The SparkFun 1-Channel LoRa Gateway is a powerful 3-network capable device thanks to an onboard ESP32 WROOM module and an RFM95W LoRa modem. The RFM95W handles the 915MHz band while the ESP32 takes care of Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities. One of the ideal uses is to convert LoRa (Long Range) radio messages into data packets that you can access via the web, but of course the flexibility it offers can be put to many more uses! It's a perfect, low-cost tool for monitoring a dozen-or-so LoRa devices and relaying their messages up to the cloud.
Complete with a Qwiic connector and a breadboard-compatible array of ESP32 pin-breakouts, the Gateway can can also serve as a general-purpose ESP32/RFM95W development platform. The LoRa Gateway can act as either a gateway (hence the name) or a device, but not both at the same time. To really be sure that your setup works as expected you should have another LoRa device to listen to, and/or another LoRa gateway to transmit to. The good news is that the LoRa Gateway 1-Channel can act as both so if you have two then you’re all set.
To use the 915 MHz radio on the gateway you will need an antenna - for which you have two choices. You may cut a length of solid-core wire to approximately three inches for a through-hole antenna connection with strain relief or you can use a 915MHz antenna with a U.FL connector for higher performance antennas.
This skill defines how difficult the soldering is on a particular product. It might be a couple simple solder joints, or require special reflow tools.
Skill Level: Noob - Some basic soldering is required, but it is limited to a just a few pins, basic through-hole soldering, and couple (if any) polarized components. A basic soldering iron is all you should need.
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If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Rookie - You will need a better fundamental understand of what code is, and how it works. You will be using beginner-level software and development tools like Arduino. You will be dealing directly with code, but numerous examples and libraries are available. Sensors or shields will communicate with serial or TTL.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Rookie - You may be required to know a bit more about the component, such as orientation, or how to hook it up, in addition to power requirements. You will need to understand polarized components.
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This will, with the SAMD21 Pro RF, allow me to explore this new sensor network. Love the QWIIC! No soldering makes prototyping quick and easy! (Without the flashbacks to my board stuffing work history.) For me, the magic is in the sauce and not the hardware.
Like the Pro RF, there are a lot of little fiddly changes to make to the software configuration. Just be careful and patient and you will get through that. A small format change to the Hookup Guide would make this easier for the users. Maybe if there was a short checklist in addition to the text discussion?
Seems robust and has been up for a while with no issues. Love it!
Small Design Issues: Making a small case for it was a slight challenge: No mounting holes in the board and the location of the antenna connector. It would be possible to place less stress on the antenna connector if it was a little more outboard. That would allow a straighter path for the connector without bending tightly around the casing of the ESP32.
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I got it to work - not really easy. The archived software worked, but the newer versions from GitHub would not. Range also seems poor. Works when connected to the same computer, but separated by 30 feet (different rooms), there is no signal. RSSI when adjacent is about -64 db. Probably needs more testing on my part, and reading the docs. Thanks to Sparkfun for setting up the tutorials! Oooops! Let me update my comment - there was no signal because of the hang on Serial Monitor. When I commented it out and then ran it from a wall wart, all is well. I am using the RTL-SDR to monitor the signal. Everything seems to be working OK. I will be testing with a friend to see what kind of range we can get with the little antennas.