Sonnet Devices BETA


#1

Hi All,

I Have been following mesh networking for a very long time, and when I saw the Sonnet devices I couldn’t resist ordering a few of them, they promise a lot.
Hence I didn’t get a goTenna…
Now its been over a year since I ordered them, and I have been selected for second stage Beta testing, (My plan is using them for remote monitoring - and as a pseudo phone network)
And I have finally received three units for testing, so the Sonnet is a real device!

However.
The units came with no documentation, and no email about the Beta Program.
Also I cannot actually access the devices, as they are password protected (which they aren’t supposed to be initially).
I am still waiting to hear back from the team, but I will try to keep people updated on the Sonnets as I work with them more.


#2

Very cool! let me know how they work out. I have three on order to play around with and test. They make a lot of promises, so it will be nice to see what they can deliver on. I was hoping goTenna and Sonnet would get together and work out a way to connect. I reached out to Sonnet and they said they would be open to the idea but I really didn’t get much feedback from goTenna.

I think the next big winner of this “mesh space” will be the companies who can join together and leverage the strengths of each company and their devices. I like goTenna because they have a large user base and people are putting up relay nodes for others to use. I have three relays up in Philadelphia.


#3

I’ve ordered five devices and am eagerly waiting for them to start shipping them in January. The weekly updates are quite helpful in showcasing the challenges they faced during the design phase. Its nice to hear that they are actually in the second run of beta testing and look to be finishing up the project shortly.

A cross platform protocol would be ideal. Sonnets with their 2 watts of transmitting power and external antenna connector would be perfect for the distributed relays while using gotenna meshes as the day to day always on your person access to the network.


#4

They are great with their updates, and having talked to some of the developers they are very interested in what people are planning on using them for, all the different applications for them!

I agree, cross platform would be amazing, for what I’m doing I’ll probably stay with one system, especially since I will be working off the back of the Sonnets for my system!

So my update - it’s a little one -
I got an email back from the team, I got into the devices, and started updating the firmware for the mesh and the system.

The update process is a little buggy, but workable, although I’m not 100% sure if they took the updates - the system is failing to display the version info, but it was before the update, so I’m assuming that it worked.

It took me an hour or two to update all three units, one had a few disagreements with me, but I won in the end with a factory reset.

I have them set to the frequency I will be using (it is very easy to set frequency and power) and ready to deploy one as a repeater on a well situated hill, one as the base unit and the third will be a rover.
The fixed position units will have external antennas.
The rover will be in a light vehicle or in a light aircraft, depending what I’m doing on the day.

From what I’ve found so far, the power saving features are very frustrating, it would be great if there was a way to set them to perpetually on - for base/fixed/repeater units. The units tend to drop off the mesh if there is inactivity.
I found that my phone’s performance was an issue with accessing the web app.
At this stage I don’t have access to the analytics but will see what testing I can do tomorrow or in the coming days.


#5

jak47

Thank you the update! I expect these to be a bit buggy a first. Sonnet seems to be working hard at getting these to market and giving updates every Friday. I’d expect them to continue Beta testing and working with their customers once fully released and after. if you have time could you post a few photos of the device and some screen shots?

I found the best place to get updated information is on their twitter - https://twitter.com/sonnetlabs?lang=en


#6

So I’ve had a quick chance to set up a unit about 2.8km away as a repeater, it is in a higher location than my home unit, so I’m hoping that it will be a good hop for further distances. It will also be good for some testing.
If you can see it - there is a white building in the distance, that is the vicinity of the base station.


The smaller antenna on the rear of the vehicle is the 433 MHz, the larger is an unused 477 MHz


There is a 180W pannel on the roof connected to an old charge controller, its had a hard life, but being connected to the dual battery system I think I should have no issues with maintaining power to the unit.

It wasn’t showing other devices on the network and without another person to refresh the device at home I wasn’t able to check if it was actually connected. It would be great if I could ping the unit.


While setting it up I had another unit with me to test some messaging, it worked, but my phone was having issues with the connection (iphone 8 - and an iPad - which didn’t seem to have any problems)

The base unit

Just showing the page up on my computer, the sonnet is connected to the USB on the router to make sure it always has power.

Looking in the direction of the repeater unit.
The 433 MHz antenna is the small one by itself
The satellite dish on the right is for TV
The large antenna is a 477 MHz
The satellite dish on the left is for internet

If there are any more screenshots you would like I can do so!

Just tried messaging between two units, the home unit and the rover.
Distance is around 250m
And it is not working.
Will work on this.


#7

Very interesting results. its nice to see the unit being tested in the wild. That looks like the Australian outback so I’m sure you’ll get lots of good use out there with it.

Would you mind throwing a set of calipers on it to get the exterior dimensions. I want so see if i can 3D print some accessories for it before they arrive next year. These are what I’ve been working on but without full dimensions I’m kinda stuck.

When I contacted Sonnet previously, they mentioned 16 hops as being their goal, any word on how many hops they currently have?


#8

Yeah that’s the Australian outback :slight_smile:
It means I have plenty of room to test, low interference and no security issues!

In regards to hops, I have no idea how they are going with that.

I’m struggling at the moment with getting more than 30m which is immensely disappointing.
I’m seeing if i can force a reload of the firmware on both the mesh, and the system side, using a PC is more stable than any mobile devices.
What I’m getting is one device is able to send, the other receives but then cannot respond.
On the 433 MHz you cannot use the internal antenna, and I think one of the issues I’m having is that it is not actually using the external antenna.
I have changed to 915 MHz to try with the internal antenna, but have had no success, I will try 868 MHz as well.
I have dropped the transmit power from 2 W down to the 1 W to see if I might be asking a bit much of it.
Really not enjoying having no device to ping up on the hill, I should probably get a pi/see if anyone has set one up as an auto respond.

For your photos! I had to open up a unit that was having some issues to physically disconnect the battery so I have attached some internal dimensions as well!


#9

While letting the unit that I opened cool down for a while I went to my remote set up to bring that unit home to test it for the shorter ranges, as well as check if it could communicate the 2.8 km.

It couldn’t reach the home unit.
As I drove home I tried again several times to connect to the home unit, from varying distances. (1km, 500m, 200m, 100m, 50m, 20m)

I managed to establish a connection 20 m away from the home unit, and was able to transmit text messages between the two, for approximately 100 m then the connection was lost.

This was on 433 MHz at 2.0 W power using external antennas.

When I got back I started work on the problem unit, it’s not really playing the game, I can connect to the WiFi it creates but cannot log in or even access the device web app.

My current plans are, if it somehow comes good, is to try the 868 MHz using internal antenna at the lowest power (0.5 W) and work my way up from there, and I may attempt to use it as a proper Mesh and hop the signal, (provided the problem unit works)

The short summary:

  • 433MHz is external antenna only

  • External antenna appears to make no difference

  • Range is limited to 100/150m maximum

Plans are

  • Try 868MHz on internal antenna

  • Attempt a hop

  • Have a beer because I’ve been working on this for the last 8 or so hours with no success


#10

As a note for anyone reading, I’m completely open to suggestions and requests, I will see what I can do to to facilitate requests, I started this post as from everything I had seen so far (in posts here) on the Sonnets was not very positive, and I am trying to be as transparent and as informative as I can be.

If anyone has suggestions as to how I should format my posts, or how I can better provide data/information in regards to tests and results, please let me know!

Cheers


#11

Is the external antenna your using tuned for 433mhz? Do you have a antenna analyzer to check the sweet spot (lowest swr) of the antenna? I wonder if the body of the Sonnet is not large enough to create a good counterpoise for the 433 MHz antenna. Not sure if you have seen “tiger tails” or “rat tails” used with HT’s but it s a wire cut to proper length which essentially makes up the other half of the antenna.

It’s good to see the battery has a connector and that it’s 3.7 volts. This should make using 18650 batteries easy.

Thank you for all of the hard work! It is very much appreciated


#12

Yes the antennas I have are 433MHz tuned, although I have no way of analysing this! Probably that, and a signal meter would be worthy investments.
I have seen the pigtails used in 433 projects like Fpv, and pi remote systems. If you can see in the photos of the CB the connector for the internal antenna looks half decent for switching out there internal antenna. (If not I can take a better photo of it)

I wonder what other people testing the units have found in terms of performance, as well as the frequencies they have used.
I had no luck with my problem unit, it is still un-responsive, maybe the night off will let it settle (it’s been a problem since I got the units)

My thoughts were that the antennas I had were not as accurately tuned as I had hoped, hence wanting to test outer frequencies.
But even if the tune was out by a bit, this certainly is not the reduction or lack of performance we should be seeing. (Garage doors operate on 433 and I’ve seen them work at greater distances than this!)

So far I have wifi that has better performance than the units, with one system that is working out to 300m using a 12db gain antenna -R7000 running open WRT


#13

I think the best thing to do right now is work with only the internal antennas. I’ve been looking at the IOT antennas on amazon and they don’t seem to have a very accurate impedance so without an analyser it’ll be pretty difficult to confirm a working external antenna. I think Sonnet mentioned they were getting about 1.2miles with the internal antenna. As they are from Toronto they would have set their unit for the 915mhz band.

My suggestion is to set the units at 915mhz, and 1 watt. Orientate the Sonnet so the 1/4-20 tripod mounting insert is on the bottom. This is very important to have the internal antenna correctly polarized. Leave on unit outside your home (or on top of your truck, not inside) and start walking away from it. every 10 metres or so, send your current distance to the stationary unit over the sonnet network. Use a gps to see how far away you are from the receiving unit for each message.


#14

Thanks Brian, Sounds like a solid plan, and good methodology!
For the distance measuring I could always send through screenshots of a GPS app (not the most accurate but close enough for the purpose)

wvs - Just had a quick look for rf spectrum analyzers, will probably be a worthy investment, cost a reasonable amount, but will need to do some research into the quality of them.


#15

Nice Land Cruiser! I have a few pics of my 80 in this thread:
https://meshcommunity.gotenna.com/t/urbana-illinois-now-a-gotenna-mesh-ambassador-city/1660

Was just vacuuming (a Dyson, thank you very much!) - I do some of my best thinking when vacuuming or showering for some reason - and thinking about your lack of success in getting a signal between your base and your mobile unit. Then I had an ah-ha moment.

I was recently doing some research on solar charge controllers, as I just acquired a couple. It noted Australia’s leading role in development of these little wonders, like MPPT charge controls on a chip we now have at very reasonable cost. It was noted that some versions do the conversion DC-AC-DC in such a way as to effectively become a tiny transmitter, so this required development of shielding techniques.

I wonder if trying shutting down the very-well used charge controller of your panel and running things on battery alone while testing might be worth a try? Just throwing that out as a possibility creating interference of some kind, if this is what you’re doing range testing with. If it makes no difference, then you’ve ruled it out as an issue. If things seem better, then it’s well worth the trouble to have checked if this seems to fit the situation you’re encountering. Just a hunch and they don’t always pan out.

Of course, could also have one bum unit on your hands. Antenna connectors can often be an issue. I’d check that, since you’re able to open things up, if only because it’s usually one of the few solder joints in a device that’s still big enough to inspect with the naked eye. But it’s also the most likely one to fail due to a physical reason.
Good luck.


#16

I like the cruiser!
And I really like the boxes that you have made up for deployment, it’s much like what I want to do, of course I will be looking at keeping the units cool! my ambient temperatures have been hitting 45C (113F) overnight temps of 30C (86F) which has been really nice :confused:

Vehicle mounted units will be used here for maintaining communications to vehicles, and I will probably use the existing towers I have all around the station (old windmills - we have switched to all solar pumps) which are around 30 ft tall (Which gives me LOS over the trees).
Being spaced around 15-20 km from each other (10 miles) with a few strategic repeater/bridging nodes/towers on high points like hills, will give me a very good network. I would like to be able to put up a map of the proposed network, or when I have it up and running it will be a great test case for an alternate phone/comms network - the area it might be able to cover is in the vicinity of 1500 sq miles - but not to 100% naturally (big ask, big project!)

Your point about the charge controller being leaky is very valid! It is something I had not taken into consideration, and should be aware of in future testing!

Another thought I had was if the units are powered up without an antenna connected (and set to use the external) that it could damage the radio component (I know this is the case with CB radios (here 476-477MHz) not so much in modern radios, but it is still a factor to consider as it could significantly impact the quality of transmission and receiving

I will follow the directions of the team about opening and inspecting any more of the units, probably check out software/firmware issues to begin with. They are extremely helpful, and I hope to post up some successes soon!
And thank you all so much for your help and suggestions!


#17

sounds like the next thing the sonnets need is a white cover to keep them shaded from the southern sun or a Stevenson screen.


#18

I have a buddy who sold a 60 then bought an 80 once he found one. The 80 is a bit plush for my tastes, to be honest. I owned a 76 FJ55 for 8 years back in the day.

The cases come with a black foam that I shape just enough to provide snuggle room. I leave the foam in place otherwise. I figure it better resists ambient solar heating than air by itself would. It’s not Australia hot here, but pretty close up on the roof where most of our local nodes reside. They did OK last summer, so it seems to work out along with painting things white. A mount on a tower would be a bit cooler than on a roof, so that should help you beat the heat.

Hard to say it’s an issue without a return match and pulling the plug on it for an A-B comparison, but if others were having a relatively successful test as far as range goes, and you weren’t, seems it may have been a factor. Even if not on a nearby freq, nearfield effects can cause all sorts of images, etc.


#19

The Stevenson screens appeal for the lack of having anything mechanical/motorized, a fan would chop out too quickly to be useful. The dust is the killer, the screen, being low movement would be good, especially with a medium like a ducted air-conditioning filter. (If the dust was going to be a big issue)
And on a tower would look pretty cool!

On the vacuum cleaner discussion that Mike brought up, I use to have a Dyson v6 cordless, its internals got destroyed by the very fine dust- it lasted about 6 months, so we now have a Karcher shop vac, with a bag and a replaceable filter. The dust does reap havoc on electronics, so it is good that the Sonnet has the circuit board protected to start with.

I’m down to two units (the problematic one is now just idle until we decide how to tackle it) so we are away from the solar charger for now, but will certainly be worth investigating.

I’ve been guided into accessing the devices via SSH and diagnostics are starting, so we are starting to make good progress.

It’s looking more to be a front end issue at the moment, and having a look around at the workings is quite exciting, my mind is already flowing with the potential capacity of these units. Looking like you wouldn’t need a separate device (pi - etc) for some IOT projects.