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May 8, 2017 AT 6:11 pm

The MCCI Catena 4450 wing! @MCCI #IoT #MTC

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Terry sent this in from MCCI, https://ithaca-power.mcci.com a very nice Grafana dashboard of power data, collected by a couple of Feather M0 LoRa units with the Catena 4450 attached. They are measuring power consumption in 2 (soon 4) locations in Ithaca, and the dashboard is public!

The Adafruit Feather M0 LoRa 900 is an incredibly powerful tool for doing point-to-point wireless communication. But LoRa is much more than an awesome point-to-point network. Combined with the LoRaWAN protocol, it’s the basis for The Things Network – an open-source community owned internet of things network, owned and operated by its users. As part of working on the NYC and Ithaca, New York communities of The Things Network, MCCI has found the Feather M0 LoRa 900 and the LoRa FeatherWing 900 to be perfect for prototyping, network surveys, and community building. You can go to github pages for The Things NYC or MCCI and download code that makes the Feather M0 LoRa work spectacularly with The Things Network. I’ve personally broadcast over 14 miles from a Feather M0 LoRa with a 3-inch whip antenna and had the data received by a Things Network gateway.

Now, there are several wrinkles when building an IoT node for the Things Network. First of all, if you’re building lots of units, you really don’t want to do a lot of hand wiring. Unfortunately, running the LoRaWAN software requires that you add a wire or two to the stock Feather M0 LoRa, in addition adding the antenna. Second, you need to add sensors. MCCI built eight or ten nodes completely by hand, and shipped them, for our first installation; but this isn’t practical as you scale out for real-world projects. Third, you really need FRAM on the board. For best operation, you need to save some information every time you send a message. Though you could use EEPROM or even the on-board flash, the low durability of flash and EEPROM means that in a real application, you start to worry about wearing out the flash (long before you get to end of life). Sending data every six minutes, it only takes about two years to get to 1 million write cycles.

The solution is the MCCI Catena 4450 wing. This board mates to the Feather M0 LoRa and provides the following features:

  1. It completes the wiring of the LoRa radio to the Feather CPU.
  2. It adds a BME280 temperature/humidity/pressure sensor (same chip as used on the Adafruit BME280 module)
  3. It adds a Rohm BH1750 Lux sensor, which is a very wide-range sensor – MCCI likes it a lot, especially for agricultural sensing projects we have in mind.
  4. It proves 2K bytes of FRAM storage
  5. It adds an I2C multiplexer for external I2C sensors
  6. It has eight screw terminals – two power, two ground and four signal connections. These can be used for external waterproof One-Wire temperature sensors for pond water sensing, soil temperature/humidity sensors, external I2C sensors, and the like.

In the spirt of the Feather M0 and The Things Network, the Catena 4450 is open source hardware (built by PCB:NG in Brooklyn), and the software is available from github. The software includes software that lets you set up the LoRaWAN network connection over the USB port without rebuilding your Arduino software; and it has a wrapper that hides the details of the network software from your application, so you can focus on writing your application code.

What can you do with it? MCCI has put together a complete building monitoring package for the 2030 District in Ithaca; the Catena 4450 monitors power consumption in four power panels in three buildings, and sends data (via The Things Network) to a server consisting of Node RED, InfluxDB, and Grafana. The data is available in real time to the building owners, allowing them to measure their progress toward their goals, and to identify possible corrective action. We know for sure at MCCI that this technology works – we’ve identified and implemented power savings in the first month of operation that reduced our energy bill by 20%.

For more information:

  • You can get the Catena 4450 from MCCI either as a stand-alone board, or as part of a fully assembled-and-tested device, at https://store.mcci.com.
  • (QQQ: add text here about getting it from Adafruit, if you decide to do that.)
  • Check out The Things Network and see if there’s a community near you. If not, feel free to contact Terry Moore of The Things Network New York for help on getting involved in the community.
  • If you’re in NYC, join The Things Network New York and help us build the network for NYC. If you’re in Ithaca, join The Things Network Ithaca! It’s a great way to find out about the Internet of Things and to meet a group of smart and enthusiastic people – we range from engineers to community activists. Don’t worry about technical expertise, we are an eclectic group – all are welcome.
  • If you’re in Philadelphia, look for the LoRa Alliance Open House on Tuesday June 13, 2017, and check out the Smart City Hackathon happening Saturday, June 10.

Thank you Terry!


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