Rolling Your Own Long-Range IoT Sensor Network

Homebrew wireless sensors are nothing new around these parts: grab an ESP8266, hang a BME280 from the I2C pins, and you’re just a few lines of code away from joining the Internet of Things on your own terms. Builds like this are so cheap and easy that they make an excellent first project for folks looking to get into the electronics game, but what if you’re looking for something a bit more bespoke?

In that case, you could follow in the footsteps of [Discreet Mayor] and put together a custom modular architecture for long-range wireless sensors. The core of the system is a breakout board for the Texas Instruments SimpleLink CC1312 wireless MCU which features a simple 2×11 header connector. This allows the module to either be plugged into a larger board or have a small sensor PCB attached directly to it.

Rather than using WiFi or requiring some existing radio infrastructure, the boards automatically create a private network using the IEEE 802.15.4 standard at a range of up to 600 meters. A dedicated receiver isn’t necessary, to pull data off the network, one of the CC1312 boards simply gets connected to a computer through a simple FT232 adapter.

[Discreet Mayor] has already created a number of projects that use these custom radios for communication, from a pool monitoring system to a temperature sensor for the BBQ. That portable battery operated devices are able to use this common communications backbone just as well as mains powered static devices is a testament to the work that went into the firmware to make it as robust and efficient as possible.

Like the idea of long-range private networks, but less enthusiastic about having to come up with your own hardware? Not to worry. Over the summer, Espressif announced that they’re working on an ESP32 variant that includes support for IEEE 802.15.4. Just as soon as this chip shortage is over, we might even get to see the thing.

New Part Day: Alexa Connect Kit Now Available For Sale

People who were subscribed to updates on the Alexa Connect Kit (ACK) would recently have received an email informing that this kit is now available for sale. Last time we covered the ACK was back in September of 2018, the ‘release’ moniker meant ‘preview’ and there wasn’t any hardware one could actually purchase.

Over a year a later it seems that we can now finally get our grubby mitts on this kit that should enable us to make any of our projects Alexa-enabled. What this basically seems to mean is that one can spend close to 200 US dollars on an Arduino Zero and an Arduino shield-mounted WM-BN-MT-52 module from USI (though not listed on their site, but similar to the WM-BN-BM-22?) that integrates a 192 MHz Cortex-M MCU and a WiFi/Bluetooth module, as summarized on the Amazon Developer page for the ACK.

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Wardriving For Zigbee

Wardriving started out as a search for unprotected WiFi¬†access points before hot spots were prevalent. And so this ZigBee protocol wardriving hardware which [Travis Goodspeed] put together really gives us a sense of nostalgia for that time. Don’t get us wrong, we love our pervasive WiFi access and don’t wish to go back to simpler times. But if the radio signals your looking for are scarce, locating them provides a challenge.

Regular readers will recognize that [Travis] is interested in all things RF. One of his projects included sniffing wireless keyboard packets out of thin air and displaying them on the screen of his Nokia N900. This is right along those lines but he’s upgraded to an N9 phone for the display hardware. He switched up the RF hardware, using a TelosB (a board¬†he’s already familiar with) to get on the 802.15.4 ZigBee spectrum. This dev board has an expansion port which let him use an RN42 module for wireless communications with the phone. This means the sniffing hardware can be hidden away in a backpack or jacket. After all, nobody will question someone walking around staring at a smart phone.

Zigbee AES Key Sniffing

zigbeesniffing

[Travis Goodspeed] posted a preview of what he’s working on for this Summer’s conferences. Last weekend he gave a quick demo of sniffing AES128 keys on Zigbee hardware at SOURCE Boston. The CC2420 radio module is used in many Zigbee/802.15.4 sensor networks and the keys have to be transferred over an SPI bus to the module. [Travis] used two syringe probes to monitor the clock line and the data on a TelosB mote, which uses the CC2420. Now that he has the capture, he’s planning on creating a script to automate finding the key.

Tweet-a-Watt Wins Greener Gadgets Design Competition

tweetawatt

The team behind the the Tweet-a-Watt/Wattcher just won first prize at the Greener Gadgets design competition. The device is a hacked Kill A Watt that transmits power consumption using an XBee. After checking out DVICE’s preview of the competitors yesterday, we’re happy to see a prototype win instead of just a concept sketch.

Bug Labs Introduces New BUGmodules

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Bug Labs, the company that makes modular electronics that allow you to build your own tech doohickeys quickly and easily, has announced five new modules: BUGprojector, a mini DLP projector developed in conjunction with Texas Instruments, which sounds very much like the tiny DLP projector we posted about last week; BUGsound, an audio processing module with four stereo input/output jacks, a microphone, a speaker, and builtin hardware codecs; BUGbee (802.15.4) and BUGwifi (802.11 and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR), which will let you connect wirelessly with your PAN and WLAN, respectively; and BUG3g GSM, for connecting to (you guessed it) 3G GSM networks. In conjunction with Bug Labs’ existing series of modules, especially the highly versatile BUGvonHippel universal module, you’ll be able to create some pretty kickass gadgets. No word yet on pricing, although Bug Labs expects to ship by the end of Q1 2009.