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Andrew at MEA

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Andrew at MEA last won the day on December 16 2019

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About Andrew at MEA

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  1. Whistling in the IoT Wind. By a strange twist of fate, I find myself back where I and MEA began in 1984; in the wind energy business. Over the intervening years renewable energy has gone from ground zero in Australia to mainstream, and I’m no longer regarded as a tree-hugging sandal-wearing bearded fringe-dweller. Fortunately, this new application is solidly ground-based. Where once I was conducting field measurements on tall towers on potential wind farm sites, MEA’s latest CAT-M1 data loggers are now magnetically clamped to the base of giant wind turbine generators, back-
  2. A Virus in the IoT. Geeks have got it good in this post-normal world: vulnerable old folk like me are sent home and told to stay away from the office. Are you kidding me? Home is where my garden is, my own personal sacred site that is at the root of my interest in agricultural technology and irrigation. Home is also where my favourite lab is. Here, I have two benches. One is set up with all the fancy test equipment I need to create and test MEA stuff. The second one (pictured below) is where I fix my eBay-acquired fine old test instruments from back in the 19
  3. Edge Cases in the IoT. Time’s dragging in the MEA labs; we’re grinding out the finishing touches to Version 2 of our GBL (CAT-M1) data logger and it’s painful. Ah, but it’s always like this! With some hundreds of these new loggers in service for the past six months, three units have been returned to the product development team exhibiting weirdness. Yet these pain-points are exactly what we must eliminate here and now, so we’re holding up production of future stock until we resolve these edge-case issues to our satisfaction. Future ugliness would be our certain fate if
  4. Powering the IoT. A positive energy budget is a ‘sine qua non’ (absolutely essential condition) in an IoT field station. Early MEA data loggers deployed in agriculture were battery-powered affairs, but unless the battery capacity is adequate for 3-5 years the logistics of battery swap-outs – with their inherent risk of breaking environmental seals put in place in the factory – can increase user frustration and shorten product lifetime. Energy harvesting via solar panels extends product field life indefinitely; we now have thousands of IoT solar-powered sites still in service af
  5. One Small Anniversary in the IoT. At 3pm exactly a year ago today (19th Feb 2020) MEA transmitted the first 20 bytes of measurement data on the Myriota satellite network from the MEA Test Garden. Data consisted of four measurements of soil moisture tension in the soil profile below dry-grown Shiraz grapevines, plus battery voltage. After the first anxious few months – where I peered at the incoming data on a daily basis – a certain trust developed that data would keep flowing, and other developments took priority. Along the way though, I checked in on the growing Green Brai
  6. Tripwires in the IoT. Once more to the barricades… MEA’s new CAT-M1 IoT data loggers – like the majority of Australians – have their own SIM cards and (a meagre 3Mb) data plan. But with the production line rolling and the number of deployed loggers rising inexorably some way of keeping these bulk data plans in check proved critical. Fortunately, specialist companies provide boxes of 100 SIMs and platforms for generating alerts when things go awry. Just weeks into the new decade we hit a tripwire: a significant number of loggers are exceeding their data allowance while drain
  7. The IoT under the Microscope. Terror stalks the floor at MEA: Christmas is only a fortnight away and sales orders for our new CAT-M1 data loggers are raining down from above. But production has jammed: SD memory cards are failing to pass production testing and the engineer who designed this part of the circuitry is incommunicado somewhere in Europe. Our production engineer is going quietly mad with fear and frustration. I need to step in. It’s now 45 years since I graduated in electronic engineering from the South Australian Institute of Technology so these moments of
  8. Frustrations in the IoT. It’s a day marked by high winds and even higher temperatures, with the ‘Fire Danger Index’ ratcheted over to ‘Catastrophic’ and 14 bushfires burning throughout South Australia. All this is perfect for testing worst-case conditions for an ugly problem that’s taken nearly two months to resolve; ‘noise’ in our CAT-M1 IoT loggers when making ac resistance measurements in soil moisture tension sensors called ‘gypsum blocks’, invented nearly eighty years ago. Frustratingly, the CAT-M1 network is down again; we later find that Telstra are installing a 5G networ
  9. Primitive upgrades in the IoT. If the first casualty of war is truth, then the first casualty of product launch is confidence. The harsh reality is that following product launch burgeoning deployments, the passage of time, the machinations of Mother Nature and the compounding of human errors will eventually throw up a bug; it’s a numbers game. Such bugs end the ‘jubilation phase’ of a successful product launch and call in the ‘humiliation phase’. In an ideal world there would be no in-field bugs causing customers and agents distress. Lengthy and private field trials over hu
  10. The IoT takes centre-stage at the World Electronics Forum (WEF) in Adelaide in early December 2019 The WEF is an annual meeting of Electronics Industry leaders from around the world. This is the first time since 2003 that the WEF has taken place in Australia and will be a major event for our industry, bringing together investors and CEOs from the world’s largest electronics companies. It is expected to create business links, collaboration and investment opportunities. LPWAN – Low Power Wide Area IoT Networks – is a central stream of the conference. This is your chance to h
  11. Hi Geoff Hoping this finds you well.. There are seven items of spam on two of our IoT Forum pages - looks like a failure of the EA Cyber Security system? Can you pull some strings and clean us up? Cheers for now Andrew at MEA
  12. Cash-flow in the IoT. Even for a mature company like MEA, the expensive business of IoT product development can be a scary process. It’s always a race against the clock, as one burns cash reserves against the promise of returns from early sales of new-to-market products. More companies go broke from cash-flow crises than anything else. Just a few weeks’ delay in product launch can invoke such a cash-flow crisis (unless you have extraordinarily-deep pockets). This is especially true in a seasonal business such as irrigated agriculture – late to market can be disastrous.
  13. End Game in the IoT It’s been a long autumn and winter effort completing development of a CAT-M1-based on-farm data logger for release in the southern Spring, now only two days away. These product development sprints are a long litany of small crises that are surmounted and left behind in the rear-view mirror. When you’re stuck in the middle of it, it feels like crawling over broken glass. But we have early orders, some stock on the shelf with more next week, and rudimentary field trails conducted that have already thrown up a weird software bug in the ultra-low power state
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