Total Eclipse of IoT

Total eclipse of IoT

This Monday may have been the first eclipse in a while that the entire country was actually excited about! Everyone had eclipse fever, and our Sigfox team was no exception. Our Boston office was in the 65% solar coverage path, so they didn’t experience much impact of the eclipse besides all the people watching in Copley Square. But I live in Chicago, closer to the path of 85-90% solar coverage and the some of the best Sigfox network coverage in the country.

Sigfox is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) dedicated to Internet of Things connectivity. Sigfox network enables wireless devices to communicate with low power consumption, long range connectivity, and very low data rate transmissions. I joined Sigfox last year, and it’s been my role to discover and prove creative ways to help customers implement their IoT solutions using our network.

Sigfox network architecure

Like most days in my role as Field Sales Engineer, I woke up thinking,

“What can I do today to make things come alive using Sigfox?”

I knew I’d experience the darkness first-hand, but I wanted to find out exactly how much the temperature was impacted by the nearly total eclipse of the sun.

A bright idea!

I began to think about a proof of concept we are currently deploying in a Kane County, IL soy bean field for an agriculture customer who wants to develop a real-time local weather database. Having highly accurate local weather, or a microclimate, data is especially valuable to specialty crop growers like vineyards, fruit, and nut growers because their crops are highly effected by temperature, humidity, and soil moisture. This real-time data will help them better prepare and care for their crops amid these environmental changes.

The device used in this proof of concept is an IoT evaluation kit from mcThings, called mcDemo205, includes a Sigfox certified radio, GPS, and UART interface which attaches to a peripheral weather station. We chose mcThings because mcScript, the language used to program their devices, offered a quick and easy method to program a Sigfox application and ensure longest battery life. The network that the data is communicating across is equally as important as the device in minimizing the battery consumption, which is why an LPWAN is required.

Temperature reading devices

The devices are attached to posts throughout the field and are spaced a half mile apart each, sending temperature updates every 30 minutes. In an area as spaced out as a farm and with messages being sent at this frequency, it’s important for the network to be able to reach a wide area and not require constant communication, which is where Sigfox is also the perfect solution. Armed with these devices currently deployed in a field that would be affected by the eclipse darkness, I turned to another Sigfox partner, Losant, a cloud service dashboard to track the temperature changes.
Temperature trend chart

And The Findings Are…

The eclipse fully delivered on my expectation of illustrating how local weather events can be tracked real-time by a smart sensor. As you see in the screenshot below, due to the eclipse, the temperature dropped 6-7 degrees Celsius (9-11 Fahrenheit)! The three lines represent three different devices deployed across the farm. The large dip in this graph gives an example of the impact weather events have on the temperature, but the difference in size of dip also represents how small differences in location can affect how drastic that impact is.

I can’t wait for the next eclipse in 2024! By then, Sigfox coverage along with weather and temperature sensors should deployed widely enough to map the full path of totality!