Gotenna mesh replaceable battery?


#1

Will the next gotenna mesh design have a replaceable battery?


#2

No, that is not on the roadmap currently. Thanks for asking :slight_smile:


#3

A replaceable battery is generally another way for water to get in. The present design does a pretty good job of being watertight, if not officially submersible.

It would likewise tend to weaken the case. The current design is pretty tough and you wouldn’t want weaker IMO.

I’ve not had problems with the GTM keeping up with the various cell devices I use with it as terminals. It outlasts them all, so as long as you plug it in when you do the same with your cell.

I don’t see much of a use case for a replaceable battery and several drawbacks to it in a device with this form factor.


#4

To be honest I think it’s their biggest mistake in the design. So much so that I’m not sure I can continue supporting them. Batteries eventually die making my investment in 10 units a poor one. I have three repeaters setup in the Philadelphia area and one in my house. Once these batteries die or become very weak I will need to buy all new ones to support the network. This is not a sustainable model.


#5

It’s a good quality LiPo and should have an extended life. I’d guesstimate it in terms of years, say 4 or 5. The entire device is in the area of $80, so maybe $20 a year if just on battery life alone.

Then there’s progress. Firmware updates take you only so far into the future. As a node farmer myself, I’m very much looking forward to the power switch that allows the device to resume to the state it was in when the power went off. That will require a hardware revision in the next version of the GTM to accomplish. Yep, it will require new devices - and I will be happy to pay for all those avoided trips to the roof, plus whatever else gets onto the roof by then.

I already have old devices with new batteries installed in them. They’re called iPhones. My wife wouldn’t put up with that, thus my source for new/used iPhones for mesh terminals.


#6

I’m with you on the need for new hardware features and I would not have a problem buying them. My problem is that, (to use your math $80 x 10 units = $800) is a lot of money to have to spend every few years to keep my existing mesh network up. I have nodes in harsh environments (my attic) that will see very high heat in the summer and very cold temps in the winter. This will no doubt reduce the battery life. All of my nodes (relays) are plugged in 100% of the time. I’m not sure how that will affect battery life. In a good hospitable environment the battery may get 4-5 years but in harsh environments it will be less. That is going to make growing the network difficult. They need to have plans to either make a “repeater” model that can have a replaceable battery or external power source. Something that those of us who want to grow the network can continue to maintain for the next 10 to 15 years. If the batteries die every 5 years I’d need to spend $2400 to keep my network up for the next 15 years. If I could replace the batteries it would be a fraction of that cost and I could use that money to expand my network to more nodes.


#7

@wvs That is a good point. It is one reason why I quit buying Tile Mate until they came out with the replaceable battery version. We got to the point where we had almost 10 Tile Mates. When the batteries ran out I ended up having to decide which Tile Mates were important enough to keep attached and which were not. We ended up abandoning a lot of the Mates. I’m currently testing the new ones with replaceable batteries and may end up mating a few more devices but probably not to the extent I had before.

And every stationary repeater I’ve farmed out (5 nodes at this point) is sheltered in place so they are not exposed to weather elements except for the heat/cold for the two in my attic. One is in a garage but it is at an auto detailing business so it has climate control. So for the stationary relay mesh units I don’t need the weather resistant packaging as opposed to the one on my hiking backpack that does need it.

I do hope the batteries in our current mesh units do survive. I’m hoping to repurpose them to friends when the next hardware version comes out and swap out my relays.


#8

So? what does “This topic will automatically close in 7 hours” mean?


#9

I don’t know but the countdown is down to 6 hours now.


#10

Lots of different things affect battery life. Not sure I’d trust my math, it’s just a guesstimate. It’s hard to really test this except in real life. Lots of variables, with time itself being difficult to simulate. Often, LiPo life is cited in the number of charge cycles, but this tends to be from those using them to power RC stuff who tend towards deep discharges. In the goTenna Mesh, it’s the more friendly partial discharge that’s usually the case, especially in stationary nodes. Against them are the twin factors of heat and cold. Time will tell how big a factor this is. Poking around with search and I find references to 10 year battery life in lightly used applications that would be similar to the goTenna.

If the basic board didn’t change much, I could see them offering to buy them back and remanufacture them. But I think it’s more prudent to expect improvements that would make that unfeasible, because getting stuck in the past with technology is a good path to obsolescence. If the life cycle is about the 3 to 5 years I suspect, then 3 years is rather comparable to the life cycle of cell phones, while a 5 year life is rather long in tooth and probably needs replacing for reasons other than the battery.

While I understand your thinking in saying that it’s the batteries dying that will cause replacement, there are other reasons to also roll into that cost factor, unless one assumes the design is frozen in time, which I don’t think the GTM will be – or at least I hope not.

Rather than a replaceable battery, I could see another port for power that bypasses the charge circuit and allows stationary nodes to be powered that way.


#11

Several ways to skin a cat. :smiley:

10 years would be nice for total battery life. I do agree there is something to upgrading to new versions of tech there are also a lot of people that can still make use of the last generation or two. It is the upgrade path that enables me to have 4 mesh units attached to Android phones that are out of support but otherwise still can serve a purpose. Eventually they too will enter the electronic recycling container when they are obsolete. But until then people can test their gotennas with my mesh units scattered about.

Countdown is down to 5 hours.


#12

I’d be happy with an external power connection. (Assuming a shorted battery would not render the unit unusable). I get that phones are on a technology renewal cycle but this is the mesh infrastructure we are trying to keep up and running (i.e. the “cell towers” of our network). I know that not all mesh units over time will be able to support the new features but the basic relay function is critical to keeping the mesh network viable.

I look at it this way, I’m willing to put my time and money into this effort to make the mesh a reality. But there is a limit to how much money I can afford. I need my investment to last more than a few years. goTenna also needs to show that they are willing to build the network. I’d like to see them build / install relays in major areas as an anchor point. Maybe their Ambassador program is doing this?

Also I’m not sure why this topic will close in 3 hours? Seems a bit like big brother shutting it down?


#13

We need a mesh forum :wink:


#14

Yes, the Ambassador Cities program is about encouraging networks to grow. While goTenna plays a vital role, they are leaving the actual work of building the networks to George (in Seattle) and me (in Urbana.) Maybe you can call it a cooperative experiment? I think we all know there’s no single best way to do this; every community and project organization is different. We need to be realistic about what’s possible. Loosely affiliated, all together we’re not AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or any other megacorp. There’s a small, but smart and determined company and there are community activists, working together to take some functional technology and put it in the hands of people who also realize it’s potential. We the public are actually just at the starting gate after the great folks at goTenna got this going. I know in a world dominated by Apple, etc, one’s expectations of what’s possible can get optimistic about what can be done in a short time. The Ambassador Cities initiative will tell us all a lot about how long it takes to build this infrastructure of mesh. It can be done, but only if we take responsibility for us. goTenna builds a good product and it’s getting better, but I don’t think they want to be a network company, which would be quite a tangent from what they do now.

IIRC it’s been a topic before and they have good reasons why the battery isn’t replaceable. I have several more I can think of. I think the discussion (which I perhaps inadvertently encouraged) went somewhere else to bigger issues. Technology has a way of both freeing us and locking us into shortsighted determinism at the same time. It can sound simple, like a replaceable battery, but once you start looking at details, it’s not just that as an issue because tech change is rooted in social relationships. One person’s battery hatch is another’s engineering nightmare between waterproofing, what to do about maintaining power when the battery dies or is changed, etc. An endless chain of tradeoffs, when it’s succinct to just say “we’re sticking with the battery as it is.” I can live with that,


#15

MikeL

The units are not waterproof to start with so I don’t see an issue with a battery door that is also not waterproof? Most stationary relays are plugged in making them even less water resistance / proof. The issue is I’m going to have 10 goTennas units that will just get thrown away when the battery dies. Without a way to keep these units running I don’t see how they (we) are going to build a network? The problem only gets worse with the more nodes you have. Without a replaceable battery or external power source we are forced to buy new hardware. That mind set is not going to be sustainable. At this point I’m not buying any more until there is a way to keep them running. If Sonnet ever gets their act together they will be a very tough competitor to deal with. The install base was one of the major reasons I went with goTenna. But I’m finding out that the mesh map is a bit misleading. How do we know that goTenna didn’t just add nodes to the map to make it look like its being used everywhere? I see very little real activity in Philadelphia and I have my contact info listed on my nodes.


#16

True, but a battery door would make them less waterproof, as well as making for a weaker case.

My stationary relays have had no issues with water intrusion, but goTenna never prmoised it was an ideal permanent device. That’s on us to figure out, part of the experimental stage we’re in now. If it’s too challenging a prospect, I can understand. But I think you’re imagining a very short life here, where I suspect it’s more than adequate. We’re well over a year into public use and there just hasn’t been much of an issue with battery life. I understand your concern, but it’s speculative, not data-driven.

I won’t belabor the point of obsolesence, butif the things are still working at age 4, I will be very satisfied. I’m not sure what experience you have with managing resources. I used to work in fleet management. Things wear out and get used up, it’s just a fact that something that old is already at the end of it’s life. I actually expect many to exceed that age and still work, but that’s not a warranty failure if it doesn’t stretch that far.

But let’s look at what is really the determining factor here and that is how early in the design process the decision on power source needs to be made and how it drives design decisions from that point forward. Imagine how unhappy you’d be if you had to reenter all the contacts, etc, if you pulled the old battery and lost all the data. That’s not going to happen, so necessitates a system to keep residual power to prevent data loss. A fancy cap of some sort, so rises costs and takes up space. The size of the battery also tends to determine overall device size. That also tends to shape the decision on what voltage is used where, etc.

So it’s not just a battery door, it’s almost a complete redesign to use replaceable batteries. The goTenna would be different in some ways most likely. Some might be good (no worries about the battery, other than making sure it’s always on enough to avoid data loss). Others might make it larger, less strong (and things I haven’t thought of, I’m sure.)

People find their stumbling blocks where it’s most comfortable. If you can’t walk around this one to get to a network, then that’s your choice to speculate it will be a problem. I tend to doubt that, simply because even if failure starts popping up after a few years, they all won’t go at once. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, if you build something complex, you have to continue investing in it if you expect it to continue giving good service. goTenna can’t suspend that rule of nature any more than any other tech company. I think it’s would be an unfair expectation to believe they can do that magic.

Finally, if you’re looking at costs here, you need to include the costs of replaceable batteries. It’s not insignificant and could be as much as the cost of the new device over its life or longer. Poof, there go any real savings. And it’s not just monetized costs. The environmental costs of replaceable batteries is considerably higher due to the many required and the battery chemistry involved. Then there are the avoided costs, that bill many get from the cell provider every month. That’s almost like money in your pocket and certainly goes a long way towards underwriting the costs of eventual end of life replacement, whatever the reason.


#17

My nodes (besides the ones at my house) are hosted at nearby local businesses (with the assumption they’ll keep the nodes up and powered and check on them) and I encouraged them to pair to their phones and test the mesh network and hit up my other nodes that are connected to Androids. 2 out of 3 haven’t attempted to test their mesh unit. I don’t know why. Is it mistrust even though I know both business owners personally? I gave them all the links to the gotenna Web sites. So I don’t know what the hesitation is.

Here in Indianapolis the only time I saw any shout activity was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500. I think shout being limited to one hop is part of the lack of activity. I get why they have a one hop shout. But I think there would be more activity on a multi-hop shout. I don’t know about Philly but here in Indy one hop doesn’t travel far. The best has been 0.7 miles before I need to depend on a relay. Maybe in the flat, open wide plains one can get good distance but urban life has too many line of sight issues.

I’m going to be giving a presentation to our neighborhood association at the November meeting (not an HOA) on gotenna and hopefully a live demo if nothing goes wrong. I have 3 mesh devices I’m willing to part with if people will commit to keeping them powered. I’ll also re-iterate I’d like them to pair with their phones and test the network themselves. But I’m doubtful I’ll get takers or people pairing with their phones.


#18

There’s no reason these devices couldn’t last 10 to 15 years. We are talking about electronics. There’s nothing in them to wear out other that the batteries (maybe the caps dry up in 10 years?). No moving parts other that the power button which would not get used very much in a stationery relay node.

No doubt new software and hardware versions will make these current units obsolete but if the relay function still works in the old units then all the better for the network and product line, backward compatibility would be a huge plus. Gotenna is going to have more competition in the future. Having a large install base is a big selling point. Even if other companies like Sonnet promise more features (if it ever comes true) without a network of users it won’t have much value.

In any event I enjoy our discussions :+1:t2:


#19

Maybe. But they’re also computers. How many of us are using 10 to 15 yo computers? BTDT, but the things are creaky and prone to security issues. Hard to tell whether backwards compatibility will make this possible or not. I wouldn’t count on it, but I wouldn’t rule it out.


#20

Like the ones in my car? According to my dealer there are 4 computers in my Volvo. Granted only 8 years old right now but I sure do expect it to continue working for at least another 8.