The new baby in Kerlink family has arrived, it’s iZeptoCell ! Ok, I’m a bit late to write this blog post and it came alive a couple of months ago. When I say baby, I really mean baby, no due to its age but more related to its size !
This LoRaWan gateway is really small and can take place in any indoor environment looking like a sensor but providing a wide range connectivity for many devices deploy around. This is a really good option to cover a small / medium company floor up to a building.
This gateway exists with an Ethernet connectivity like the one I’m testing and with a Cellular connectivity, something appreciated when corporate IT dislike having devices on the corporate network.
Installing the Kerlink iZeptoCell is really easy, you power it with the small USB power adapter provided, you can also use the USB cable provided if you want to install it at a higher position on a wall (something i recommend). You connect an Ethernet cable and you are ready for the setup.
There is an option to use a PoE splitter with a female USB connector that is also interesting. Honestly, I’m not sure of the design of the power plug, I assume that today an USB-C female connector would have been a better choice, but it works well like it has been designed.
You can go to the Zero Touch Provisioning system managed by Kerlink, in a such case, all the configuration is managed remotely from the Kerlink Wanesy Management Center. In my case it has been a bit complicated to get the device registered into the portal and having my account created. this is usually managed seamlessly by the Kerlink distributors and you should not have a such problem.
That is the only negative point I report from kerlink since years: the self commissioning us really missing for B2C an small B2B.
Wanesy Management center
Historically, Kerlink gateways are mostly configured with a console as the web interface is really poor of features. The command line as the opposite is really powerful. Kerlink seem to have decided to push the web configuration into an external service, the WMC, this choice is a good one as the embedded web interface are usually a bit slow and advanced feature are not easy to implement.
The other dimension is related to the fleet management, the WMC has been made to manage a large number of gateways as a fleet. This dimension is important, Kerlink business addresses at first corporate of different size more than B2C and fleet management is a priority for this market.
The WMC allows to make configuration and have a remote access (command line) to the gateway so you can do what you want from this platform.It also means that you are exposing your local network from this service as it can be used as a troyan. It seems you can also create automation (workflow) when deploying a fleet.
This was for the all positive but this platform seems in development and many features are missing:
- When trying to configure WiFi, you can’t list the network around and don’t get any debug info. Any typo prevent to configure it without try & failed loop. I lost a bit of time on this… because the gateway does not supports WiFi. (it would have been good for a device you want to install anywhere).
- I never find the way to configure the upstream LNS address with the console. This is basically the purpose of a such web interface.
This has forced me to use a manual setup.
Once connected on the network it’s possible to access the gateway over the ssh interface and the web interface. One thing I’ll never understand with Kerlink is why you need to have an access to the wiki, where you need to login, for getting access to the login and password that anyone know (admin / pwd4admin) since years and identical on all the models… For a such product addressing small business an easier on-boarding would be preferred in my point of view, ZTP is the response I assume, but you also need a wiki access to know that you have to request an access by sending an email to support_AT_kerlink.fr
As indicated, the web interface does not allow to setup the LoRaWan part and I still do not really understand why. Now I think they are the only one on the market not having it.
The first action I had to do has been to update the firmware as a new one has been delivered (wiki access is required). This part is accessible from the http dashboard and is pretty easy, but it has not added the LoRaWan configuration.
To configure the LoRaWan connector to TTN or Helium, you need to go on the ssh admin part to process you local configuration. The login is root, the password is pdmk-xxxxxx where the xxxxxx is corresponding to the 6 hexdigit you see as network name (you can use WMC Remote access for his). Then you can connect the gateway to you LNS or Gateway-Rs software if you go to helium as data-only.
[root ~] klk_apps_config --activate-cpf --lns-server lns.myserver.com --lns-dport 1700 --lns-uport 1700
It seems that we have some interaction between this configuration and the WMC solution as many time the configuration has been broken but it was during the interaction with Kerlink support when configuring my WMC access.
WMC is not only a way to configure the gateway but also a LNS this is why you need to make a choice between WMC management and standard LNS for you device fleet. Once the device is configured wit your own LNS you can continue to monitor it on the WMC.
The hardware quality is really good, as usual with Kerlink, another really good point is the power consumption, the average measured on the USB power connector (excluding the power adapter) is 170mA after booting up. This means less than a single W per hour of energy consumption. this is the lowest power consumption I’ve seen.
If than antenna could have been hacked to use and external antenna, it would have been my best choice for solar gateways !!!
In my opinion this USB connector is a bit breaking the design of the gateway and a bit outdated. We should have an USB-C, eventually and USB-mini or micro. You can find PoE splitter compatible with this connectivity around 11,5€ on Amazon but it’s not as standard as the others.
Honestly I don’t really understand the reason of this choice other than mechanically it sound better with the given power adapter but using the power adapter as a design constraint for a device better designed for PoE is a bit strange to me.
The PCB design is a really good quality and compact, we don’t see shield on top of components, it means it was not necessary for passing the certifications and the radio noise is clean.
On the picture on the right, you can see the antenna ( on the right side in the middle) This is a ceramic antenna for 868MHz. I used this kind of antenna in devices, the performance is correct for a such indoor device, do not expect a great performance for covering kilometers but it’s good enough for its purpose covering a building.
This type of antenna is really sensitive to the environment, based on my experience, so the performance will also depends on where the gateway has been installed. Avoid metal parts close to this antenna, avoid to have a wall on the side ate the opposite of the LEDs to get a better performance.
For a unitary price under 200€ (not easy to find price on Internet for that device, should be lower for higher volume), this indoor gateway is not low cost, but Kerlink is know for the quality of its product and the long term support of its software.
I really appreciate the small size and the radio quality for an indoor usage, the power performance is best of breed even if out of the green IT approach, I don’t see how to get a benefit of it.
The new WMC platform is a plus to manage a fleet, the LNS is a good starting point even if I think it should integrate a full LNS like Chirpstack, the WMC itself is a promising solution, really good to manage the hardware deployment.
My unit is working at home, I’m using on Helium testnet for the chirpstack migration developments. During the last 5 months, I did not had any problem with this unit, it has been really helpful and efficient.