An ecosystem combined will never be overpowered and will grow together at the hands of a group of people passionate about technology—the result of the collaboration between Meshtastic and RAKwireless.
Meshtastic is an open-source software project that boosts communication in places with limited access to cellular coverage or internet access. The project consists of a mix of software and hardware tools implementing a low-cost encrypted communicator based on radio technologies. It benefits enormously from the battery efficiency of the device and the coverage range, making it an ideal communication device for outdoor excursions like backpacking, hiking, skiing, and paragliding. Basically, any hobby where you don't have reliable communication coverage access.
Based on the mix of software and hardware tools, the project has driven the development of software solutions based on existing hardware development boards supporting radio (LoRa) and BLE communication technologies, together with GNSS receivers. The MCU architectures commonly used are based on ESP32, or nRF52840, since having Bluetooth (BLE) communication embedded allows for communication with the mobile application. Thus, only the LoRa transceivers are needed to retransmit the messages within the mesh network, fulfilling the main requirements for developing a communicator based on Meshtastic.
In the interest of clarity, let's first understand Meshtastic's technical architecture. Upon sending a message in the Meshtastic application, the message is transmitted to the radio device via BLE. Once the data is received by the first radio that establishes the communication, it is transmitted up to seven times during an interval to create redundancy for lost packets. And when the receiving radio captures the packet, it will check if the message has already been received. If it has, it will ignore the message. Otherwise, it will keep transmitting within the determined interval.
When looking for modules supporting the required architecture, the WisBlock open-source platform powered by RAKwireless becomes an ideal tool for developing communicators in a flexible way with different features.
- Flexible in size due to the Wisblock Base Board. By using the RAK19007, you can develop 30 x 60 mm communicators, and with the RAK19003, 30 x 30 mm communicators.
- Flexible in MCU architecture due to the WisBlock Core. Using the RAK4631, you can develop communicators based on the nRF52840 and the RAK11200 based on the ESP32.
- In using the WisBlock ecosystem as the base technology, you have the advantage of interfacing different additional modules, which have +100 modules, to expand the communicator configurations as needed. Here are some examples:
- Adding the RAK1901 (Temperature and Humidity), RAK1902 (Pressure), and RAK1906 (Environment) modules allows the addition of environmental variables to be transmitted at regular intervals.
- Adding input modules such as the RAK14006 module, a rotary encoder, or keypads allows sending predefined messages directly to another communicator without depending on the Meshtastic application.
- Adding the RAK18001 buzzer module can play a startup and shutdown song, or it can also be connected to the new message notifications.
- No soldering or wiring of extra components or additional circuitry is required to add a battery and solar panel to fully autonomously power your communicator.
Important note: In the case of using the ESP32-based architecture, you must keep in mind that the LoRa transceiver must be added. Nevertheless, you can easily do it by adding the RAK13300 and making use of the RAK19007 base.
Meshtastic and the WisBlock ecosystem are driving a hardware base where your imagination sets the limitations. A fully open-source project both at the software and hardware level where you can contribute regularly and have detailed documentation and examples to get started quickly, as well as community spaces to connect, solve doubts, and share your project progress.
Like any open-source project with brilliant contributors, improvements are recurrently proposed to boost the adoption of the project. Thanks to this, the new version of Meshtastic is now available. A repowered version with new features and an improved user experience across its various supported clients.
- A new re-engineered routing algorithm prioritizes distance first, thus granting a much larger range of coverage and higher signal integrity, enhancing usability entirely from a bottom-up user experience perspective and resulting in performance improvements across the board.
New module configuration options at the firmware level to expand the functionality of the mesh network or device. Among them:
- "Telemetry" allows interconnecting sensors to the device to transmit sensor readings regularly on the network. This configuration has native support for some of the WisBlock ecosystem modules, which are automatically detected when the device initializes; among the sensor modules already supported are RAK1901, RAK1902, RAK1906, and RAK16000.
- "Canned Messages" allows various predefined messages to be configured and sent directly from the device via an input module, such as a rotary encoder or keyboard. This configuration also supports modules from the WisBlock ecosystem, both the RAK14006 rotary encoder and the RAK14004, RAK14009, RAK14010 and RAK14011 keypads.
- OTA firmware upgrades over BLE for nRF52840 devices via the NRF Connect app. In the case of powering your communicator with a WisBlock RAK4631, you can try it right now.
- Real-time data compression and updated radio configuration deliver 4x performance improvement over previous versions.
- Extensive support for "Tap Backs" and "Replies" that people have come to expect from a modern messaging platform.
- Support for Ethernet devices, with initial support for the RAK13800, a module extending the WisBlock system to have Ethernet interface compatibility.
The Meshtastic team has prepared a few community activities during the launch month, November, and you can't miss the opportunity to be part of them. It's the perfect time to learn and hack while having the chance to send implementation proposals and win hardware prizes for your next projects. So, join their Discord server and forum to stay tuned to all participation details.
Hands-on with RAKstars next to the Meshtastic team
There are many more things to share about this exciting collaboration, as well as about the private network's implementation and usage. Therefore, next week, on November 18, a Hands-on with RAKstars session together with the Meshtastic team will be held to find out more in-depth about the initiative, its beginnings, progress, what is to come, and, how to get started in this project, while contributing to it at the same time.
Keep an eye on RAKwirelss channels for more about this exciting session and the progress of the MeshtasticV2 launch month.
Technical guides to get started and additional resources
In the meantime, to start developing your own private network, consider taking a closer look at the following resources: Happy hacking!
- RAK4631 Meshtastic Quick Start Guide
- Meshtastic Installation and Usage Guide
- WisBlock Meshtastic 3D printed enclosures
- WisBlock RAK5005-O + RAK4631 LoRa core module + RAK1910/12500 GPS modules.
- 3D printed case for Meshtastic, for the WisBlock RAK19007 + RAK4631 LoRa core module + RAK1910/12500 GPS modules.
- 3D printed case for Meshtastic, for the WisBlock RAK19003 + RAK4631 LoRa core module + RAK12500 GPS module
- 'Micro' sized 3D printed case for Meshtastic, for the WisBlock RAK19003 + RAK4631 LoRa core module + RAK12500 GPS module.
RAKwireless is changing the IoT landscape by eliminating design complexity and accelerating time-to-market for underserved and emerging markets, including open-source and industrial communities. By creating easy-to-deploy solutions and modular IoT products, RAK is working to grow a community of system integrators, developers, and IoT solution providers who are passionate about taking IoT solutions further than ever before.
Discover more about the RAKwireless hardware and software ecosystem.
Meshtastic is an off-grid, encrypted communication platform running open-source software on radios. A project is maintained by generous volunteers who donate their personal time to write and maintain the codebase available on GitHub. The project also takes donations! Thank them and treat them to a cup of coffee, they will surely enjoy it.