The integration of technology throughout the infrastructure of a city is steadily becoming the norm. Smart cities deploy and use IoT sensors, actuators and technology across the entire city, from beneath the city to rooftop air pollution monitors. Underpinning these rollouts are the networks that support them. These networks need to be flexible and continue to work even in times of great emergency. Mesh networks are being labelled as the answer, as the decentralised structure enables continued communication even in times of crisis.
We spoke to James at Weaverlabs about their Smart City applications in which they run a Pycom Mesh solution with a satellite uplink.
What challenges did you face in your industry that led to you choosing Pycom?
We needed programmable microcontrollers that were capable of transmitting LoRa through a Mesh Network with both open source firmware and software.
How would you describe your process in one sentence prior to using our product?
We had previously been using LoRa Microcontrollers with a much weaker online community.
Were there any ‘deal breakers’ involved in your decision to become a customer?
We needed the software and firmware to be open source and for it to have strong backing in the wider world, such as the mature community found on Pycom’s forum. Weaver Labs has a strong interest in the convergence across radio access technologies, and in this case we were interested in LoRa, Wifi and Sigfox. We were drawn to the LoPy4 in particular because it gave us the option of all three radio technologies.
How did you first hear about Pycom?
Our partner, DataRella, spoke highly of Pycom during a project for the European Space Agency.
What most attracted you to our products?
A key component of Weaver Labs’ technology is that it can be integrated with third party hardware. We are currently building a decentralized mobile network that can leverage any open source hardware and/or software that is required to uphold a mobile network. Both Pycom’s hardware and software met this need and the overall experience was fantastic – it was easy and reliable.
How do you use our products in your solution?
To summarise, the primary application uses a LoRa mesh network to physically extend networks. The mesh network is used to track deliveries within crisis-stricken regions (e.g. a rural area after a natural disaster). These regions will have lost their mobile network connectivity along with their internet connectivity. In order to ensure timely and accurate deliveries, it is undesirable to wait for paper records of deliveries to be returned to relevant parties.
The LoPy4 LoRa nodes, that will sit inside standard Pycases, will reside inside delivery vehicles. As the vehicles make deliveries in areas with no internet or mobile connectivity, the LoPy4 LoRa nodes will transmit time sensitive delivery information to one other. Eventually, one of these LoPy4 LoRa nodes will be within range of one of the nodes that has the satellite uplink capability. The data for all the accumulated deliveries will then be transmitted to the satellite and broadcast back to Earth in order for the delivery to be confirmed with the necessary parties.
We are currently using our own Weaver Mesh network using the LoRa WireMQ module. However, we are super excited to see how PyMesh progresses!
The roles and responsibilities of mobile networks will increase as Smart Cities become more prevalent. Given that traditional mobile network radio access points will be unable to serve all the devices within a smart city for example autonomous cars and sensors, Weaver Lab’s solutions will be capable of converging access across multiple networks. We foresee our use of Pycom devices as a key element of our Mesh Network and Sensor technologies for smart cities.
Specifically, in this recent project, we partnered with DataRella and Orora Tech in order to deploy a Mesh Network that can provide access to internet gateways in the event that traditional communications networks go down during emergencies (natural disasters etc).
In the event that traditional communications networks are down, the Weaver Labs mesh network (along with the Orora Tech Satellite Terminal) can bridge access and extend internet coverage. We are able to extend coverage through the use of the WireMQ messaging system that is capable of communicating across any 3rd party device.
In the above image, the Weaver Lab’s Mesh network is working in conjunction with Datarella’s “Track & Trust” blockchain and OroraTech’s terminal to transmit signals to a satellite which has access to the internet.
Flow of Events
- Traditional communications networks go down
- Weaver Labs Mesh Network is deployed on Pycom’s LoPy4 devices to transmit key messages (i.e. successful acknowledgements of delivery of key medical supplies to a remote doctor)
- Orora Tech’s simplex terminal (which is attached to a Weaver Lab’s Mesh Node) can send and receive messages on the internet via a satellite access point.
What results have you seen since implementing them?
We made a successful application to the European Space Agency to continue to work on phase II of the project detailed above with our partners DataRella and OroraTech
For a detailed run-through of the project, click here: https://business.esa.int/projects/track-trust. (The project is an extension of what is described above.)
For phase II of the project, we will use LoRa devices to accurately track the shipment of humanitarian goods while in transit to disaster zones.
What would you tell others who are undecided about Pycom?
Pycom offers pre-built solutions (i.e. Pymesh) but doesn’t tie you into them, as they allow users to develop their own solution on top of the hardware. They have a large, vocal community on forum.pycom.io.
Pycom also regularly upgrade their firmware to improve their devices. We also think that their hardware is flawless!
More about Weaverlabs: https://weaverlabs.io/