Mesh Networking with PyGo and Pylife

It’s always rather intriguing to see a company that’s well established in one field tentatively dip their toes into another. Which is what…

It’s always rather intriguing to see a company that’s well established in one field tentatively dip their toes into another. Which is what has happened with Pycom and their latest Kickstarter project. Well known for networking, and development boards, Pycom’s latest venture isn’t really either these.

Instead it’s a wearable device, and an app, for a “connected life.

The hardware device is called the PyGo, and it handles location tracking, alerts, and messaging, via on board mesh networking. While the app to accompany it is dubbed Pylife, which amongst other things, lets you link your PyGo device to your phone and program it.

The tentative part of Pycom’s change of direction is rather obvious of course, their current campaign is their second attempt at getting their new product funded. They cancelled their first campaign just five days after starting it citing that, “…the high funding target is putting many backers off and as a result distracting from the real goal of making the Pylife App and the PyGo device a complete success.

Based around the Espressif ESP32, which provides both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, along with a Semtech SX1272 that offers LoRa support, perhaps unsurprisingly the internals of the PyGo look a lot like other Pycom boards. With more detailed specifications for the devices showing that it will also have a Bosch BMA423 accelerometer and a Sony CXD5603GF GPS onboard.

“They’re built with the same architecture as existing Pycom products and our open APIs ensure you can code it to make it exactly what you need it to be. The enterprise cradle will enable you to add sensors of your choice and keep the device charged when in a remote situ.”

The PyGo will also have , two for power and four GPIO pins with both digital and analogue capabilities so that you can connect different types of sensors and actuators. Despite these exposed pins, the PyGo units will still be rated IP67.

The PyGo 1 makes use of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and LoRa—while the PyGo 2 also adds cellular—in parallel. Any of these network protocols can be used for communications between individual PyGo devices, and while it’s not explicitly stated on the Kickstarter page it’s likely that they make use of Pycom’s own LoRa MESH protocol based on OpenThread.

The PyGo 1 will connect with other PyGo units and allow you to transmit data between them at ranges “up to 12km, dependent on whether you have buildings in between,” and presumably the backhaul for the units there is LoRa MESH.

PyGo 2 will come with a Vodafone eSIM, which according to Pycom “…will work globally on their NB IoT network. We are looking at max €3 per month for subscriptions with minimum 6 months engagement. We will also have CAT M1 with other providers such as Verizon. We are in discussions with additional carriers and expect to have others in place by launch date next year.

Interestingly perhaps during the ongoing war in the low-powered powered networking space for the Internet of Things, while the PyGo could support Sigfox out of the box, it has not been, “…configured or certified at the time of launch.

However despite the inclusion of NB-IoT in one of the two models I think it’s obvious from their pitch that Pycom regard the primary networking functionality for the device to be the LoRa MESH support, rather cellular.

“In addition to the networks we’re creating with our own devices, the PyGos will also be able to auto-connect to The Things Network all over the world.”

The current Pycom Kickstarter campaign around Pylife and PyGo is fully funded with just three days remaining on the clock.

A “Super Early Bird” PyGo 1 unit costs €46 plus an extra €6 for shipping anywhere in the world, while a Super Early Bird PyGo 2 unit costs €74 plus shipping. Beyond these two starter tiers there are also additional packs, with more units available. With the campaign due to close in the next few days, shipping of the first units is due to begin in June next year.

While right now there are still plenty of “Super Early Bird” spots to go around, if you want one you might want to jump over there now, as there’s always a bit of a up tick in the number of backers towards the end of a crowdfunding campaign.

Alasdair Allan
Scientist, author, hacker, maker, and journalist. Building, breaking, and writing. For hire. You can reach me at 📫 alasdair@babilim.co.uk.
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