The Things Indoor Gateway (TTIG) has been announced and distributed during the TheThings conference 2019. Since it was impossible to get some, victim of its success (and the little initial stock). From mid-august it is now possible to get some and I’ve bought one as soon as possible.
The Things Indoor Gateway is a low cost (70€ – 90€), 8 channels (EU868 full gateway), LoRaWan gateway running on TheThingsNetwork. You can’t expect a large coverage with a such solution to be used for city wide network but it will be perfect for covering a large house or a small building where you want to deploy LoRaWan sensors.
Previous experiences with TheThings products
The TTIG is not my first experience with The Things products: when TheThingsNetwork has been launched on Kickstarter, I was one of the backers supporting the project and I’ve been one of the first to get the first TheThingsNetwork gateway. Since this time I have a good experience with TheThings Products in terms of design and user-experience during setup phase. But I also have a negative experience in terms of stability at run, not necessarily due to the hardware itself but due to strong network requirements.
So based on this experience, the price and what I’ve seen on this product in the last 6 months, here is what I’m expecting (I did not yet start the installation):
- A really simple setup of the gateway on TTN network
- A stable solution over time (so I can use it for industrial project)
- A really short range coverage (100-200m) around
Now you have my “before the first use” opinion on this product, let’s see how the setup and run steps will confirm or cancel it.
The Things Indoor Gateway is a LoRaWan to WiFi gateway. There is no 3G or Ethernet connectivity, you can use it on your WiFi network only. It supports 2GHz Wifi only.
You can connect it on a wall plug (it has been designed for this) or you can power it with a USB-C power source (900mA).
The gateway is running an ESP8266 MCU (usually a node MCU, well known for it’s price in WiFi class IoT world). That said, most of the LoRaWan work his managed by the radio module connected to the ESP. I assume it has a dedicated processor. The ESP role it to manage the communication with TheThingsNetwork servers. It manages the Basic Station protocol for packet forwarding.
The LoRa chip is a Semtech SX1308 / SX1257 chipset – industry standard for LoRaWan indoor pico gateways.
The LoRaWan antenna is a PiFa antenna, it is a good choice for this type of product as it is a compact antenna offering a good protection against environment interaction. It size and inclusion in the product is limiting the radio performance compared to most other more expensive LoRaWan gateways. That said you can hack this as @Hainks_Tweets did. With a such hack (easy to do – once you opened the plastic box – tricky)
Looking for more details on the Hardware part of TTIG ? take a look to this post from tinkerman where he totally open The Things Indoor Gateway and analysed the different components.
Setup procedure sounds simple: TTIG switch to WiFi access point mode by clicking on the setup button. The WiFi setup is protected by a password. This one is printed on the back of The Things Indoor Gateway. It means, you can’t read it once you have plugged it. So you first need to copy it or take a picture of it.
It also means anyone can setup your TTIG if he is able to access it. This is not a problem for personal use of TTIG at home. It starts to be one for commercial and industrial usage.
Access the setup by clicking on Setup button for 10-15 seconds (until the led switch to amber)
You have a first setup step where the gateway will request the WiFi configuration on your local network. There is no control on what you type as password and only the led status after rebooting will tell you if you have made a correct setup.
During this step, the gateway EUI is printed on the bottom of the setup page. I recommend to copy/paste it. You will need it in the next step and it will be more easy to copy/paste than type it from your previous picture.save your time…
The Things Indoor Gateway gets it IP from a DHCP, there is no solution at this point to configure a static IP. This is confirming an at first home usage for this type of gateway.
The second step is to register it in TheThingsNetwork console. The registration is made as for any gateway. Add a new gateway and set it up. You may notice that you first need to select “I’m using the legacy packet forwarder”. Then you will see the field  where to enter your EUI id.
This is the only thing you have to do. Then, it works.
The setup experience is nothing positive or negative. The setup is easy but requires some basic tech skills (I won’t give this to my grand-mother with the given procedure). The experience with The Things Gateway was better but it was also simplified by the use of Ethernet.
I see this product as really interesting to be distributed with smart building sensors as a white branded home gateway. But this is requiring a higher level of automation. Nothing impossible but extra work.
The product price is really low but the given $69 is not the price I was able to get it. I’ve payed about 100€ with transportation costs ; it still a good price for this hardware.
The product can only be used with TheThingsNetwork. Not a problem for me but you need to know. This is a difference with other gateway product.
The Things Indoor Gateway is an Indoor gateway as indicated. It has been made to cover indoor application like smart home, smart building, indoor industrial… You can’t create a large network based on this product. To illustrate this point, here are two capture:
- The first one comes from TTIG located in the same room as the second gateway.
- The second one comes from another gateway connected to a roof top antenna.
This illustration does not show all the packet captured on the second gateway during the same period (the screen was too small).
The reason are multiple: antenna gain is lower, antenna is indoor, noise around TTIG is really higher indoor, impacting the SNR & sensitivity.
I’ve made a quick & dirty coverage test around my house, you are going to see the same capture seen from two different antennas (the same I previously used). The rooftop one let you see all the point I’ve generated (assuming no loss). The TTIG one shows you the one received by the TTIG gateway.
This first picture shows the trip made, the square in the middle is the home & garden limits (to be use as a reference for a smart-home application).
This second picture shows the points received by TTIG. The TTIG is located on corner top-right of the house. You can see that corner top left of the house is not correctly covered. Basically west side is not correctly covered.
I’ll complete this map but we can consider a maximum coverage 100m around.
The location of the gateway indoor will be a key point if you want to use-it for outdoor sensors.
All the house indoor is correctly covered by the TTIG… basically it’s what for it has been made, isn’t it?