Designing with the MultiTech LoRaWAN Developer’s Kit
When developers decide to create a new product using LoRaWAN™, a critical first step is the proof of concept to make sure the product works as intended. To simplify the process, it is easier to use a LoRaWAN developer’s kit. I tested the Multiconnect® Conduit™ IoT Starter Kit for LoRa® Technology from MultiTech to see what steps are required to connect to the cloud using LoRaWAN.
The kits come complete with all the pieces needed to connect to the cloud using LoRaWAN. It provides all the necessary cables, AC adapters with various foreign power options, and even a customized screwdriver. Optional boards, not needed for my test, are available for developers to test their products. The printed installation guide is not as updated as the online PDF file.
As shown in the block diagram (Figure 2), the test configuration I went through included the Conduit gateway, mDOT™ Box, a laptop to view the dashboard, and a Wi-Fi source. The following are the basic steps required to fire up the LoRaWAN system.
- Configure and connect the Conduit gateway to the Wi-Fi/Ethernet source.
- Configure the dashboard on the laptop
- Configure the mDOT box to send data wirelessly from the built-in sensors to the Conduit
- View the operation from the Node Red dashboard provided by MultiTech to view the operation of the kit.
Configuring the Conduit gateway took most of the time, and I needed a little help from tech support to make it work. A good lesson for developers is to understand that every Wi-Fi source is different, and it is always helpful to have an IT manager standing by to support this step. The installation manual instructed me to connect the laptop to the Conduit using http://192.168.2.1. But when I tried that I ended up seeing the wireless hub dashboard instead of the Conduit’s. The reason is that both the Conduit gateway and my wireless hub have the same default IP and this conflict caused problems. The solution is to connect the Conduit gateway directly to my laptop using the supplied Ethernet cable, and set the IP option on the Conduit gateway to DHCP so the wireless hub will dynamically assign an IP to the Conduit gateway when it is connected. It is very important to note that the hub must be powered up first, and then connected to the Conduit gateway before powering up the Conduit last. I did it in the wrong sequence and it failed. After those key learnings, I saw that the Conduit was assigned an IP of 192.168.2.4, and the conflict went away.
Configuring the dashboard is relatively straightforward. You just need to check off the boxers provided on the screen. The mDOT box is a complete unit with a LoRaWAN module and a few built-in sensors. The sensors include temperature, accelerometer, electrical current, light and pressure. (The Conduit gateway itself has another built-in LoRaWAN module so the two can communicate with the LoRaWAN protocols). Finally, configuring the mDOT is a matter of installing the 9V battery, powering up the unit and pushing switch 1 or 2 to select the ”interval” or “trigger” mode. When the unit is powered up, the LCD screen asks how data should be sent. The user will press switch 1 for interval and 2 for trigger. Selecting “interval” means data will be sent from the mDOT box every 10 seconds, while “trigger” refers to data being sent only when a switch is pressed. I selected interval so I didn’t have to fuss with the triggering.
Finally, the Conduit gateway dashboard provides DeviceHQ® software and the Node Red interface which allows me to see the data being uploaded. I was able to see the readings of temperature, position of the mDOT and the ambient light detection. For example, when the unit is lying flat on the table, the z-axis would read 1g while the others are close to zero and when the unit is vertical, the y-axis would be 1g with the other two axes near zero.
As shown in Figure 2, the sensor data from the mDOT box was sent to the Conduit gateway then to the cloud via Wi-Fi. Theoretically, the IBM cloud platform would display the temperature, accelerometer and ambient light and display them in a graphical format. In my case it took much too long for the platform to display the graphs, but I was informed that it could be because the free demo has lower priority. In an actual real-world deployment, the IoT platform will be a remote management system for the operator to see the dynamic performance of the LoRaWAN sensors deployed and the performance will be almost real-time.
Overall, it is a neat system. The Multiconnect Conduit IoT Starter Kit for LoRa Technology allows developers to quickly connect their products under development via LoRaWAN. The kit also provides other modules with USB connectors and test boards for developers to provide external test points. And lastly, a critical point that should not be overlooked is the fact that the LoRaWAN modules provided have been LoRa Alliance™ certified and are ready to go. More and more networking companies are providing developers kit for designers to do proof-of-concept and configure LoRaWAN or other LTE networks in less time.