Tool Reviews 🛠
Meshtastic was the initial focus of this whole project and we got working on setting up the nodes on the first days. As noted before, the first experiment was a big success with a 18Km link. But one of the objectives was testing the limits, to really understand how far LoRa can go with our setup.
Setting up a LoRa node at the top of one of the territory's highest hills
We organized an expedition to get to the top of the highest accessible hill on the 302,550Ha territory. Wasn't an easy one, and we almost gave up when we couldn't find a way to the peak. But we risked climbing a crack and with some risky maneuvers got up there.
The mountaintop was filled with bees all over, they kept trying to get into our noses and ears all the time, but were nice enough not to sting, they just really wanted our sweat.
With only a couple of days left for the experiment we were able to put a link at the top of an easier to access hill, a few kilometers from a village which is close to town. We got a 43Km link, which was a good surprise. But unfortunately we ran out of time and equipment for connecting the villages in a meaningful way.
Most of the time was spent visiting different villages and talking to the people to learn about their needs and realities. Another good part was spent just living life as they do and helping with their big meetings. About 10 days out of 35 might have been spent giving small workshops on our plan for the LoRa mesh and on building antennas, and setting up nodes at strategic places.
We'll only really know how our equipment held out after a next visit. These are my impressions now:
What worked ✅
- LoRa can be really useful for providing an emergency communication or delay-tolerant information network
- Such a communication system can really help the Krahô organize themselves and even save lives in emergencies
- The coverage simulator is great for finding where to place nodes across the territory
- With some decent antennas LoRa can really travel far
- Connecting the 10W panels to the USB controllers proved to be easy, and seemed they could last
- Setting up the autonomous nodes was fun and easy to learn and execute for them
- The knowledge and experience on working with radio and solar setups are really valuable for them
What's being worked on 🚧
- Ability to remotely change configurations in a node thru LoRa (by Kevin)
- Video tutorial in Portuguese documenting how to setup a autonomous LoRa node (by me and @Hiure)
- A practical method for debugging the network, like this script for sending messages (still not clear)
- Videos in Portuguese showing to how to update firmware using different operating systems and methods (me and Hiure)
- Finding computers for installing or updating firmware is hard, so ways to update using a phone and Bluetooth while offline (by Kevin)
- The Bluetooth connection necessary for connecting the radio and phone is a barrier, and limits the number of users; a UI accessible thru the browser for everyone connected to the network is awesome (by Mc Hamster)
What needs working on 👷♂️
- Building antennas is really a hard art, need more learning resources and practice
- Need to learn more about buying from Aliexpress from Brasil; everything I bought arrived well, but the moxons, which returned and I got my money back
- Audio thru LoRa (like qmesh)
- DIY end-user devices, like the bamboo LoRa radio, but with audio input/output
- (Donno if possible) Update firmware thru LoRa
- A monitoring tool for the network
I plan to edit and release small multimedia stories telling bits of the experiment and showing the peoples impressions thru interviews. Thru #coolab we're looking at financing the documentation part of the experiment, but it would be good to use the video to direct people to crowd-fund-back the equipment and the trip.
During the next months we'll be drafting a second phase for this project together with representatives from the involved communities. A consensus has yet to be reached on which strategy we'll use for financing. There were also representatives from the Apinayê territory which have shown interest and would also like be become part of the experiment.