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.
The Arduino board MKR1310 is the new revision of the MKR1300 board dedicated to LoRaWan. This board is a SAMD21 Arduino board with a Murata ABZ module based on a STM32 with an SX1276 transceiver. Basically a bit outdated and expensive modem now.
After using this board for some teaching project, it’s a good time to make a feedback about it as many things need to be improved on that board to get benefit of it.
Helium is an open network, decentralized, there is a wide range of option you can do as a user, like creating your own private router to have your devices encrypted end-to-end. You can also make your LoRaWan traffic to be routed from Helium network to your own network when you are a LoRaWan network provider. Let’s take the exemple of a Telco with a LoRaWan network, let’s name it B’telco and imagine B’telco have an existing network in France. Imagine they want to extends their coverage worldwide, eventually reduce their local cost by removing some redundancy in the cities. In a such case, they can roam traffic over helium.
This means that the data of B’telco devices will be acquired by helium router, exactly as a Helium data, and then it will be routed to B’telco network server transparently. That way, the customer will have a better coverage and the B’telco cost for this worldwide extension will be really low.
In this blog post, I’ll explain how this roaming feature works and what is needed to deploy it.
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.
After reviewing different Helium miner like RAK, Sensecap, Kerlink, Nebra… now comes the Cotx-X3 miner. This miner has a long story and a bad reputation, due to something not really clean the maker did with the first units.
This is not related to the hardware quality and I’ve been happy to buy some of them for reviewing it. This miner is a full miner, based on a standard design using a Raspberry Pi 4. It has the particularity of having a front screen and an audio jack ! Don’t laughs, the reason is simple, this device has a different usage before becoming an helium miner.
In a previous blog post about 18 month ago, I designed my first Low Cost LoRaWAN Solar Gateway. This year, I did some updates to create a new version to support Helium Data-Only Hotspot (basically it works for any LoRaWAN networks like TheThingsNetwork).
In this version, I’m using a RAK wisegate Lite gateway, it is a bit more power consuming than the TTIG but can work on any LoRaWAN network. I’ve also changed the outdoor enclosure to get a larger and single battery.
You will also see that I’ve been updated the monitoring dashboard to get something better and free of charge. Two of them are in production. One is already deployed as an upgrade of the 1st one and the second one is in the testing phase. The First version has been on the field for more than a year. It has been offline about 10 days during that year, due to the weather conditions. This is a service level of 98,29% from its start until now. With the larger battery I’m expecting to resolve some of the small service interruption I’ve issued during last winter.
Kerlink is a LoRaWan hardware player since the first ages of this technology. This French company has equipped most of the operator’s network and is used to propose high quality industrial products.
The iFemToCell is not a new product. It exists since a couple of years and I already tested the IFemToCell 4 years ago. Recently the company has created a Helium edition we are going to review in this blog post.
This is an interesting device as it is a kind of hybrid between a light miner and a full miner. Even if the Kerlink platform is powerful, it is far away the power of a raspberry Pi and certain operations like consensus group can’t be performed. As this is now delegated to Validator, this difference have no impact on rewards. In another hand, this device is consuming less power and it is possible to power it with sun more easily. This is quite interesting.
Let see what is this device and what is specific during its deployment.
Migrating existing LoRaWAN network to Helium or joining Helium for new deployment is accessing to the world largest LoRaWAN network and enable your devices to be deployed in the large covered zone. By doing this you extends the community network and as a counter part getting benefit on future data transfer and immediately get an access to the low cost ecosystem (data transfer, network server, high redundancy network…)
In a previous post I explained how to configure a RAK Wisgate as a Helium Data-Only hotspot. In a such situation your LoRaWAN gateway becomes a hotspot relaying the Helium traffic and getting some little rewards for the data transfer. The more important is to extend the coverage. This way of doing is good but I’ve got some issues on the field: The data transfer from the hotspot to the blockchain (even if just the state channels) is high and the software, currently in alpha, is not totally stable. When deploying a gateway is isolated area to provide new coverage, honestly, these two issues are blocking points.
The second important consideration is the existing gateways, already deployed on the field: they are currently used for private networks. They have been deployed some years ago and are not in the compatibility list of Helium hardware. Even if they are, deploying a new software on them, remotely can be a problem.
For these different reasons, I’ve been investigating a different approach by creating centrally hosted hotspots connected to different LoRaWAN gateways through the legacy Semtech protocol. This is what we are going to detail on this blog-post.
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