for operating Smart Buildings: “All these technologies enable property managers to track building systems, maximize efficiency, and maintain a comfortable and productive work environment, regardless of technical experience,”  explains Baptiste Potier.

The A to Z of People Counting

Image Credit: Terabee

Integrating LoRa-driven Solutions into Smart Buildings

A Smart Building LoRa gateway, which simplifies connection into the BMS, is commonly used when a LoRa-enabled people counting system is installed into a Smart Building. These gateways are able to deliver straightforward web-based access to control devices across the network.

“The gateway here acts as a network server and application server,” says Baptiste Potier. “So, the gateway receives and decrypts the data.”

Customized solutions for applications can be constructed on top of the gateway, making it possible to transmit signals to the BMS via ModBus TCP or BACnet IP.

The A to Z of People Counting

Image Credit: Terabee

LoRa Sensors for Smart Buildings

LoRa sensors are most commonly used to help improve the understanding of how different building spaces are used: “This enables optimization of space and costs while preserving the experience and privacy of building occupants,” says Tabus.

These sensors can be sorted into four distinct families:

  • Desk occupancy sensors: Generally installed on each desk, these sensors are able to detect whether a person is seated. Desk occupancy sensors are typically battery-powered.
  • Occupancy sensors: Typically ceiling mounted and battery-powered, these devices are able to detect the presence of people within an area under the sensor’s range – for instance, at a desk or workstation.
  • Indoor air quality sensors: Otherwise known as comfort sensors, they record and transmit air quality metrics, including CO2 concentration, to calculate the occupancy of a room.
  • People counters: People counters measure the flow of people into and out of a space, delivering occupancy metrics for entire buildings and/or parts of buildings which allows them to be tracked accurately over time. Due to the complexity of these sensors, these devices usually need to be connected to mains power to supply accurate data reactively.

The A to Z of People Counting

Image Credit: Terabee

Click here to read the second article in this series


  1. What is LoRaWAN® Specification. LoRa Alliance®
  2. LoRa PHY | Semtech
  3. Why Lorawan® Is The Foundation For Smart Building Success

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Terabee.

For more information on this source, please visit Terabee.


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