LoRaWAN is a wireless communication technology designed specifically to make long-range signals affordable without going through a paid service provider. Importantly, it also operates in bands that are open for civilians to use. The Things Network is the world’s largest LoRaWAN network, and connects many individual devices together to eventually reach the internet through a gateway. To take advantage of that in order to keep livestock safe, LoFence is a device that monitors electric fences.
Kiu designed LoFence for a friend that herds cattle and sheep as a hobby. The friend doesn’t do this as a full time job, and instead has his land setup so that the animals can live semi-autonomously. Unfortunately, the electric fence that helps keep them corralled can sometimes fail due to outside factors. LoFence monitors that fence and sends out a notification if something goes wrong. That could be physical damage to the fence, or just the fence’s battery running out of juice.
While LoRaWAN is intended specifically for anyone to use, it is possible to accidentally transmit on a frequency that is prohibited by your government. That’s why Kiu chose to use a Microchip RN2483 module, which has active prevention that keeps you from violating those regulations. That’s integrated into a board controlled by the same ATmega328P microcontroller found in Arduino Uno boards. The board simply measures the voltage going through the fence — bringing the 12kV down to a reasonable level with a voltage divider and an op-amp — and then sends out an MQTT (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) message if it drops below acceptable levels. That’s enough to detect if the fence has become damaged or the battery is dead, allowing Kiu’s friend to come and fix it.
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Author: Cameron Coward