SenseCAP M2, the Helium data-only hotspot, (close to be) ready-to-go

Sensecap M2 – data only

Until now, all the Helium data-only hotspot I have been tested where DiY devices. They are not really complicated to manage but they are not ready-to-go, so you need to manually on-role them with a wallet and some complex CLI operation for the non-experts. This SenseCAP M2 is the first one I’m testing, ready-to-go or close to be ready-to-go (that does not means it is the only one existing).

As it is a Data-Only hotspot, it means it does not participate to the Proof of Coverage, as a consequence, there is no related rewards for this device. This device only earn the DC (Data Credit) for transferring the communications, so $1 for 100.000 packets. Before getting question, this have no return on invest in a crypto point of view. This has been made to help supporting professional applications on the Helium network.

Disclaimer : This post is based on an engineering sample offered by SenseCAP, the final device can have some differences. As usual, I’ve not been rewarded for that blog post (just get the hardware)

What a Data-Only hotspot has been made for ?

I already written different blog post to introduce data-only hotspot. You can check the blog post explaining how to setup a RAK Wisgate into Data-Only or how to make a solar powered Data-Only Helium Hotspot and how to migrate any existing LoRaWan gateway to Helium as a Data-Only. The reason why I’ve written many blog post on that topic is because Data-Only are really important for Helium network. PoC is a really powerful solution to make the Helium network growing fast thanks to individuals. It makes the network a reality and the largest LoRaWAN network over the world. But when comes the time of deploying IoT solution on the network, industry, solution providers, will need to secure and extend the network coverage. For this they will have to deploy new hotspot. They don’t really care about PoC (at least or now) and they don’t want to manage crypto or have to wait month to get devices. They need simple hardware, ready-to-go, with industrial standard regarding powering and connectivity.

This is why Data-Only hotspot matter: they are covering this need. As they also providing DCs, they basically allow the solution providers to get free communications over the network (which is not totally true as the real cost of Helium communication are not just the packet transfer DCs).

Sensecap M2 Helium Data-Only hotspot

The Sensecap M2 is the new comer from Sensecap for covering this need. The hotspot is compact and have most of the feature we can expect for professional indoor deployment. As part of the main feature it includes:

  • Classical power supply
  • PoE power supply
  • Ethernet connectivity

Even if there is a place for a nano-sim and the LTE component inside the hotspot, the version I have been tested did not have these option. We may see future version with that connectivity apparently.

Onboarding of the Sensecap M2 Hotspot

To onboard the hotspot, you need to use the Sensecap application and connect it to the Helium wallet. They you can add the M2 from the Sensecap application. The process is basically the same as for a full hotspot but it will cost you the transaction fees ($5 + $10).

It’s not yet “ready-to-go” as you need to have a crypto wallet to burn the expected DCs for the registration. In my point of view, it should be included as for the full miner to simplify the professional deployments as explained above.

When you reach the point where you need to enable the Bluetooth for pairing, you have to press the “reset” button on the back until you see the top light color changing from green to blue/purple. It takes some time so, better to be known.

Access the control pannel

The Sensecap M2 can be managed with the control panel, It’s currently basic but you can see the LoRaWan traffic over the time and confirm it’s working. Most of the management menu are related to the WiFi interfaces.

Inside the Sensecap M2 Helium Hotspot

The Data-Only hotspot run on a Mediatek WiFi processor, this is a chip running at 580MHz supporting WiFi and multiple Ethernet ports. It can run Linux and OpenWrt. It has 128MB of RAM and 32MB of flash. This is the module on top of the picture above with Seeed written on it.

Inside the Sensecap M2 Helium Data-Only hotspot

On the bottom of the picture you can see the LoRaWan concentrator WM1302, based on a Semtech SX1302 chip. On the bottom right, you can see the footprint for the LTE / GNSS module the hotspot may have later as an option.

On the center, left, you can see the Bluetooth module used for the device onboarding and monitoring.

Dashboard panel

The device is also integrated in the SenseCAP dashboard to monitor it with the other SenseCAP devices. Most of the information about the P2P are in-relevant as a such device does not need to sync with the blockchain. The central management of the device fleet is a good thing. The Sensecap dashboard is accessible with API, so you can use this to manage alarms in a professional deployment.

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