Tag Archives: ayrmesh

Providing Internet Coverage in Distant Fields

field

The AyrMesh network can stretch out a long ways – with the AyrMesh Bridge, Hubs, Cab Hubs, and Receivers, you can extend your network for miles and miles.

But, no matter what, it seems that there is always at least one field your AyrMesh Network won’t reach. I’ll show you what I do to provide WiFi coverage in distant fields.

When I am testing the AyrMesh components, I am usually working remotely. A little while ago I picked up a few things:

  • TP-Link router

    TP-Link router

    A TP-Link MR-3040 portable router

  • FreedomPop USB adapter

    USB cellular adapter

    A USB Cellular adapter (mine is from FreedomPop, because they provide good coverage where I work and are extremely inexpensive, but I also have a Verizon one I use in more remote areas)

  • A 20′ telescoping flagpole – these are available from lots of places; mine is from Harbor Freight Tools because it was inexpensive. There are better-quality poles (and longer ones) available.

The way I set it up is like this:

  • Power extender

    Power extender

    Inside the cab of my truck, I use a 2-way utility plug extender plugged into the “always on” utility plug.

  • Router plugged into USB power, with USB dongle

    Router plugged into USB power, with USB dongle

    I plug a USB charger unit into one of the plugs. The router runs off USB power, so it plugs right into the charger, and the USB cellular “dongle” plugs into the router.

  • Inverter, Hub power supply, and Ethernet cables

    Inverter, Hub power supply, and Ethernet cables

    I then plug a small inverter into the other power plug, and plug the Hub’s power supply into the inverter. I run a short Ethernet cable from the “LAN” port on the Hub’s power supply to the Ethernet port on the router, and plug a 30′ Ethernet cable into the “PoE” port of the power supply

  • I then run the long (orange) Ethernet cable out through the side window of my truck so it can be connected to the Hub.

    ethernet_cable

    Ethernet Cable

  • Flagpole stand

    Flagpole stand

    I built a mount for the back of my pickup, using a piece of steel, a length of PVC pipe, and a couple of hose clamps. Some people also use a “drive on” flagpole stand, or a hitch receiver flagpole stand.

  • I mount the Hub on the flagpole with a zip-tie, and connect the long Ethernet cable to the Hub.
  • Hub mounted on pole

    Hub mounted on pole

    After making sure the Hub is on and connected to the Internet, I push the mast up to maximize the range of the Hub.

Pole extended, ready for use.

Pole extended, ready for use.

I can then set up a Cab Hub in a vehicle and use the Internet while I’m working, up to 2.5 miles from my truck.

This setup is not perfect for use on very windy days, because the flagpoles can move around and reduce the effectiveness of the Hub.

The other caveat is that you’ll want to locate the Hub at a high location so it receives a good cellular signal and maximizes the Hub’s WiFi signal. This only works well if you have a place with good cellular coverage and good “line of sight” to your fields.

Recently I have swapped out the power inverter and power supply for a power plug and a “passive PoE injector,” which actually makes the setup a little simpler. I also have a Verizon USB “dongle” that I sometimes use when I’m testing.

Setup with PoE injector and Verizon dongle

Setup with PoE injector and Verizon dongle

This setup is frequently very handy for me, and it can be very useful for you to use in remote fields. You lose the advantages of being connected to your “home” network (being able to browse files on your local machines or print to networked printers), but you should have good Internet connectivity for collecting data to the “cloud,” browsing the Internet, checking email, etc.

 

 

Introducing the AyrMesh Bridge

AyrMesh BridgeToday we are pleased to announce the availability of the AyrMesh Bridge.

The AyrMesh Bridge is a simple, wireless, point-to-point bridge. It serves a single purpose – to connect a distant device to your local network – a 5-mile long wireless Ethernet cable.

Wireless bridges have been around for a long time, and we had initially rejected the idea of adding a wireless bridge to the AyrMesh product line. If you have the Hubs and Receivers, why do you need a Bridge?

AyrMesh Bridge mounted

Testing in California

However, several customers have come to us in the last year with the same problem: their Gateway Hubs are on top of their homes or offices, but they would be better placed on top of a grain leg or another building with a better “view” of the surrounding fields.

In these cases, it would be possible to use one Hub near their routers to feed a Hub on the high location, but that would limit the ultimate range of the AyrMesh network (because we recommend only using up to three “hops” across Hubs).

The truth is that there are a lot of places the AyrMesh Bridge can be used:

  • Connecting an isolated outbuilding to your network (if you don’t want or need WiFi – if you want or need outdoor WiFi, of course, the Hub and a Receiver is a better solution)
  • Connecting a non-WiFi device that is more than 2 miles from a Hub or Receiver
  • Any other situation where you think “I wish I had an Ethernet cable that long.”

We are using a special radio signal for the AyrMesh Bridge to maximize the range. It is a narrow-band 5 GHz. signal, which is hidden and fully encrypted. Although it uses the 5 GHz WiFi band, it does not register with any WiFi equipment because it is a narrow-band signal. This minimizes interference with 5 GHz. WiFi  signals, but does not completely eliminate it. If you are using 5 GHz WiFi equipment (802.11a, ac, or dual-band n), you’ll want to use different channels for your AyrMesh Bridge than your WiFi equipment.

Contents_1200wide

Contents of the AyrMesh Bridge package

The AyrMesh Bridge comes complete with two radios (one for each end of the Bridge), power supplies, and 10′ Ethernet cables. Like all Ayrstone AyrMesh products, each radio is initialized by plugging it into your router until it shows up on AyrMesh.com, then it can be installed.

Like all AyrMesh devices, the Bridge radios are controlled by AyrMesh.com, ayrmeshas shown here. There is only one control for the Bridge – the 5 GHz. channel can be set to 149 (the default), 153, 157 (as shown here), 161, or 165. Note that these are distinct channels; unlike the 2.4 GHz. WiFi channels they do not overlap.

The AyrMesh Bridge is the simplest way to connect a device to your network at a considerable distance. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments about it.

 

 

IP Cameras on the Farm: Part 1

Security_camMany people start building an AyrMesh network on their property to provide Internet access across their acreage. However, having an Internet Protocol (IP) network across your property gives you the opportunity to connect devices on the property to help you be more productive, more efficient, safer, and happier.

When I ask people what else they’d like to do with their AyrMesh Network, the first thing that usually comes up is cameras – the ability to see their property remotely.

There are two distinct reasons for putting cameras on your property: the first is what I call “situational awareness” – being able to bring up a view of some part of your farm any time you want. The second is for security – automatically monitoring some view of your property and alerting you when something happens.

pigletsIf you have animals on the farm, you probably worry about them – especially if your livelihood is tied up in them. One of the most common uses for cameras on the farm is to be able to check on the animals, whether it’s just so the kids can see the horses when you’re away or if you need to check on farrowing sows, calving cows, or foaling mares to protect your investment.

drivewayA lot of people also just want to be able to view some part of the property, like the driveway or the kid’s play area, so they can know what’s going on any time. Sometimes these cameras may be dual-purpose, serving both a security function and for situational awareness.

tablet-with-drivewayPutting a camera on your property gives you a “view” – you get the IP address of the camera from your router and you can bring up that view from anywhere on your property. Then you can do what’s called a “port forward” on your router to make your camera viewable from the Internet, wherever you may be. For instance, I always forward port 9001 to a camera in my living room. I can look at my public IP address on AyrMesh.com and find that it’s 99.100.101.102 (it’s not, but let’s pretend…), so I just need to point a browser to http://99.100.101.102:9001 and log into my camera (note: you HAVE to have a good, strong password on your camera).

Next we’ll talk a little about the different kinds of IP cameras and the tradeoffs and compromises you can make – see part 2 here.

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

Using the Internet on the Farm

Multitasking at a FarmIt seems almost impossible now, but it wasn’t very many years ago that the typical farmer would have laughed if you said that he’ll need Internet access everywhere on the farm. The benefit of surfing websites (when they were just static information pages with pictures) was unclear, but the idea of carrying around a computer in your truck, tractor, sprayer, or combine was patently absurd. The dust, temperatures, and vibration were far too much for the computers of the time.

But then came the Blackberry, and everyone discovered the convenience of getting email on-the-go. So everyone realized they needed a Blackberry and constant access to email – why would you need anything else?

But the web grew up. More and more information was either available exclusively on the web, or was at least a lot more convenient to get on the web. Furthermore, it became about more than just getting information: you could increasingly actually DO things on the web – ordering parts and supplies, keeping records, planning, and even marketing. But laptops have never been practical on the farm: keyboards are too easily gummed up with dust, screens on hinges are too fragile, and they just take up too much space.

Then another device came along: the iPad. I have joked that EVERY farmer in America got an iPad for Christmas last year, and tablet computers like the iPad seem like they were made for farming. Adam Gittins has written an excellent blog post about the use of tablet computers in agriculture – the bottom line, though is that they are durable, easy to carry, and provide an excellent platform for using web applications.

Of course, they need to be connected to the Internet to be useful. Almost all the tablets on the market are available with some sort of cellular modem that allows them to access the Internet, but fast cellular data signals (“4G”) are rare in the rural U.S., and there are a lot of areas with only very slow or no cellular Internet access. Furthermore, a cellular modem does not provide you access to your Local Area Network (LAN) the way the AyrMesh network does. Finally, of course, the cellular options in the tablets cost extra, and the cellular companies like to charge quite a bit per month for Internet access.

Using the AyrMesh system, you can have fast WiFi access all over your farm, with access to your LAN for accessing the data sources and control mechanisms on your farm, and it makes your tablets and smartphones just that much more valuable.

AyrMesh for Precision Ag – collecting precision data from cab monitors

Tractor cab

Lots of data here…

Both of the founders of Ayrstone Productivity have backgrounds in precision agriculture, and one of the motivations we had in starting Ayrstone was to help growers access and use the data generated by all those in-cab monitors by giving them a way to capture all that data wirelessly. The information on those computers is a potential goldmine if you can use it quickly and easily to make smarter decisions about your operation.

When we were doing research about data collection, however, we learned that the vast majority of growers just left the CF cards in the cab monitors all season, because it was just too much bother to pull out the card, bring it in, out it on the computer, dump the data, store it (so you can find it again), and then remember to take it back out and put it back in the monitor before you go out to work again. Some vendors were starting to put cellular modems into their cab computers, but they are expensive in the first place and carry a pretty hefty monthly service fee with them. Furthermore, there are pretty substantial chunks of rural America without good cellular data service (which is usually separate from the voice service signal).

We proposed that a mesh WiFi network (like the AyrMesh network) could be a much more effective way to collect that data so it can be used for decision support. It can be extended wherever it needs to go for data collection, it doesn’t carry a monthly charge, and a WiFi adapter, even a high-power outdoor one, is much less expensive than a cellular modem.

Adam Gittins of HTSag has an interesting and thought-provoking blog post about collecting harvest data off his AgLeader console with the new AgFinity WiFi adapter. He is even able to see his harvest results when he’s not on the combine!

Thank you to Adam Gittins for this image

Great post on “Precision Ag Explained”

Not really Adam - just a picture I thought was funny.

Not really Adam – just a picture I thought was funny.

Adam Gittins of HTS Ag got an AyrMesh Hub2n a few weeks back, and he has published a great post about it on the outstanding blog “Precision Ag Explained.” The post helps explain how Wireless Farm Networking is going to drive better and more efficient farm operations in his view.

Here’s hoping we can see a lot more from him in the future – we really appreciate having someone of his experience and expertise writing about Ayrstone.

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.