Today we take the ability to communicate worldwide at a moment’s notice for granted. However, this is all predicated on a global communications grid that could potentially be interrupted by a variety of different factors. Mesh networking via LoRa offers an interesting alternative, a wireless protocol that’s able to send small packets of data over long distances without a cellular infrastructure.
To take advantage of LoRa for SMS-style text messaging, Arthur Jordan (AKA “BigCorvus”) created the LORA QWERTY Communicator. This device uses a Nordic nRF52840 SoC for control and a Semtech SX1262 module for LoRa communication. It features a Blackberry Q10 keyboard for input, along with a SHARP Memory LS027B7DH01 2.7” LCD screen for viewing and a vibration motor provides notifications. Components were chosen for their minimal power usage, essential to keeping coms open during whatever scenario might inhibit traditional cell phone usage.
Aside from standard messaging functionality, an MPU-9250 IMU is implemented to act as a tilt-compensated compass and/or an air mouse. A GPS module can be added for positioning functionality, and a BME820 can also be included as an altimeter. Notably, the nRF2840 enables a wide range of wireless capabilities, potentially allowing it to link with a phone or other peripherals over Bluetooth.
Currently it appears there are only two of these communicators in existence, and the firmware is reportedly very raw and in need of development, although hardware and code information is available in the project’s repository under an MIT license. So if you’re thinking about designing your own mesh communication setup, this looks like a great place to start!