When The Things Network co-founder Wienke Giezeman was introduced to an early version of the LoRaWAN gateway at a Hackerspace event in 2015, it gave him an idea. If LoRaWAN technology was capable of connecting thousands of devices within a 10 kilometre range at a relatively low price point, surely it would only take a handful of devices to create an open transmission network that could provide cover for an entire city?
Within a year, this spark of inspiration has kick-started a global phenomenon, with over 200 cities around the world adopting the concept to allow IoT devices to connect to the internet without the need for 3G or WiFi.
Along with co-founder Johan Stokking, Giezeman came up with the idea of building a crowd-sourced LoRaWAN network for their home city of Amsterdam, bypassing the major networks and allowing citizens, businesses, educational institutes and developers to build and connect the network using open source software.
Local businesses were quick to jump on board, and just seven weeks after formalising their idea, The Things Network was officially launched in August 2015 at a packed local event featuring representatives from major local and global brands, plus the CTO of the city of Amsterdam.
As the story started to spread across the IoT scene, the next step was to develop an affordable LoRaWAN gateway that would improve usability and help communities around the world to set up their own networks. Production was funded by a Kickstarter that ultimately raised over 200,000 Euros from almost 1,000 backers.
“Crowd sourcing was very much a means to an end for us” explains Giezeman. “Our goal was to create an open, decentralised data network and to empower users to create their own sensor networks without relying on a large organisation. Keeping the price point low was a really important part of that.”
Having built up an enormous amount of momentum in a very short period of time, The Things Network now found themselves facing the logistical challenges of bringing their product to market. An early partnership with Microchip Technology offered valuable production support, acting as the product supplier for the LoRaWAN chips used in the devices.
Now The Things Network has announced a new partnership with Premier Farnell, supporting distribution of their products through our global transactional sites, and with the goal of sharing ideas and use-cases with the makers and innovators who make up our element14 community.
“We were introduced to Premier Farnell through Microchip” says Giezeman. “We’d already been impressed by how well they’d worked with Raspberry Pi, and based on that we were confident that they really understood the importance of community and social objectives.”
“In addition to making our product available globally, we look forward to introducing The Things Network to the maker audience on the element14 community. There are already over 425,000 community members using products like Arduino and Raspberry Pi to power their creative projects. With our help, they can also leverage long range wireless connection technology to enhance those products.”
"Our partnership with The Things Network is a perfect demonstration of element14's end-to-end capabilities, from concept to commercialization," adds Hari Kalyanaraman from element14. "We look forward to helping them successfully go to to market with their IoT solution."
The Things Network and Premier Farnell will both be showcasing their products at the Electronica conference from 8-11 November 2016. For information on how to pre-order The Things Network hardware, register your interest here.