Roaming across LoRaWAN networks, part 2

The application end

Quick recap – In the absence of a UK-wide LoRaWAN network I am looking into the feasibility of developing a LoRaWAN based IoT solution that can work across a patchwork of LoRaWAN networks.

The previous article focused on making the device – the LoRaVAN ™ burglar alarm for white van drivers everywhere – able to roam between different LoRaWAN networks. I am testing with The Things Network in Reading and Things Connected in London.
This article looks at the application end. My application, which receives alerts and GPS position from the van alarm will need to collect messages from different networks and relay then to the van owner.

The Things Network publishes data using MQTT. Things Connected used a different technique – it sends json data to your web server. Either way you need to have a message collector running on your server to listen out for new messages, and then process them appropriately.

On my device I control the structure of the payload (GPS co-ords), but I have little control over the structure of the LoRaWAN message I receive at the app end. There are differences between the two networks in message structure, although they are both essentially JSON format. It would be interesting to try this with Stream Technologies’ implementation of LoRaWAN, or LorIoT to see how much variety exists in message structure between networks.

At the device end I configured the device to use the same device EUI, but I don’t know if this would be permissible on all LoRaWAN networks. It feels prudent to allow for the possibility that different networks may have different device EUIs for the same physical device. An alternative approach would be to include an ID in the payload that we use instead of the device EUI. The significant downside to this alternative is that it increases the message size, which will increase the airtime usage per message, and therefore gobble up the 1% duty cycle more quickly. In my judgement it is better to keep the payload small and do the extra work within the collector.

For the purposes of proving the roaming capability I have written 2 collectors in Node.js, one listening to each network. Each collector converts the received data into a common format JSON document which is inserted into my Mongo database. My app is thereby oblivious to the fact that the data arrived over more than one network. It works with multiple devices on these 2 specific networks for one application. I could write a third collector for say Stream Technologies, and a fourth…

It strikes me that I (or you) could design and write a more general collector that could work for multiple devices and multiple networks for multiple applications and multiple databases. This feels to me like it could be a useful service to offer. I wonder whether there would be sufficient benefit and interest in such a middleware service for IoT application providers who don’t really want to worry about whose LoRaWAN network their clients have installed?

But wouldn’t it be better if the LoRaWAN specification supported roaming so we didn’t need to worry about this stuff? Hmm, maybe it’s in the post…

Roaming across LoRaWAN networks

I am a roaming journeyman, I roam from town to town,
And when I get a job of work I’m willing to sit down.
With my bundle on my shoulder, with my stick all in my hand,
And it’s round the country I will go, like a roaming journeyman.

Tom Willett – The Roving Journeyman

Spring is here, Morris Men are celebrating May Day and folk music is in the air, so you’ll forgive me if my mind turns to roaming…

…of course I mean roaming LoRaWAN devices – I’m a happily married man these days, haven’t you heard?! Continue reading “Roaming across LoRaWAN networks”

Reading Hotspot project report

hotspot device and power supply

Earlier this year Thingitude bid for some funding from Reading Council to develop an Internet of Things project with students throughout the summer holidays as part of Reading 2016 Year of Culture. A couple of months later I was told the bid was successful!

Reading 2016 Year of Culture

(gulp) – what did I promise?!!

Continue reading “Reading Hotspot project report”

LoraWAN shield for BBC micro:bit

Richard Ibbotson from rLab – Reading’s hackspace – has made a LoraWAN shield for the BBC micro:bit which connects to The Things Network!

You can read all about his excellent project here:

Richard's LoraWAN shield next to a BBC micro:bit

Richard’s LoraWAN shield next to a BBC micro:bit

Reading Hotspot project launches

This week saw the launch of the Reading Hotspot project for Reading 2016 Year of Culture.

Four students from UTC Reading are working with Mark Stanley from The Things Network Reading to develop Internet of Things sensors that will be installed in arts centres and museums around Reading.

Mark explained the project:

“Reading’s arts scene has to work hard to get the attention of a largely commuting population. If we can better connect artists and audiences in Reading we can increase attendance at performances at venues in Reading.”

“By the end of the summer we aim to give audiences a very simple way to find out ‘Where’s hot in Reading?’ and rate the events they attend. We’ll provide the arts and culture venues with objective data that demonstrates the impact of different events, and which will support funding bids for future events.

The team(left to right): Kieron Cardall, Simon Light, Sam Kimbinyi, Tom Helyer

The team(left to right): Kieron Cardall, Simon Light, Sam Kimbiny, Tom Helyer

The team has been given a base at Reading’s collaboration incubation and co-working hub, GROW@GreenPark, and will run throughout the summer holidays. The students are using laptops donated by local geeks and supporters of The Things Network.

“Reading Hotspots is about connecting Our audiences and artists and growing the attendance at arts events in Reading, but it’s also about demonstrating that Reading is once more becoming a hub of technology innovation in the UK.” said Mark. “Reading has the biggest Things Network in the UK, it’s free to use and there is a lot of community interest in what we can do with it! I’m delighted that Reading Council is looking at low cost ways to explore Smart City technology like this, it’s very encouraging and forward thinking.”

About The Things Network

The Things Network is a global, free to use, wireless data network for the Internet of Things. It began in Amsterdam in August 2015 and has spread to nearly 200 communities around the world.
Mark Stanley and Mike Beardmore started The Things Network in Reading in December 2015, so the people, schools and startups in and around Reading can use it to build and connect their “Things” to the Internet.

Contact: Mark Stanley: or for visit

About Thingitude Ltd

Thingitude is a non-profit organisation established to promote, support and develop community-led open source Internet of Things projects. We believe a great deal of Smart City innovation and value will come from a bottom-up community-led approach to complement the top-down consultancy-led approach. We also believe in Smart Towns, Smart Villages, and Smart Countryside!

Thingitude was successful in its bid for Reading 2016 Year of Culture funding for the Reading Hotspot project. The project is also part-funded by Coraledge Ltd.

Contact: Mark Stanley: or visit

About Reading 2016 Year of Culture

Year of Culture will be the most important cultural and creative activity undertaken in Reading in a generation. The aims of the initiative include uniting the existing arts and culture organisations in Reading, and increasing the cultural ambition of Reading to make the town a destination for arts and culture in the UK

Reading 2016 received seed funding from Reading Cultural Partnership and is supported by Reading UK CIC, the University of Reading, Reading Borough Council, Reading College, Alt Reading as well as many local arts groups and businesses.