Introducing The Things Network version 3 stack and portal

Since 2016, I have been involved in the world of LoraWan.

The combination of low powered devices together with long-range communication makes this protocol ideal for sending short messages from remote locations. It even supports two-way communication.

One of the most famous players in this knowledge area is The Things Network. They provide a set of open tools and a global, open network to build your next IoT application at low cost, featuring maximum security and ready to scale with LoraWan.

Its community is thriving on both enthusiastic makers, starters, and companies which are building their IoT solution on that backend.

The team behind The Things Network platform, The Things Industries, are now ramping up the third version of the backend stack.

This is not just an update. This is a completely new stack, built from the ground up and the team invests into a clean, portable, open-sourced backend. This new stack is standards-compliant by default and it will support the Lora 1.1 specification too. The V3 backend is designed for scale, for ‘N’ as they say (N customers, N regions, N devices, N versions):

We see the devices and gateways on the left, the V3 stack in the middle, and the third-party cloud integrations (eg. AWS, Azure) on the right.

In this blog, we look at registering a gateway and a device in the new TTN V3 Stack portal. And we integrate cloud connectivity.

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Azure IoT Central bridge for The Things Network

During the last The Thing Conference back in January in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, I spoke with the team of Tektelic. I got this smart room sensor from them to experiment with:


This sensor works with Lora and has some neat features. The sensor reads eg. temperature and humidity of the room it is placed in, but it also has a few other sensors. One of these is a magnetic switch.

It’s this sensor I am interested in. I want to see if a door is left open (and maybe putting a big, loud horn next to it…):

Today, I decided to connect this module to Azure IoT Central. For this, we use the Azure IoT Central Bridge.

I already blogged about this bridge where I connected to the Partical cloud. This time, I show how to connect to The Things Network cloud:

These are the steps we have to execute when connecting:

  1. Connect the Tektelic Room sensor to The Things Network
  2. Convert the byte array with data into a JSON message
  3. Setup an IoT Central App
  4. Setup the IoT Central Bridge
  5. Modify the bridge so it can handle TTN messages
  6. Setup a TTN webhook integration to the bridge
  7. Create a Device capability model for our room sensor
  8. See the influx of telemetry in IoT Central

Yes, there are a lot of small steps to perform. But I did the heavy lifting for you so it should be easy to follow.

Let’s see how to detect if a kitchen door is left open…

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Connecting your SenseCAP sensor to The Things Network

If you are interested in measuring IoT telemetry using an ultra low power wide area sensor network solution, the Seeed SenseCAP is an viable choice.

Seeed offers a number of sensors for agriculture and industrial environments, connected to a LoRa network.

I got my hand on this TH sensor, able to read air temperature and air humidity, sending it to the nearest LoRa gateway:

Image result for sensecap TH sensor

Seeed provides a portal for thier sensors called SenseCAP Software. But other LoRa platforms are supported too.

In this blog, I show you how to connect this sensor to The Things Network LoRa backend.

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The Things Network bridge revisited

A few month ago, I wrote about how to collect telemetry from The Things Network back-end and send them to an Azure IoT Hub.

The code was simple and it only provided telemetry for one device. But the technology used, was working.

Last month, I was involved in creating a workshop for the TechDays 2016 in Amsterdam. The two-hour workshop gives a good impression how to build an IoT Backend in Azure. During this workshop, we used a NodeJs bridge to pass the telemetry to Azure.

This bridge is available at using the NPM package installer: npm install –save ttn-azure-iothub@preview

I got inspired by this bridge and now I have rebuilt my bridge to handle multiple devices and more!

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Access The Things Network Lora telemetry using C# M2Mqtt

Somewhere in December 2015, I was made aware of this Lora initiative called The Things Network. Since then, as an IoT enthusiast, I am researching how to implement this platform in my other IoT projects.

Update 8-11-2016: this blog gives an introduction to MQTT and accessing the TTN network. A full implementation of a C# TTN->Azure bridge is available at GitHub. More details are available here.

Lora stands for Long Range and it fills a gap between Wifi and GMS, thinking about wireless connectivity for IoT sensor boards:

lora2

At the moment there are two serious implementations of Lora in The Netherlands. KPN is offering a commercial solution so it’s reliable but it does not come free. And then there’s The Things Network, a Kickstarter solution. It offers free connectivity :-).

TTN-Overview

What they ‘sell’ are gateways. These come fairly cheap (starting at ~ 250 euros) but with their gateway, you can connect up to 5 kilometers (keep on dreaming about 10 :-)) around your house with Arduino’s, ESPs, RaspberryPi etc. And with a couple of these gateways, you can cover your village or city. So get your friend involved!

The telemetry of the nodes (say twenty bytes of date every minute) are received by the gateways and forwarded to the TTN backend. But you have to do ‘something’ yourself to get the data from the backend. I will tell you how to do that using C# all the way.

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