The Future is Wireless!
At ZP we create an Internet of Things (IoT) through our network of soil nitrate sensors. As part of the future development of the overall system, we have been investigating a variety of techniques to efficiently access this data over a wireless network. Most of us are familiar Bluetooth, WiFi and 4G as ways of accessing your data wirelessly, but these have some limiting factors which make them unideal solutions for our sensor network. For example, all three of these techniques use large amounts of power to operate, which would decrease the battery life of the sensor. Also, the operational ranges of Bluetooth and WiFi would not be sufficient cover the distance between the sensors and the gateway router.
ZP have been investigating alternative methods and have concluded that a wireless technique known as LoRaWAN is a viable solution as it offers excellent long range and low power capabilities. LoRaWAN is already a well-established technique within the precision farming world and can operate over ranges spanning many kilometers in rural areas. An on-board LoRaWAN chip can be introduced to the main PCB of the nitrate rod which sends the data to either a public or private gateway that uploads the data to the cloud for remote access.
Another technique which ZP is exploring is called SigFox. This operates very similarly to LoraWAN, with different on-board chips for different global regions, and boasts an easy setup process with the data being transmitted from the sensor to the nearest SigFox receiver.
These techniques are an exciting development to the wireless capabilities of the nitrate rod and will allow us to make it easy for the user to securely access their soil data no matter where they are.