Radio power and range – recap

From Wikipedia –

“In electromagnetic and antenna theory, antenna aperture, effective area, or receiving cross section, is a measure of how effective an antenna is at receiving the power of electromagnetic radiation (such as radio waves).

The power received by an antenna (in watts) is equal to the power density of the electromagnetic energy (in watts per square meter), multiplied by its aperture (in square meters). The larger an antenna’s aperture, the more power it can collect from a given electromagnetic field.”

Power density at a distance “d”  from the transmitting antenna (with output power  Pt) is given by

Pd =  Pt / (4* (pi) * d*d)

Where  pi  is 3.1414.  The denominator is the surface area of a sphere of radius “d”.

As the distance increases, the power density reduces as square of “d”.

Assuming receiving antenna has an aperture “Ar” sq-m, then power received is  given by:

Pr = pd * Ar = (Pt * Ar)/ (4* (pi) * d*d)

Let us  assume that the receiver is d0 meters away in line of sight from the transmitter and there are no obstructions in between (completely ideal scenario).  Assume Pt0 is  the  transmitter’s  power output.  Then Pr0 is theoretically given by:

Pr0  =  (Pt0*  Ar)/(4*pi*d0*d0)

Let us  calculate the power required if we  want  to double  the  distance “d”  but  still receive  the  same power Pr0 at the receiver.

Pr1 =  (Pt1 * Ar)/(4*pi*d1*d1)

Here d1 = 2*d0   and Pr1  = Pr0

d0*d0 = (Pt0 *  Ar)/(Pr0 * 4 *  pi)  –      [1]

d1*d1 = (Pt1 *  Ar)/(Pr1 * 4 *  pi)     – or –    4*d0*d0 = (Pt1 *  Ar)/(Pr0 * 4 *  pi)  – [2]

Using [1] and [2]

4  * (Pt0 *  Ar)/(Pr0 * 4 *  pi) =  4*d0*d0 = 4 * (Pt1 *  Ar)/(Pr0 * 4 *  pi)

– or –

Pt0 =  Pt1 / 4

– or –

Pt1 = 4 * Pt0

The transmitter has to increase it’s output power 4 times to reach twice the distance such that the receiver sees the same power as before.

How much is this increase in “dB” ?

10 * log (P1/P0)  = 10 * log (4) ~ 6 dB

So for every 6 dB increase in transmitted power, the range should double (under ideal conditions).

Let us take a real example. Assume transmitter power is 14 dBm and the receiver is around 1000 meters away and receiving the signal at -106 dBm.

The path loss here is 14 – (-106) = 120 dB.

120 = 10*log(F) =>     12 = log(F)   =>    F =  10^12

The received signal is 10^12 times weaker than the transmitted signal.


Let us say, we use a bad RF cable to connect the radio PCB to an external omni-directional antenna on the transmitter and the RF cable has a loss of say 1 dB. How much range loss does this translate to ?

Let Pt0 be the power (in watts) out of the transmitter’s antenna  when using an RF cable of say 0 dB (ideal) loss. Let Pt1 (In watts) be the power out of  the transmitter’s antenna when using an RF cable of  1 dB loss.

10 log (Pt1/Pt0)  = -1 dB

Pt1/Pt0  =10^(-0.1)

Pt1 = Pt0 * (.795)    [3]

The output power at the transmitter’s antenna is now 0.795 times the previous  power.

Pr0  =  (Pt0 * Ar)/(4 * pi * d0 * d0)         [4]  When using cable with 0 dB loss

Pr1  =  (Pt1 * Ar)/(4 * pi * d1 * d1)         [5]  When using cable with 1 dB loss

We  are interesting in finding the new distance  “d1” at which Pr1 is same as  Pr0.

Pr1 = Pr0       [6]

From [3], [4], [5] and [6]

(Pt0 *  Ar)/(4 * pi * d0 * d0) = ( 0.795 * Pt0 *  Ar)/(4 * pi * d1 *d1)

We  get,

d1*d1  = 0.795 * d0 * d0    =>     d1 = 0.891 *  d0

The range has reduced by around 11 %.

If power loss is 2 dB,  range loss is 20.5 %.  For 3 dB loss in power, the range loss is 29.2 % and so on.  We think 1 dB loss is not a big deal since we are not used to thinking in dB. As you can see now, small losses here and there (low quality cables and connectors, non optimum RF layout,  mismatched antenna etc) and add up to considerable loss in radio range.



Solar Li-ion charger board for sensor nodes

We got our first batch of 100 machine assembled solar Li-Ion charger boards useful for powering all kinds of outdoor electronics like wireless sensor nodes and associated sensors/actuators etc.





Here are the specs for the WLIBPSU v4.0

  • Max  input (solar panel) voltage:  10.5 V
  • Max charge current: 2  A
  • Max  battery discharge  current: 4 A
  • Li-Ion battery charged in 3 phases (trickle charge,  pre-charge, constant  current and constant voltage).
  • Battery under-voltage lockout supported as load is not connected directly to battery.
  • Charger IC can power the load and charge the battery simultaneously.
  • NTC thermistor as required by charger IC.
  • Multiple output voltages (On separate headers/connectors)
    • ~3.3V  (Max 1 A)
    • 4.9V (Max 50 mA)
    • Li-Ion battery output (Max 4A). This supply is gated by a load switch which can be controlled by a signal external to the PSU (for example – by an external micro-controller).
  • On PCB current and voltage sensors (two ICs) which measure the parameters listed below. All values reported over a single I2C bus.
    • Solar panel output voltage
    • Solar panel output current
    • Battery voltage
    • Battery current
      • Positive values reported when battery is getting  charged
      • Negative values reported when battery is getting discharged
  • PCB specs
    • Layers: 4
    • Dimensions:  48.5 mm x 48.5 mm
    • Mounting holes:  4
    • Finish:  HASL
    • All terminals are 2.54 mm pitch

Assembled in Bangalore using genuine components (including passives) from USA.

We have tested this PSU with a 3W solar panel and  2600 mAh Li-Ion battery.

Test Panel Specs

  • Peak  power: 3  Watts
  • Voltage output at peak power point (Vpeak): 8.5V
  • Current output at peak power point (Ipeak): 300 mA

Test Battery Specs

  • Chemistry:  Single cell Lithium-Ion Battery
  • Capacity: 2600  mAh
  • Output voltage: 3.7 V  (nominal), 4.2 V (full charge)


Here is a pic of a WiSense 866 MHz wireless low power wireless node (WSN1120L) powered by the  WLIBPSU v4.0.

Charger PCB, enclosure and battery are inside the enclosure




Battery Voltage Data


In the snapshot above, you can see the Li-Ion battery voltage falling during the evening/night and recovering quickly in the morning. This WSN1120L node is operating in RFD mode in which the node stays in ultra low power sleep mode (< 2 uA consumption) and wakes up periodically (in this case every 10 minutes) to sense and transmit data.

If you want to use this charger in your product, we will provide the driver ( c code) for reading the current and voltage measurements.  Note that the charger IC works in stand alone mode. It does not need any external configuration. The voltage and current measurements are performed by two separate sensor ICs (external to the charger IC).  These sensors can be accessed over I2C. You may choose not to read this data.

If you want to use a solar panel with a different Vpeak, we will change the relevant passives free of cost to suit your panel.

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New product: WiSense WiFi Gateway for cloud connectivity

We are adding a new product to our portfolio – a WiFi gateway for the WiSense LPWMN (low power wireless mesh network). This gateway (WGP20CL) includes a WiSense coordinator node (the WSN1120CL) and a Photon WiFi board from Particle (







Here are the specs.


WiFi Interface: Photon from Particle (

Based on Cypress’s WICED architecture, the Particle Photon Series combines a powerful STM32 ARM Cortex M3 micro-controller and a Cypress Wi-Fi chip.

WiSense LPWMN Interface :  WSN1120CL WiSense  LPMWN Coordinator.


Power Supply:  500 mA/5V through USB Cable with Type A connector.

Includes 2200 mAh battery  and Li-Ion charger with auto switch over in case external power is lost.


  • External Sub-GHz half-wave dipole antenna (3 dBi gain). Connects to the U.Fl connector on the WSN1120CL’s radio board.
  • External 2.4 GHz WiFi dipole antenna (2 dBi gain). Connects to the U.Fl connector on the Photon.

Enclosure:  ABS Box (105 mm x 105 mm x  62 mm)

Visual indicators:  3 LEDs

  • LED1: Heart beat to indicate the gateway is powered and running.
  • LED2:  Blinks whenever the Photon receives a sensor  data message from a sensor node  via  the attached coordinator node.
  • LED3:  Blinks whenever the Photon posts sensor data to the Particle cloud.

Cloud interface: Particle cloud platform. Particle also allows data to be forwarded to other platforms such as ThingSpeak, Google Cloud platform, Google maps, Azure IOT  platform etc.

We have ported a portion our gateway application to the Photon. This code receives  sensor data messages from the attached  LPWMN network and forwards them to the Particle cloud.  We have  also tested Particle’s integration with the ThingSpeak platform. We are able to get our sensor data on the ThingSpeak platform via the Particle cloud.


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Sending WiSense sensor node data to the cloud (

This week we sent data from bunch of WiSense sensor nodes to the thingSpeak cloud platform. The wireless sensor nodes were registered to a WiSense network coordinator (WSN1120CL) which in turn was connected to a Windows laptop running our gateway application (a C program running under Cygwin).

“ThingSpeak” is an IOT analytics platform that allows the collection,storage, visualization and analysis of sensor data in the cloud. You can create a free “ThingSpeak” account which  limits the per channel data streaming (upload) rate of once every 15 seconds.

The WiSense gateway app (which can be run a Linux system or under Cygwin on a Windows machine) sends data to the “Thingspeak” platform when run with the “mon_ts” command line argument instead of the usual “mon” command.

prompt> ./gw.exe    / dev/ttyS9   mon_ts

Note that each WiSense sensor node is permanently identified by it’s 64 bit extended address which looks like “0xfc:0xc2:0x3d:0x00:0x00:0x1e:0xd0:0x40”. This is an IEEE assigned globally unique id.

We decided to create a separate “ThingSpeak” channel for each WiSense sensor node.

“Channels store all the data that a ThingSpeak application collects. Each channel includes eight fields that can hold any type of data, plus three fields for location data and one for status data. Once you collect data in a channel, you can use “ThingSpeak” apps to analyze and visualize it.”

Each “Thingspeak” channel can have up to 8 sensor data fields. We map each sensor  (on a  WiSense sensor node) to a separate field. A free “Thingspeak” account accepts channel data once every 15 seconds only.

We use a text file named “ts.txt” to associate a WiSense sensor output (each having a unique 8 byte extended address) to its corresponding field in a “Thingspeak” channel.  The WiSense gateway app reads and parses the “ts.txt” file when run with the “mon_ts” argument. When this app receives sensor data from any sensor node in the attached WiSense LPMWN (low power wireless mesh network), it looks up this table for a  matching row and if found, sends the sensor data to the ThingSpeak cloud using the HTTP “POST” method specifying the channel API key and field.

The mapping table below is the actual “ts.txt” used in our setup.

<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:00:db:40     NCT4JOQR1ZI5DEHB       013    field1   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:02:b9:9b     4WZBK65FZNTO6JWS     013    field1   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:10:82:97     XXTNNZSMAZQKMIL5    009    field1   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:11:1a:ea     ZBT7N4IKJKCND80L        120    field1   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:11:1a:ea     ZBT7N4IKJKCND80L        009    field2   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:11:1a:ea     ZBT7N4IKJKCND80L        176    field3   >$>
<$<  fc:c2:3d:00:00:11:1a:ea     ZBT7N4IKJKCND80L        177    field4   >$>

For each unique sensor data stream produced by a WiSense sensor node, there is one row  in the mapping table.

  • The first column is  the 8 byte IEEE assigned  globally unique address of a WiSense sensor node.
  • The second column is the  Write API Key of the associated “ThingSpeak” channel. Note that one “ThingSpeak” channel needs to be created per WiSense sensor node.
  • The third column is the 1 byte device-id of the Sensor output (example – ambient temperature) sent by the WiSense node. Note that if a single sensor has multiple outputs (such as both temperature and relative humidity), then each output will be assigned a separate device id.
  • The  fourth column indicates the channel field assigned to this particular sensor output.

The mapping table shows four different Write API Keys each corresponding to a unique  “ThingSpeak” channel. The last four rows have the same Write API Key and correspond to the 4 different sensor outputs received from the associated WiSense sensor node. Note that each of these four rows has a unique field column.

In the table above, the different sensor output ids are –

  • 013 :  NTC thermistor data (NXFT15XH103  from Murata).
  • 009:  LM75B temperature data (NXP)
  • 120:  MSP430 On chip supply voltage data (TI)
  • 176:  RH data from a CC2D33S sensor  (Amphenol advanced sensors)
  • 177:  Temperature data from a CC2D33S sensor  (Amphenol advanced sensors)

Here is a snapshot of the sensor data visualized by ThingSpeak for one of the sensor nodes with four sensor outputs (the last four rows in the mapping table at the top).



Here’s a pic of the setup showing a windows laptop running the WiSense gateway app under Cygwin, a WiSense coordinator node connected to the laptop and a WiSense sensor node generating 4 sensor output streams corresponding to the last 4 rows in the mapping table shown above. The laptop is sending data to the ThingSpeak cloud over a WiFi/broadband connection.



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Wireless Temperature Tag

Albert (our 3D printing expert) is designing enclosures for our wireless temperature sensor tags. We have gone through a few 3D printed versions already.  The enclosure material is ABS.

These tags are suitable for sensing temperature indoors (warehouses, cold chains etc). You can see the sensing element (a thermistor) sticking out of the tags. These tags are powered by two coin cells  (3V CR2032) which can last more  than three years assuming 1 transmission every 5 minutes.  The tags have an internal PCB antenna but also have a  U.Fl connector for an external whip antenna.

The tags operate in the 865-867 MHz license free band in India.




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Wireless Temperature Sensor for Cold Storage



We are currently testing our smallest form factor wireless temperature sensor node.

Dimensions: 50 mm x 50 mm x 10 mm.

Antenna options

  • External whip antenna
  • Internal PCB antenna

The temperature is sensed by a thermistor with 1% tolerance.  Thermistor is visible outside the enclosure

Powered by a single CR2032 coin cell battery with 220 mAh capacity and 3V nominal voltage.

Transmit power of +12 dBm

Operates in the 865-867 MHz license free India band.  Operating at this frequency has the following advantages:

  • This band is mostly free throughout India so very low possibility of interference.
  • 3 times higher range compared to 2.4 GHz (assuming same link budget)
  • Greater penetration through obstacles such as walls etc

The sensor node is  configured to operate as a reduced function device which means that the node is sleeping in low power mode most of the time, only waking up to sense and transmit temperature data if absolutely required. Sleep mode power consumption is less than 2 micro-amps.

Sensor node can send data to a WiSense LPWMN coordinator node (WSN1120CL) directly or indirectly through one or more WiSense LPWMN routers/FFDs (WSN1120L).

Each message from sensor node also reports the battery voltage.

Sensor node can be configured to –

  • Report temperature data at fixed intervals where the reporting interval can be dynamically adjusted from every 1 second to once every day.
  • Report temperature data when temperature drops below or rises above configurable threshold values.
  • Report temperature data only if temperature changes by a configurable percentage or absolute value in deg C.
  • Any combination of the above.
  • Report battery voltage and temperature data if battery voltage falls below configurable threshold.


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WiSense Asset Tagging System using Active RFID Tags



This is the latest addition to our product line. We are already deploying these at couple of customer facilities (factories).


This asset tagging system has these components:


Active Tags – Each tag has a radio (sub-GHz or 2.4 GHz) and a tiny micro-controller. It is powered by a 3V Li-Ion coin battery which can last for 7-8 year assuming one beacon transmission per day.  Each transmitted beacon carries the tag’s unique 3 byte hardwired Id.  The tag has a PCB antenna.

Reader-Router Nodes – These nodes pick up the beacons received from all tags in the  vicinity and forward the same to the system gateway. These nodes have two radios each operating on a different frequency.  One radio is always listening for beacons from the active tags and the other radio is used to form a mesh network of router radios. This mesh network is used to forward the beacons and associated information (reader node “Id” and the signal strength of the received beacon) to the system gateway.  The reader-router nodes should be distributed throughout (say a factory) in such a way that each beacon is received by 3 or more nodes. This allows the system to estimate the rough location of each tag using the signal strength information corresponding to each received beacon. These nodes are mains powered with Li-Ion battery backup. A Li-Ion charger IC keeps the battery charged when mains power is available. When mains power is lost, the node gets power from the Li-Ion battery without any interruption.

System Gateway – The gateway is the asset tracking system’s to the external world.  It also maintains the mesh network of router radios.

Tag UI and database – This can be hosted locally or on the cloud.  The database will store all the beacons forwarded to the gateway. The UI shows the location of all tags in real time.


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Roads that honk

WiSense is proud to be associated with the “Roads that honk  project.

More good news  – “India’s sole Innovation shortlist at Cannes Lions 2017 goes to Leo Bunett”.

WiSense low power wireless nodes provide the link between the two poles.  In addition, we designed the main controller PCB inside each pole and helped in the developing the firmware.

Thanks to Rajeev jha (Yuktix) and Shailendra singh for the opportunity to work on this project.

3D printed antenna stand

This week we got a antenna stand 3D printed. The stand keeps our half-wave dipole antennas up right on a flat surface.  The antenna can be snapped in to one of three holders. Useful to have when doing some testing without using an enclosure.

I have some pics of the setup below showing a WSN1120L sensor node connected to an antenna through a U.FL to SMA cable assembly.

Thanks again to Hack Lab for help with the design and printing.









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WiSense nodes in the machine shop

Pic below shows a WSN1120L  based sensor node equipped with two float switches and  a temperature sensor for tracking the level and temperature of a CNC machine’s coolant tank.



Pic below shows another WSN1120L based sensor node equipped with an NTC thermistor for measuring motor temperature.


Both the nodes (shown above) run on a pair of AAA  batteries. The WSN1120L wireless sensor  node (in each  case) is  configured to operate as a reduced function device (RFD). The node wakes up periodically (depending on the application), samples the attached sensors, sends data to the network gateway and goes back to sleep.  The battery voltage level is also measured and  reported in every sensor data message sent to the gateway.

All the electronics is protected by a low cost weather proof enclosure.




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