Category Archives: Ayrstone Products

Posts about Ayrstone Products

RAM mounts for the AyrMesh Cab Hub

RAM-in-tractor-1 (NOTE: all the pictures in this post can be clicked to see at full-size).

One of the questions we get from time to time is, “What’s the best way to mount the Cab Hub in the cab?”

It’s important to be able to mount the Hub high, because the cable to the magmount antenna is relatively short, and it’s important to be able to mount it securely so it’s not banging around inside the cab. The Hub is not designed for vibration and shock, so it is also useful to isolate the Hub from the cab somewhat.RAM mount in tractor

Our friends at RAM Mounting Systems, Inc. offered to help. I’m a big fan of RAM mounts, and I eagerly accepted their offer to help out. I have a RAM mount in my truck with their “X-Grip” mount for my smartphone and a suction cup. I tried mounting the Hub in it, and it did work, but it did not hold the Hub as firmly as I’d like.

The folks at RAM asked one question: “Is it affected by strong magnetic fields?” When I told them it was not, they said, “then let’s try a magnetic mount.” I told him I had a suction cup base in the truck but I didn’t want to use that in a tractor, so he sent me a “Tough-Claw” to attach to the rack in a tractor. But he also sent me a beefier suction cup for use in the truck and elsewhere.

They sent me a package consisting of the following items:

RAM_mount_NHI was able to test this setup on a number of different vehicles. I went to Coastal Tractor in Salinas and they gave me the use of a New Holland T-9 4WD tractor. It was extremely easy to mount the Hub on the tractor’s rack, as shown on the left. The pieces were very simple to assemble and attach to the tubing on the tractor. Here’s a closeup of the mount:RAM-mount-close-1Antenna on T9

As you can see, it’s attached with nice, large wingnuts. It was not loose and did not slip, but the rubber in the Tough-Grip and the articulation balls on the mount mean that little vibration would be transmitted to the Hub.

I put the Cab Hub Antenna on top of the tractor and plugged it into the utility power plug in the cab, and the installation was complete – it took about 10 minutes (because I had to get out and climb the other side of the tractor to install the antenna).power_plug_tractor

While I was there, I also tried mounting it successfully on an open-cab tractor they had, and put the antenna on the ROPS cage.antenna_on_ROPS

I had not brought along any zip-ties so I could secure the antenna cable to the ROPS, but the power cord plugged easily into the utility plug under the dashboard.mounted_open_tractor2

One of the most intriguing uses I have seen for the AyrMesh Cab Hub is actually for use on an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV), so I  went over to GPSports to take a look at what would be involved. They had one in the service bay they said I could mess with, so I mounted the Hub on it.RAM-mount-ATC2 RAM-mount-ATC1The Tough-Grip was again easy to use on the tubing – the only problem was that there was no place to put the antenna where it would be high, because this ATV had no roll bar. In the parking lot, however, they had some “side-by-side” models, so I made sure the magnetic antenna worked on the roll cage.

My final test was back in the truck – I traded the Tough-Grip for the suction cup and attached the mount to the back window of my “extended cab” pickup. It has been on there for several days now, and has not yet moved. RAM-mount-suction-truck3RAM-mount-suction-truck2

 

 

The bottom line on all this is that a small investment in RAM mounts can make mounting your AyrMesh Cab Hub VERY easy in any Vehicle.

Once again, Ayrstone would like to thank the good folks at RAM Mounting systems, Coastal Tractor, and GPSports.

Bringing WiFi into your Cab – the new AyrMesh Cab Hub

crowded_cabThere’s a lot of data being collected by monitors in the cabs of tractors, sprayers, and combines, and getting that data someplace it can be used can be critical to your operation. Today we are introducing a way to connect your tractors, sprayers, combines, and trucks to your AyrMesh Network: the AyrMesh Cab Hub.

The AyrMesh Cab Hub is a combination of three things: our trusty, patent-pending AyrMesh Hub2n, a cable that allows the Hub to be powered from a normal 12 volt utility “cigarette lighter” plug, and an external magnetic-mount antenna to get the Hub’s antenna outside and up in the clear.assembled-2_small

When it is all set up, the AyrMesh Hub2n rides inside the cab of your vehicle, protected from shock and vibration, but mounted where you can see the “signal lights” if you need to. The cable is plugged into one of the 12v utility outlets, and the antenna is put on a ferrous surface on top of the cab. The Hub connects to the other Hubs in your AyrMesh network, giving you WiFi connectivity in your cab.cig_lighter_sm

Antenna on roofHub_mounted_smThe most valuable data on the farm, and some of the hardest data to move to where it can be effectively used, are the data trapped in the monitors on your machines: as-seeded, as-applied, and harvest data. Getting that data out has been laborious (moving Compact Flash cards) or expensive and uncertain (using cellular links), so we’re trying to make it easier with the AyrMesh Cab Hub.

By using the AyrMesh Cab Hub, you’ll have a strong WiFi signal in your Cab whenever you’re in range of one of your other AyrMesh Hubs – up to 2.5 miles away. This means you can use your smartphone, tablet, or laptop from the cab of your tractor, sprayer, combine, or truck. It also makes it easy to transfer data from your WiFi-equipped in-cab monitors, like an AgLeader monitor with their AgFinity adapter, using your AyrMesh network. If your equipment doesn’t currently have WiFi, talk to your dealer about it – vendors are rolling out new products all the time.

If your monitor supports WiFi data transfer, you can use your AyrMesh network to transfer data from your monitor without having to rely on expensive and unreliable cellular links.

Please let us know what you think of this new product from Ayrstone Productivity!

Why AyrMesh.com?

ayrmeshThis is one of the questions we get in Ayrstone support from time to time: why do I HAVE to use AyrMesh.com? Why isn’t there just a setup menu on the device?

My answer is simple: if you’re using a single Hub, then it doesn’t much matter:  you have to set the configuration on the device or you have to set the configuration on AyrMesh.com. About the same amount of effort.

But, if you’re using more than one AyrMesh device – Hubs or Receivers – on your network, using AyrMesh.com saves you time, because all your devices automatically configure themselves from AyrMesh.com. Furthermore, because they check into AyrMesh.com every few minutes, you can always check there to make sure your AyrMesh devices are working properly.

Our entire goal in creating the AyrMesh System was to make it so easy that anyone could set it up and use it, and you’d spend as little time as possible fiddling with your network and as much time as possible enjoying its benefits. AyrMesh.com is an important part of that value

A little technical talk about WiFi

Adam Gittins has published another terrific post on his Precision Ag Explained blog about problems he ran into getting his AyrMesh network up and running.

It reminds me that WiFi isn’t entirely straightforward, and some explanations of the vagaries are in order.

As Adam points out, interference is potentially a huge problem on WiFi. One problem is that the 2.4 GHz. WiFi band was partitioned out into 11 channels (in the U.S. and Canada), but most of those channels actually OVERLAP each other. There are only THREE DISTINCT CHANNELS: 1, 6, and 11 – all the other channels overlap at least one of these three (and each other). For a good explanation with graphics, I always recommend Wikipedia.

As he points out, if you have your “indoor” WiFi and your “outdoor” WiFi on the same channel, they’ll interfere with each other, reducing the range and bandwidth of both. Even if they are less than five channels apart this will happen to some degree. The AyrMesh network always comes by default on channel 6, so you can either change your home router’s channel to 1 or 11, or change the AyrMesh channel using your account on AyrMesh.com.

InSSIDer

InSSIDer – courtesy of MetaGeek

We use and recommend a couple of tools to help discover WiFi interference. InSSIDer for Home is a free program that run on Windows, Mac, or Android, and shows all of the WiFi Access Points in range of the computer and a pretty good estimate of the signal strength of those Access Points. (NOTE: It has recently been pointed out that getting InSSIDer for Home from the Mac App Store actually costs $4.99)

WiFi Analyzer

WiFi Analyzer for Android, Courtesy of farproc

WiFi Analyzer is another free app that runs on Android. It’s a little simpler and quicker than InSSIDer, and has become my “go-to” solution for taking a “quick look around” on my phone.

It’s worth noting that there is no analogous app for the iPhone because Apple doesn’t allow direct access to the WiFi card. However, there are similar apps available if your iPhone is jailbroken.

chanalyzer31sample

Chanalyzer Spectrum Analysis, courtesy of Metageek

Just to make it a bit more interesting, however, I have to point out one more fact: WiFi is far from being the only thing using the 2.4 GHz radio band. Cordless phones, baby monitors, wireless surveillance cameras, certain radars, and microwave ovens all use the same spectrum, so they can all potentially interfere with your WiFi. This is, in fact, precisely why Metageek gives away InSSIDer – they sell tools called “Spectrum Analyzers” – their “Wi-Spy” Spectrum Analyzers are excellent and relatively inexpensive. They can show not just WiFi interference, but all the interference in the 2.4 GHz. band. They even offer a very nice “Wi-Spy mini” bundled with their “InSSIDer for Office” product for only $199.

You probably won’t need a spectrum analyzer for your AyrMesh network. Out in the country there’s very little interference, and it takes a while to learn how to use a spectrum analyzer effectively, even with Metageek’s excellent software.

However, getting a copy of InSSIDer and/or WiFi Analyzer is something I recommend to everyone who’s curious about their local WiFi environment.

New Ayrstone Product: the AyrMesh Hub2n

AyrMesh HubToday is the second most exciting day of Ayrstone’s existence – second only to the day we started. The introduction of the Hub2n marks a new era in wireless farm networking – even though the white plastic case is exactly the same as the old Hub, and the electronics inside are fairly similar, the software running on those electronics make it truly revolutionary.

The most important and exciting thing about the new Hub2n is that it introduces the concept of the “transparent mesh.” This means that you can build out your AyrMesh network across your farm or other rural business or homestead, but all the devices attached to the Hubs and Receivers in your network get their IP addresses from the router your AyrMesh Gateway Hub2n is attached to. This means that building and managing your AyrMesh Network is no more difficult than building a home network with your home router. In particular:

  1. Devices attached to your AyrMesh network will be in the same IP subnet as your router. If your router, for instance, is configured to create a private network with addresses of the form 192.168.1.x, then everything on your AyrMesh network will have IP addresses in that same form.
  2. All devices on your network will appear in the DHCP table or client table of your router.
  3. You can port forward from your router to any device in your network, whether it’s plugged directly into your router or miles away connected via WiFi to an AyrMesh Hub.

Hub_outdoorsThis means that, using the new Hub2n, you can easily build a farm-wide network that can be used for:

  • Internet access – even in places with no cellular signal
  • A reliable, high-bandwidth local-area network for remote sensors like cameras, thermometers, and weather stations, and
  • A high-speed, internet-accessible network to control devices like web-controlled relays and thermostats.

With the new Hub2n available, the revolution in Wireless Farm Networking can really pick up steam! Now there’s no reason not to have a farm-wide network to gather information and start automating operations on your farm.

New Ayrstone Product: the AyrMesh Receiver

Receiver July 2013 Front_400hiToday we’re announcing a new product in the Ayrstone AyrMesh line: the AyrMesh Receiver.

The AyrMesh Receiver is actually, of course, more than a receiver – it transmits and receives data – but it is designed as a simple, low-cost way to put one or more “wired” (Ethernet) devices onto an AyrMesh network. It is very similar to our AyrMesh Hub, but with a couple of important differences:

  1. The AyrMesh Receiver connects to the Hub’s WiFi signal, not the wireless mesh signal.
  2. The AyrMesh Receiver does not create its own WiFi access point – it is a client device only
  3. The AyrMesh Receiver uses a directional antenna for maximum range – it can be positioned up to 2 miles away from an AyrMesh Hub (optimal conditions).

Typical uses for the AyrMesh Receiver include:

  1. Using high-end IP cameras or other network devices that do not have WiFi
  2. Bringing the AyrMesh network inside of metal buildings – an AyrMesh Receiver can be placed on the outside of the building and devices inside can be connected to the LAN port of the receiver. You can even put a WiFi access point inside the building so you have WiFi indoors as well as outdoors.
  3. Connecting devices like network-enabled weather stations in more distant fields – since the AyrMesh Receiver can be up to 2 miles from your furthest Hub, you can now include areas in your network that were previously unreachable.

The AyrMesh Receiver is available now from Ayrstone – please see our website for details.

Farmer working on laptop

Wireless Farm Networking: what and why

A few years ago, we identified a real need in the agricultural market for more robust, internet-connected farm networks. This was driven by our work in precision agriculture; what we saw was that there was a glut of usable data that could be helping growers make better (and more profitable) decisions, but that data was mostly trapped on personal computers and in-cab monitors.

As we looked at this situation, we realized there were two equally important needs which were interrelated: the first is a comprehensive platform for turning all this raw data into actionable information, and the second was a facility for collecting the data and putting it to use. But there’s a “chicken and egg” problem here: if you don’t have the data, you can’t turn it into information, but there’s no good way to collect and use the data currently.

AyrMesh Hub

The AyrMesh Hub

So we decided to tackle the second problem: create an “Enterprise Network” for farmers and ranchers, so they could collect data from their farm operations effortlessly and use that data to make more informed decisions. We realized, of course, that a typical network was not going to work for the farm: everything is very far apart, so laying cable (or even fiber) is generally not a workable solution. Besides, the network should ideally encompass the tractors, sprayers, and harvesters out working in the fields, so wireless is the only option. This was the impetus that gave birth to the original AyrMesh Hub.

The idea was fairly simple: take some of the ideas used in the “Roofnet” project at M.I.T. and adapt them to building a low-cost wireless mesh network for farm use. The key requirements were:

  1. Use WiFi – other, proprietary mesh networks had been tried, but they require a wireless “client” device for anything you want to put on the network. Lots of things have WiFi today – it’s an easy, familiar, open technology
  2. Design the system for a farm – provide good bandwidth to relatively few “clients” spread over a very wide area. Most WiFi devices in the market today are designed for exactly the opposite: a metropolitan mesh network, where you have many people in a very small area and high bandwidth demands.

What we have seen is that, like all technologies, there is an adoption curve. The first step is the desire to use one’s Internet connection beyond the confines of the house. Especially with the advent of smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad, the ability to have instant information and communications everywhere you go on the farm can be a reality, even if cellular data is not available everywhere on your farm.

IP Camera

A WiFi Camera

The second step is connecting sensors to the network to “keep an eye out” on your farm. The most popular and demanded sensor, of course, is the IP camera. The ability to bring up a view of an area of your farm, whether to see the settings on the grain dryer, keep an eye on livestock (especially in the middle of the night), or as the basis for a security system, cameras seem to have a place on every farm. But, moving forward, putting network-connected environmental sensors in livestock buildings and distant fields can bring terrific pro

weather_station

A Weather Station at the edge of a field

ductivity gains. Knowing the temperature and humidity in your livestock barns can help optimize your HVAC usage, while knowing the wind and rainfall in a distant field can save a trip if it’s too windy or too wet to work.

Tractor cab

Lots of data here…

In addition, some of the precision agriculture vendors are starting to put WiFi into their in-cab monitors, so you can access the data on those monitors over the network instead of having to move cards or USB sticks around. Being able to access your “as applied” and harvest data allows you (or your agronomist) to much more easily determine your variable rate applications as you go through the season, potentially cutting your costs and maximizing your yield.

WebRelay

Network-controlled relay, courtesy controlbyweb.com

The third step is farm control: being able to actually get things done on the farm over the network. Grain dryers, pumps, irrigation systems, HVAC systems, and other equipment could be controlled over the network. This means that you can potentially control your grain dryer from the bedroom, or even while you’re running errands in town, since your network is connected to the Internet.

What we learned in the 1990s and 2000s when networks were becoming ubiquitous in the corporate world is that the presence of the network creates opportunities to improve the business in unexpected ways. We don’t pretend to know what all the uses are for a wireless farm network, but we’re very excited to see what they are. We’re here at the very beginning of farm networking, and the future is limitless.