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Usable data bridge
How we improved the user experience (06.12.2022)
Förderjahr 2021 / Projekt Call #16 / ProjektID: 5788 / Projekt: LoRa Databridge

As originally planned, the LoRa Bridge wireless range extension should work out-of-the-box at best without expert knowledge on individual components, i.e. LoRaWAN modems, MQTT protocol and so on. During the last project phase we have concentrated to improve the user experience with easy to use user interfaces.

Pairing Zigbee devices to LoRaBridge bridge unit

At first, we are happy to announce that in the simplest case, usage of LoRa Bridge requires only two button presses. For a user to add a Zigbee sensor device, the bridge unit can be conveniently set to so called "join state" by the join button on the Raspberry PI LoRa hat as illustrated in the Figure above. Afterwards Zigbee devices can be joined to the bridge unit Zigbee coordinator, which is usually handled by push buttons. The rest is taken care by the bridge and the gateway units and afterwards a user can observe measured sensor values in the home assistant home automation framework. Such minimal user interaction is crucial on the bridge as in a typical use-case, a flexible connection to the bridge e.g. via WLAN router might not be available. 

User interface for data filtering at the bridge unit

The second very important user interface component is connected to the optimization of LoRaWAN communication between the bridge and the gateway units. Typically, a Zigbee device transmits infrequently small data packets, such as temperature values, which can be conveniently retransmitted towards the gateway via LoRaWAN. However, when the number of Zigbee devices per bridge unit grows, the capacity of LoRaWAN link might be driven to its limits, which leads to data loss. To avoid such situations, we have implemented an option for a user to select the high priority data to be forwarded. An example illustration is given in the Figure above, where a user has selected the most important attributes of a sensor (illuminance and occupancy) to be forwarded while leaving some low priority meta-data unselected. 

Sensor data in home assistant

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the sensor data is accessible via the home assistant framework, which is included in the Lorabridge full installation. As illustrated in the Figure above a user can setup a handy dashboard which holds visualization of recent sensor data from all connected Zigbee sensors. This way the full potential of the Lorabridge can be unlocked as a user is able to monitor e.g. temperature/humidity of a remote location conveniently from a home PC or a smartphone.

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