Introduction : How best to utilize goTenna Mesh?


#1

Hi folks! SE Idaho here.

I’m new to the GoTenna Community. I was familiar with the product before the mesh units, but then saw a video for the added mesh capability which is a game changer. Currently, in my city, we have a few users, but no stationary nodes. It is my objective to loop enough friends in to get a mesh network that covers the city, about 10 miles across. I live in a mountain community and will be trying to get stationary units plugged into all-weather solar panels of some variety at the highest points I can. I just received my first two units and my wife and I will be testing them out with each other. What are your recommendations for utilization for an always-on network?


#2

Welcome! Idaho is beautiful. Visited Boise once for a conference about a decade back, would like to return and see more of it.

For some examples of how others are working at this, see my Urbana thread.
https://community.gotennamesh.com/t/urbana-illinois-now-a-gotenna-mesh-ambassador-city/1660

I’ve tried a lot of different things, nothing exotic really and towards the current end of the thread you can see what I’m working with now. Idaho is generally just a little farther north than Illinois, so solar solutions that work here should be in the ballpark for use there.

The key to this is reliable power in the form of a suitable battery pack (at least 4,000 mAh, preferably more), fed by about 6 watts or more of solar panel inside a weather-tight container. Node spacing should be on the order of about a half-mile radius. Access to a particularly high point can substantially increase range.


#3

Thanks for the reply Mike. How do you manage your nodes to tell when they’re online?


#4

That is currently as much an art as it is a science. There’s not a central server or output of node status. What I do is check on signals getting back to a “test mule” located at home. I pay attention to topography even here where it’s pretty darn flat and follow my way back to locations where I know I’ve had good signals to and from in the past. If I can repeat the previous good results, then things are good. If not, then more investigation is needed, keeping in mind that differences of a few feet often result in success.

Another thing that helps with being able to repeat good reception is to use a vehicle-mounted goTenna Mesh. Up on the roof is a good location that provides a reliable signal much better than trying to use it by hand inside the vehicle, which introduces difficult to repeat variability,

One fairly successful survey procedure involves sending test messages while moving towards or away from the node in question. As the mesh grows, it tends to become more redundant. I’d expect this method to be less useful as a build-out proceeds as the number of alternative pathways grows.

There are some other options. The Mesh Developers Tool Kit provides some options for node monitoring IIRC and there are some other efforts to address this problem, too.


#5

In Nothern Idaho I’ve had good luck keeping a GTM using an old but possibly high quality 20W panel connected to the stuff in the photo. It uses a 14AH AGM battery, a USB buddy from Powerwerx and a charge controller from Battery Tender. The one pictured was placed on 11/15/18 on a rooftop. I’ve had a few issues keeping the Android tablet connected via bluetooth; somthing to do with the tablet’s power saving options. I usually check it once a week or so but there have been several instances where the tablet and GTM were not connected and the GTM was in pairing mode with the white light continually flashing. The lowest I’ve seen the GTM battery is 95%. The AGM battery on the rooftop was at 13.2 volts this morning after some indirect sunlight.

I’ve tested a similar setup using $30 10W solar panels from Amazon and had some decent results but nothing as reliable as the 20W unit. One thing that I do not use is a low voltage disconnect. I’ve ruined a smaller battery that got down to 5V when connected to a cheap 10W panel.

All that is to get thru the winter/rainy weather. In the summer I’ve had some good experiences using just a cheap 6-7w panel plugged directly into the GTM until we get a couple days of clouds


#6

It is possible to use a GTM that has been paired as a relay. You do not need to keep the paired device in bluetooth range but you will sacrifice some extra power consumption. This allows you to ping/message your relay to verify it is working just as you would communicate. I couldn’t find any numbers on how much more power it consumes while constantly in paired mode versus the more power saving relay mode. I plan to do some research and size all my solar stuff accordingly to help alleviate some of the “upkeep” on my network. If I can easily verify which relay needs attention I can spend less of my time trying to figure out where the holes are.


#7

How do you ping a relay? I have two units set up as relays. One in my home on a mountain and one down in the valley at my wife’s office.


#8

It’s done by not putting a node in relay mode, but leaving it paired to a phone. It will still relay, but this allows you to communicate with the GTM like you would with any other GTM, which can be done at a far greater range than with Bluetooth. Then all you need to do to check if it’s still on air is to press “Ping” at the top of the associated Chat page.

This requires an extra phone with each node along with the power to run it, which is usually much more than running just the GTM.


#9

You don’t actually need the phone to be in bluetooth range to be able to ping/message the device. The GTM will still receive and store messages sent to it’s GUID if the paired device is not in range. It will also relay messages just as it would in relay mode. In recent testing I’ve found a fully charged GTM will last about 13 hours in pairing mode (white light flashing, paired device not in range). This is about double the consumption of relay mode. I don’t know what the power consumption would be of a paired phone but I’m guessing it’s more than the GTM in pairing mode.

Also, you can use one device and establish multiple GUID’s for different goTenna relays. It’s been a while but I believe you just logout and start over on the app for every new relay.


#10

That’s true, you can go around to the nodes one by one, re-pair to each then unpair and move to the next one, reading the stored messages after the fact. But to do it in real time, i.e. ping, then read back whether available or not, I don’t see how you can do that without a phone mated to each GTM. Am I missing something here?


#11

I’m not sure if you are thinking of using the same GUID for each relay in this case. If so, that wouldn’t give you status on a specific relay. I’m saying each GTM needs it’s own GUID.

To test them, I just send a message to the GUID of the relay in question. If i get a green check mark, the message was received by the GTM and I know it is working properly. The GTM doesn’t seem to care if its actually connected to its device or not. It still handles message confirmations as it would when it is actually paired. You can ping it as well to see if it’s available for conversation.

If I need to leave the coverage area of the GTM network I can simply leave my GTM in the coverage area taking my paired phone with me. Any messages received will be stored until I rejoin the phone and GTM. In a relay situation I don’t really ever plan on retrieving the messages as they are usually just for testing purposes. I suppose at some point it’d fill up and stop storing messages if I overdo it. I haven’t gotten to that point before…


#12

No, I’d want to address each relay individually, so would need a separate GUID for each. I wasn’t aware that you would get any message reply functionality (pings, confirmations) with just the GTM itself if it wasn’t paired to a phone at the time the message was originally sent. I may have to experiment with that.

No worries there, IIRC the new stuff pushes out the old once the bin is full.


#13

It works! You would be able to quickly check all your relays anytime you are in your coverage area! The only downside I’ve found is about double the power consumption when in pairing mode.

Here is a screenshot of the goTenna app on the message screen to one of my mountain top relays. In this case the GTM was only ever near the tablet it was initially paired to while still at my office. Otherwise the GTM was on its own working away. I did multiple three hop messages thru this relay and pinged it often. I could easily tell when it needed attention.


#14

Thanks, may have to try that out.

The power consumption issue may be the dealbreaker here. I think I finally have got a system configured that can power in relay mode through winter’s gloom, but not sure it can handle double the demand for power