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I am looking for some advice for setting up an IoT sensor network in remote areas. It needs to be as plug-and-play as possible as it will not be done by technicians...

I work for an international NGO with projects in Central, West and East Africa, Middle East and LatAm. Most of our projects are in remote towns and villages. We would like to improve our data collection, primarily for energy (ie the power consumed from our generators, specific devices, different facilities, etc), and maybe some temperature/humidtity/CO2, potentially some water tank level monitoring, eventually borehole monitoring, and whatever else comes up.

To me it looks like Lora could be a good protocol in many of these applications due to lack of cellular coverage, the distance between sensors and possible Wifi/Ethernet, and the long battery life in sensors.

Clearly there is no existing Lorawan in these areas so I would need to create this from scratch.

Our offices typically have a (semi) reliable internet connection (VSAT or 3G if available) and these are generally within about 500m of where sensors should be located.

My understanding is that I need to:

  1. Install a Lora Gateway device connected to the internet.
  2. Deploy sensors that use the Lora protocol.
  3. Set up an IoT platform to collect, store and visualise the data
  4. Associate the sensors with my platform
  5. enjoy the fruits of my labours.

So my questions:

  1. Is my understanding correct?
  2. Regarding gateways, do I need an outdoor gateway? Or is an indoor gateway likely to be able to receive messages from up to 500 m (rural settings, building structure concrete blocks, other structures minimal and made with mud bricks)? Or internal gateway with external antenna or external gateway (mindful of cost increases). Is that totally a 'it depends on the sensor' kind of question?
  3. I will need to ship these items directly to non-technical users. Are there full plug-and-play gatweays available (I understand that I will still need to have a way to associate the sensor with the platform). Or is there always a need to do a set up on each gateway?
  4. Any recommendations for low cost gateways that are as plug-and-play as possible and could meet these requirements?
  5. IoT Platform for early testing - any recommendations for a platformfor the intial testing phase? Again, as an NGO, budget is tight...

Perhaps this is way too vague, and apologies if the answer is RTFM...

Many thanks to any and all

2 Answers 2

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  1. Yes, pretty much correct.
  2. An outdoor antenna (but well protected and perfectly aligned) with an indoor gateway will be the perfect choice. Because you want to keep your sensitive devices away from dust and wireless communication doesn't like any obstacles.
  3. I understand your though situation but unfortunately there's no such "Apple" for industrial IoT. I suggest you to create very detailed documentation, videos, troubleshoot etc. for "non-technical" technicians. But I strongly suggest a well trained technician in place.
  4. Now we come to the "depens on" part :) So it depends on where you are, where do you need (country)?, how many of them do you need in short-term/long-term?, what are your acceptance criteria's (working temperature, ip code, connectivity etc.)
  5. You may choose an open source platform for your prototype, like mainflux. Then you can choose a cloud IoT provider if it's possible, or maybe build your own.

Good luck!

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    Thanks so much for the response. I think perhaps an iterative approach may be necessary. Do some testing here in Europe, set up as much as possible and then send it to the field pre-configured where possible
    – amaturenet
    Nov 24, 2022 at 12:50
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To add to H. Sinan Alioglu answer, you may have to adapt your architecture depending on the impact "(semi) reliable internet connection" could have to your application.

If the Lorawan network server is cloud-based, when the connection between gateway and network server (called "backhaul" in Lorawan parlance) is interrupted all the data sent by devices will simply be lost until the internet is back. If your application accepts to lose some packets each day, maybe this is not a problem, but keep in mind that the gateway will not "store and forward" the data.

If the application is not compatible with losing data when the backhaul goes down, then you should use local network servers (so a network server in each gateway, with each gateway covering a separate village), some local storage of data, and a store-and-forward mechanism you will have to put in place to do synchronization between the systems installed in the field and a cloud where you'll aggregate the data.

FYI, there are "all in one" gateways on the market that do local aggregation, compression and use satellite backhaul, they might be the easier solution if your budget allows it: https://lora-alliance.org/lora_products/hiber-global-lorawan-gateway/ or https://lora-alliance.org/lora_products/portal/

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    Thanks for input on the local servers. While the data is not critical, gaps in the data will always frustrate good analysis. The budget will certainly not allow for use of satellite communication for this data, unfortunately.
    – amaturenet
    Dec 1, 2022 at 16:22

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