Globally, Campbell Scientific (Canada) is recognized as a leader in environmental monitoring. Over the decades, various technological advancements have been made to assist researchers collecting data in hard-to-reach areas, while also increasing the types and amounts of data that can be collected.

Where We Were….

Traditional hydrological monitoring programs in remote areas are constrained by infrastructure and logistical challenges. Terrain, vegetation, wildlife, and climate, in addition to the maintenance of equipment are all challenges that researchers and network owners face regularly.

As such, network owners and researchers are restricted by logistics, rather than being able to fully meet their program goals. In response to these challenges, a number of technologies have been developed. Wireless sensor networks (WSN), such as Dust and Zigbee, were created as small-scale solutions. These WSNs are comprised of a high density of sensors located in remote areas. Limitations to the technology have been identified from the outset:

  • Moderate or dense vegetation reduces the effective communication distances between motes and gateways.
  • High power consumption in wireless devices still requires considerable infrastructure, which reduces the value of the wireless device.

As a result, network owners and researchers are forced to continue using antiquated models where either a large budget is required to place full stations across the monitoring area or their monitoring program cannot grow as fast as required to meet its goals and objectives.

Where We Are Today ….

To help overcome some of the inherent challenges in remote environmental monitoring and data collection, Campbell Scientific (Canada) has partnered with Riot Technology Corp. (RioT) to provide a low cost, low power, wireless monitoring solution (Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN)) that enables the reliable long range deployment of sensors without the need for infrastructure or cables. This new technology is based on an Internet of Things (IoT) long range wireless infrastructure using LoRa (TM). Advantages of this technology include:

  • Increased communication distances between nodes.
  • Decreased power consumption.
  • Easy setup – once programmed, each node (mote) can quickly be installed in the field.
  • Internal power, with up to 38aH battery power.
  • Can be connected to existing SDI sensors in the field.

Campbell Scientific (Canada) and RioT, in collaboration with Athabasca University, have deployed the world’s first Environmental Internet of Things (EIoT) application to monitor hydrologic flow across remote catchments (in this case, in northern Alberta).

Environmental data (precipitation, soil moisture content, temperature, conductivity, groundwater levels, streamflow, and diagnostic information (communication signal strength and battery level)) are collected in real-time from each node. The data are used to track the movement of water from when it hits the ground as rainfall until it leaves the catchment as streamflow. Environmental factors, such as vegetation coverage, weather conditions, and surface topography, are also being evaluated to determine their impacts on the communication performance of the RioT systems. This aspect of the research program recently received funding from Canada’s National Science and Engineering Research Council Engage Grant Program, which further solidified the partnership among Campbell Scientific (Canada), RioT, and Athabasca University.

This first-of-its-kind field trial provides a comprehensive understanding of how the physical terrain and meteorological variables impact LPWAN performance in remote locations.

Through this project, Athabasca University researchers are accomplishing their goal of speeding up measurements of large numbers of environmental variables, at multiple locations across a large, remote geographic area.