If you want to help build a more powerful and robust goTenna Mesh network, you should consider setting up a stationary, always-on, relay with backup power and internet connectivity. Sounds like a complicated process, but its actually quite simple! Since goTenna Mesh devices are sold in packs of two, the vast majority of owners will have at least one unit to spare which can be setup as a fixed relay. There are a number of motivations for doing this: First, in a grid-down scenario, neighborhoods and communities will have an immediate backup communications network to rely on. GoTenna Mesh devices each act as individual repeaters, silently retransmitting and routing messages from node-to-node, up to 6 times. This means each stationary relay helps build a more robust network as it extends the reach of the network, allowing messages be delivered with higher reliability. Next, goTenna Mesh users will have the ability to send offline (outgoing) SMS messages to family and loved-ones in locations that still have cellular connectivity. This is possible using the goTenna Plus feature set, which will be discussed later in the article. Another key motivation for setting up a fixed goTenna relay with internet connectivity is you will be helping support and facilitate Bitcoin transactions via TxTenna - providing a censorship-resistant method for fellow users to send and receive payments, in a completely offline manner. We will elaborate on TxTenna specifically in an upcoming blog post - sharing our own experiences and tips on how to use the app.
To get started, here is the current map of where goTenna Mesh units are deployed:
At the tail-end of Summer 2019, we worked on a turnkey contract project for Helium Systems - which consisted of building five off-grid, outdoor enclosures to house their Helium hotspots. The outdoor hotspots would be temporarily deployed in a rural, mountainous setting to showcase the Helium network for a potential enterprise customer. Each outdoor hotspot is powered by dual LiPo battery packs, dual solar panels, and a rugged Cradlepoint modem - providing a 4G LTE cellular backhaul. The outdoor hotspot kits also include a high-gain external antenna and telescoping tripod mast. The basic premise is you can deploy these outdoor hotspots anywhere, without any grid dependencies - and quickly "pop-up" a Helium network. The project had an extremely quick turnaround, essentially 6 weeks from start to finish. With such a small window of time, we had to immediately get to work - designing the layout, placing orders, testing, optimizing - all the while keeping a close-eye on part lead-times and shipping dates. We knew everything had to proceed in a seamless fashion in order to pull off the project and deliver on-time! The concept design for the outdoor hotspot is loosely based on the Relay Station that we created for goTenna Mesh, but the power system and entire enclosure had to be significantly scaled up. We had to iterate on the design about halfway through the project, as Helium asked us to change from using their pre-commercial hotspot design to a prototype "Blackspot" unit, which essentially acts a LoRa repeater and does not operate on the blockchain. It was a fun experience working with the Helium team in San Francisco and collaborating with them onsite at the customer's office and event location. You can read more about the project here (see the Trail Rides section)
Feel free to reach out with any questions regarding the outdoor hotspot build! -TW
Adding to yesterday's post on the goTenna Mesh Portable Kit, we also developed an experimental "high-power" prototype for the same energy company. This kit uses a larger Nanuk 915 case, 10-watt amplifier, and higher-spec'd Volatic V88 pattery pack with dual 9-watt (18V) solar panels. Similar to the Mesh Portable Kit, this version includes egress ports leading to an N-type bulkhead connector and solar panel connector. Antenna and solar panels mount to the roof of your vehicle via magnetic base and cables pass through a small opening in the window or door. The concept for this kit could easily be adapted for goTenna Pro, by simply changing out the amplifier and antenna. If you are interested in learning more or would like quote for a custom build similar to the High-Power Kit, please reach out!
One of the product builds that has seen continual interest over the years is the Portable Kit we built for goTenna Mesh. The kit is built upon a Nanuk 905 case, modified to include egress ports which connect to an external antenna (typically a mag-mount antenna) and a small solar panel. The original design was conceived for an energy company operating in remote locations. This portable kit would be stored and utilized in-vehicle, in a completely off-grid scenario. Unfortunately that project never moved forward, so we now use this prototype for testing various configurations around the shop. The current iteration includes a Voltaic V44 battery pack, 6-watt solar panel, modified goTenna Mesh with external SMA connector, and Laird mag-mount antenna. Originally we used a Laird TRA9203 (small stubby white antenna), but have since moved on to the BB8965CR. The solar panel is stored inside the Nanuk case top, behind the foam insert. The solar panel includes magnetic mounts on each corner so it can adhere to a vehicle roof. If you are interested in purchasing a goTenna Mesh Portable Kit or perhaps a customized version, please reach out. -TW
Last summer, we set out to build a high-power version of our Relay Station. If you were going to build a better version of goTenna Mesh, which attributes would you choose to improve upon? We decided to tackle range and receiver sensitivity, basically make the goTenna transmit farther and hear distant signals better. We used a 2-watt bullet amplifier that mounts at the antenna (for zero signal loss) and provides 12 dB of low-noise amplification plus receiver filtering. We paired the amplifier with a Laird 6 dBd ISM-band Omni antenna and added separate power supplies for both the amplifier and the goTenna. The amplifier actually uses a DC-injector, which we housed inside the Relay Station's weatherproof fiberglass enclosure. This long-range version is a formidable build and you can expect coverage to exceed 2-3x that of a typical goTenna Mesh unit mounted at a similar elevation. Improving both the forward link and reverse link are impressive achievements in wireless communications, and we are proud with the end results of this product. If you are interested in learning more or would like a quote, please feel free to email us or drop a line on our contact page. We would be happy to run RF propagation plots for your specific location and show you the power of long-range! -TW
Last year, we spent a significant amount of time testing with goTenna Pro... in the field - validating coverage, in the office - learning how to navigate the Pro Portal & create frequency sets, and finally building a portable, high-power relay. We tested both VHF and UHF frequency bands and ultimately decided to develop with UHF 450 Mhz due to the smaller antenna sizes and generally wider selection of available RF components. Below is a photo gallery of our field testing and the prototype relay we built. The relay consists of a vented & cooled weatherproof NEMA enclosure with goTenna Pro feeding a 20-watt UHF amplifier, powered by LiPo battery, and includes telescoping tripod mast with 3 dB omni antenna. The portable relay can be deployed in a matter of minutes and is small enough to fit in the back of a small SUV. The relay provides greater than 2x increase in range and during our tests we achieved 9.5+ miles (>90% reliability) with plenty of headroom to go much farther! We tested between our HQ in Oceanside CA and our favorite high point - Double Peak Park in San Marcos CA.
If you have any specific needs involving goTenna Pro, please feel free to reach out. We would be more than happy to consult on your project and have the ability to rapidly prototype custom solutions. We also offer support with Pro Portal administration, creating frequency sets/QR codes for offline deployment, and RF propagation plots for your specific deployment locations. -TW