LoRaWAN soil moisture solar device using Helium network

My child have a small garden where he has tomatoes, mint, different vegetables and fruits. We want to know when it is the right time to water it.

This was also an opportunity to use my Rak Wisblock kit fro something else than just writing some blog post. I’ve chosen to connect the device over Helium network because I’m making different tests on this network currently but it is also working on TheThingsNetwork the same way. So you can use the network most covering you around.

The data will be displayed on Cayenne Mydevice for getting a quick dashboard for displaying the information. In this blog post I’m going to describe the main steps and the needed hardware to make your own device.

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Use Wio Terminal as a serial logger

When making IoT development, you need to debug on the Field. I’ve been using some serial logger to store information and analyze them after (I’ll post something about it once a day). But sometime you want to watch it in real time. So you need a small terminal you can easily transport with you. Smartphone could be cool and I’m sure we can hack something fun with a BLE connectivity. By the way, what I had in stock for doing a such thing was a Wio Terminal from Seeed.

This device is an Arduino compatible solution including a LCD screen 320×200, some interesting embedded sensors and a lot of IO to play with. The only bad point for me and the design I want to do is the absence of internal battery so you need to power it a different way.

What I need is just a Serial line to print on the LCD screen all what my IoT device want to share. Let see how I did make it.

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Processor architecture and Arduino development

I’m teaching processor architecture since about 20 years from now using Arduino (more recently) as a platform for practicing some low level development to understand the architectural principles. This year with Covid-19 I had to give it online and it has been the opportunity to release a new version of the support and recording it.

If you understand French, you can follow this courses online on my Youtube channel

You can also get the slides with the following document:

Feel free to reuse this content.

RAK WisBlock – a kind of industrial Arduino

RAK is a company specialized in IoT hardware, particularly in the LoRaWan domain. They are well known for their LoRaWan concentrators working with raspberryPi.

Since a couple of month they have launched a new family of device, the Wisblock. This is a kind of Arduino solution with a MCU part (running a NRF chip with a LoRa transceiver) and different sensors you can connect to it to make an IoT device. That’s a really simplified way to see the solution as in fact the architecture is really different.

At first, the solution is based on a motherboard where you can plug different type of modules. You can have multiple additional sensors both side of the motherboard. We are also going to see that the way all of this is connected is industrial and can be use for prototypes, medium scale field deployment and finished product. That’s the main difference with a classical Arduino board.

The unit price of a solution with a GPS, MCU, Accelerometer is about $50, nothing really expensive for prototyping, a bit too high for a field experimentation, really high for an end product but apparently you can negotiate that price when you have a certain volume.

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LoRaWan solar gateway monitoring

In a previous post, I’ve been introduce my home made LoRaWan solar powered outdoor gateway. I’ve been investigating on the minimal hardware to make it running and reach some interesting result in my garden ;). Now it’s time to deploy the gateway on the field (basically on a roof top) and this means I’ll not be able to continue to learn what how it evolves over time.

For this reason, I’ve made a small project to monitor the main elements I want to track about this gateway:

  • Battery Voltage
  • Battery in & out power
  • 5V powering availability
  • Temperature

For this I’ve selected a simple and LoRaWan all-included Arduino platform I already detailed in a previous post: the LoRa Radio Node. Let’s detail this project now available on github.

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Contact less connected thermometer

I’ve recently made a post on how to make a pandemic alarming system based on low cost connected thermometers. This post was more about the organization model and business model than the technological solution and implementation. So I also wanted to continue to investigate the connected thermometer solution, mainly for the fun. As I’ve been sponsored by digitspace.com for some free hardware, it has been the opportunity for testing contact-less thermometers module.

The design I’m going to propose in this post will not apply to the low-cost connected thermometers as the technology I’m going to use is far more expensive to the one I proposed in my previous post.

That said, this design can be useful for companies, public site or free access thermometer booth anyone would like to design at low cost.

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UnaMKR, Ardunio Sigfox devkit

We previously discovered the UnaMKR devkit. This devkit has two boards. The module board with the radio module and the sensors. It is the one I talked about in my previous post. The Arduino board is the second one. By programming this Arduino MKR Zero you can create custom program to use sensors and radio module to experiment Sigfox. The big advantage is a single board where ever you are located as it supports all the Sigfox zones.

During this second step, we are going to see how we can use the devkit to make a simple sensor measuring and reporting.

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UnaMKR, the Sigfox Monarch experience

Unabiz has recently released the first Sigfox Monarch certified devkit. It is based on a LiteOn WSG309S module. The LiteOn module contains a St-Microelectronics based solution including a BlueNRG / S2LP in it.

In addition, the module board also have different sensors: temperature, humidity, pressure, air quality, accelerometer, magnetometer, light sensor, magnetic switch (reed switch).

You are able to use the module board as a standalone circuit. You directly program the LiteOn module. Or you can use the standard AT interface of the module and connect an Arduino MKR Zero board to use it.

In this post, we are going to see how to use the kit to test Sigfox Monarch solution.

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