Computers & Mobile Internet of Things Technology
Roundup: Five Long-Range LoRa Projects to Explore

LoRa is a wireless protocol that has been around for just a few years. Its combination of long-range transmission capabilities and low-energy requirements makes it attractive for projects that stretch beyond Wi-Fi range (theoretically, up to many miles), that can be left in a location where access to power or frequent battery changes isn’t feasible. LoRa’s downside is that its data capabilities are quite small — it’s best used for short transmissions that occur periodically, rather than in real-time frequencies. For example, receiving temperature updates from a remote sensor every few minutes would be feasible with LoRa; streaming a video signal is not.

Inventive new LoRa projects keep popping up as its popularity continues to expand from Europe to other continents. Here are a few that caught our eye that show some of its capabilities.

[Editor note: This roundup first appeared in Make: Volume 76. Subscribe here, or buy a copy from Maker Shed.]

Rain-Sensing LoRa Weather Station

This project by Mr. Alam in Biratnagar, Nepal builds a weather tracking system to explore the long-range, low-power aspect of LoRa. The sensor array tracks temperature, humidity, pressure, rainfall, and more, and transmits to a gateway that then pushes to a Blynk app for easy viewing on your phone.

LoRa GPS Dog Tracker

The LoRa system is well-suited for wildlife conservation efforts, allowing for the tracking of animals through large regions. You can test this out with a GPS tracker build of your own for your favorite furry family member. Scott Powell steps through one approach for this with his build, using a LoRa-enabled Adafruit Feather, the Ripple network, and an Android app. The result is a compact device that attaches to his dog’s collar and maps its location.

There’s also an upgraded version with S.O.S. alerts.

LoRa-Automated Greenhouse

A greenhouse should keep consistent heat and humidity inside. German YouTuber GreatScottLab designed a system to measure both of those, as well as soil moisture, and has added a motorized window-opening apparatus to help maintain proper conditions. The sensor readings and window control are transmitted over the LoRa network via his own gateway, letting him access it from almost anywhere he travels. A solar-charged battery keeps everything running.

Low-Power Water Level Sensor/Transmitter

This self-contained LoRa node uses an ultrasonic sensor to determine the water level in a not-easily accessible rainwater tank and transmit the readings. Project creator Philippe Vanhaesendonck from Belgium leverages LoRa’s low power consumption so the sensor can run unattended for extended periods of time on battery power. The how-to instructions also note that the design can be used to measure accumulation of snow, trash, and so forth.

Using LoRa With Circuit Python

Adafruit author Brent Rubell has a full guide on getting started with LoRa using quick-to-deploy CircuitPython on a simple weather logging node. The guide also details how to use CircuitPython and the Adafruit-managed TinyLoRa library on Linux boards like Raspberry Pi.

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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

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