Behind the Scenes of Connected Hull

July 21, 2017, 3:21 p.m.

Connected Hull has delivered workshops across the city that have engaged people of all ages discovering the advantages of collecting and sharing remote data, but how does the technology behind it work?

The project is built on top of the Things Network, a global movement that democratises data connectivity and makes it possible for communities to deploy their own radio networks.

The Things Network uses LoRaWAN technology; an emerging radio protocol that has a number of unique advantages over existing solutions.

slide explaining how lorawan works with low power and radio

LoRaWAN is low power, license exempt (meaning it is free to use) and has a long range (16km).

The geography of Hull is largely flat so we were able to install just a few base stations that would receive LoRaWAN messages and forward them onto the Things Network servers, which in turn forward the data onto our Connected Hull server. The data is stored in a database for the Connected Hull servers, before it is displayed as graphs and tables.

Users can view the data in the website or access it programmatically via a json api to incorporate in their own application. Alternatively, users can connect directly to the Things Network servers and have the data forwarded onto them if they are technically confident.

slide explaining how connected hull project works via hardware and the things network

We built gateways based on Raspberry Pi, with a custom PCB to link with the LoRaWAN interface.

hardware components used include raspberry pi to build a gateway for connected hull

The design is available from our project’s GitHub site here.

The goal of Connected Hull was to be inclusive, and by adopting this modular architecture it makes it possible for anyone to make a start by receiving data, while still permitting advanced uses to get access to the raw data.

This approach was also taken when providing facilities for programming the devices that would be in the field collecting data.

example of code using drag and drop functionality to collect data from a sensor node

The devices can be programmed in Python or via drag and drop blocks. Also, by providing access to other people’s projects, new users can explore already working code and then adapt and remix the code for their own applications.

Header image by Jerome Whittingham

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