This LORA/GPS board designed by Dragino Tech is made for the Raspberry Pi and opens up a host of cool projects for that most popular of Single Board Computers. LORA (which stands for Long Range Radio) is a unique type of modulation that is best described as a frequency modulated FM chirp. Other types of modulation you may have heard of are PSK(Phase Shift Keying) and FSK( Frequency Shift Keying). LORA has advantages over those modulation schemes in that it increases the possible range and the receiver sensitivity.
The creators of LORA are a company called Semtech and they pitch it as the as a solution for IoT and M2M( Machine to Machine) networks. Currently GSM is used widely in M2M applications. IoT devices communicate with standards like Bluetooth or WiFi. GSM has the advantage of high speed data transfer and long range but the power used to send and receive is too large to use with batteries for any decent length of time. Standards like Bluetooth and WiFi are lower in power usage, have good data transfer rates, but are limited by range. LORA combines low power usage with the long range of several kilometers, at the cost of speed.
The highest possible speed with LORA is around 38 kbps. To put this speed in context, it would take 11 minutes to transfer a 3MB file (average mp3 file roughly). Speed isn’t what LORA is designed for and the benefits from having low power use and long range are huge. In applications with remote sensors( e.g. environment sensors, water level sensors, movement sensors), they only need to transmit a few bytes quite infrequently e.g. a sensor reading a few times per hour. LORA really shines here and could theoretically transmit for years on a single battery charge.
The chip that the LORA/GPS board uses for communication is the SX1276/SX1278 transceiver IC made by Semtech. The combinations of GPS with LORA open up the possibility of some really interesting projects like long range remote monitoring and tracking for example. You have long range, it can last for years on a single charge, and you know your exact location. What would you make?