Solar-Powered Electronic Controller for Sensor Data Transmission.
A Bulgarian academic research team has developed a solar-powered electronic controller for sensor data transmission for applications that require independence of the electrical power grid. The team is looking to reach commercial agreements with technical assistance with interested companies for the implementation of the technology, license or technical cooperation agreements.
Type of organisations: companies and R&D organisations Field of operation: partners from the precision agriculture, smart farming, crop management and related fields; The partner is expected to: acquire the know-how accompanied by offering him the necessary technical support for its efficient use (in case of commercial agreement with technical assistance), implement the solution in his activity and pay a license fee or royalty as a reward (in case of license agreement), continue the technological development based on his specific existing technological capacity (in case of technical cooperation). It is also possible to conclude other types of contracts like research cooperation agreement depending on the interest of potential partner and negotiations’ outcome.
The Bulgarian research unit conducts R&D in off-grid applications, remote monitoring and control, encrypted communication, sensor data, etc. They have excellent experience in international collaboration and project implementation. The solar-powered electronic controller for sensor data transmission is developed for applications that require independence of the electrical power grid. The power supply is provided by two solar panels that store the solar energy in a supercapacitor. The supercapacitor replaces batteries, achieves better longevity, reliable operation, and is a green solution. The controller has RS-485, wireless LoRa( Long Range) connectivity, an integrated temperature sensor, a Real-Time-Clock (RTC) and expansion connectors. The electronic controller targets applications that do not provide any access to the commercial electrical power grid. For examples - smart agriculture, forest monitoring, husbandry, etc. Sometimes, the power grid is present, but there are legal problems to get actual power from it – e.g. outdoor measurements in smart cities. Relying on solar power and supercapacitors solve the issue. The controller was made by means of freely available programs for the design and manufacturing of printed circuit boards. The controller firmware requires no commercial compilers or programming environments. The design enables the relatively cheap manufacturing and assembly of the controller. Efficiency is achieved by using modern integrated circuits and modules for processing, communications and power supply. New sensors can be added via the two expansion connectors to enhance the measurements. The team uses its own protocol for network communication, which supports encryption, packet acknowledgement and packet retransmission in case of lost packets. This protocol also unifies the wired (RS-485) and the wireless (LoRa) communication, so that messages can be passed in the same way irrespective of the underlying medium. In addition, current LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) specifications are easily supported if the controller has to be integrated into an existing LoRaWAN-based network. Several Cortex-M3 or Cortex-M4 microcontrollers from ST Microelectronics can be used as the main microcontroller unit (MCU), so that even complex control tasks can be mastered. The research team is looking for international partners to conclude the following types of agreements in order to disseminate and/or improve the developed solution. Commercial agreement with technical assistance is sought under which acquisition (transfer) of the innovative electronic controller is envisaged, supported by technical consultancy by the researchers for its efficient use. In the case of licensing implementation of the solution is expected against payment of license fee or royalties. And under technical cooperation a further technological development is envisaged. It is also possible to conclude other types of contracts depending on the wish of the potential partner and the negotiations, e.g. manufacturing agreement for transferring of the know-how.
Advantages and innovations
The combination of solar panels with a supercapacitor provides possibilities for multiple off-grid applications. The LoRa communication module can be used to transmit data at distances of up to 10 km (direct line of sight). The used network protocol as a communication protocol provides encryption, packet acknowledgement and packet retransmission functionalities. Standard LoRaWAN communication is also supported. The microcontroller unit (MCU) monitors the solar panel voltage and the supercapacitor voltage in order to make intelligent decisions when to measure and transmit data and when to put the sensors and the communication interfaces in sleep mode to save energy. The controller has enough memory to store multiple sensor data measurements and to transmit them in bulk when enough energy is available. New sensors can be added to the controller via the two expansion connectors. The initial tests show that the controller is easily capable of 24x7 operation when powered by a 50F supercapacitor and two solar panels with a total power input of 4W. The transmission of measured data via the wireless LoRa connection occurs once per hour. Further optimizations will improve these results. In addition, the controller can be used with larger solar panels and larger supercapacitors, e.g. a 350F supercapacitor.
Prototype available for demonstration
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
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