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Long Range Connectivity and MCU Update

A project log for Virtual Herder

A smart, affordable, open-source livestock monitoring system to help combat health problems and livestock theft.

Danie ConradieDanie Conradie 10/15/2017 at 20:270 Comments

Long Range Connectivity

For roaming animals long range communication is a must. Two different radios have been considered:

The TI CC1350 which was previously discussed is still a good candidate, but I have found that it does not have quite the community around it to help relative beginners like myself. I shelved it for now.

I have decided to go with the RFM95W LoRa module for long range communications. This is the module on the Feather Dev boards that I previously mentioned. The main reason for this is the “openness” of some of the LoRa based IoT frameworks, specifically The Things Network. There is are plenty of tutorials online and quite a hacker community around LoRa. I believe that LoRa based networks can be extremely valuable to farmers due to the massive range of possible applications in agriculture. It allows neighboring farmers to share the same network for different applications. I want to avoid going with a connectivity solution that is “unique”, since that would negatively affect adoption and interoperability.

Microcontroller

I have shifted my development work to the Espressif ESP32, mainly because it has BLE capability and is compatible with both the Arduino IDE and Micropython.

I have found Micropython to be an absolute pleasure to work with. The built in REPL is extremely handy for testing ideas, code and sensors. Unfortunately there are stills some capabilities missing from the current version. So work is happening mostly with the Arduino IDE, which has the obvious convenience of libraries for some of the sensors I am using.

I wanted to get to know the ESP32 better anyway since it is perfect for some other projects I have planned due to it’s large array of features.

The project might move to another MCU later on, probably one of the many ARM based MCUs.

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