solarnode is an application that typically runs on a low-power, low cost SBC (single-board computer) of which there is a increasing variety of choice. What this little computer achieves is chiefly the job of data acquisition from a growing list of devices in a building. It doesn’t matter whether you have many solar inverters and charge controllers of different brands, many different kilowatt hour meters, or industrial switches. It doesn’t matter whether these devices you want to collect data from use wired or wireless communications, or both. solarnode is built to handle all of those tasks, hold on to the data itself, and then use a secure connection to upload that data to the SolarNet repository in the cloud. But solarnode does a lot more that than in its multi-threaded execution. Let’s take a look at some of the excellent attributes of this component:
Once you download the latest image to boot up a SolarNode, you can hook it up to your network by simply plugging it into your router. Most everything can be done through a browser, but if you need to start and stop services, you can also SSH (Secure Shell) into the SolarNode. But all of the settings for your specific SolarNode configuraiton can be accessed and set via browser.
Secure transport with certificate-based authentication via ethernet, WiFi or 3G
Networking these days is a very mature industry, and there are lots of ways to get IP connectivity to a device. We don’t want to re-invent the wheel with proprieatry and restrictive networking equipment. Use whatever you like to get an internet connection to your SolarNode – we know site configurations can get complex. What we do enforce however, are some industry-standard best practices to ensure secure communications between your SolarNode and the internet. SolarNet, our repository, must know that this SolarNode is a valid actor in the system in order to accept data from it, or send instructions to it. Yes – you can in fact tell the SolarNode what to do in an event driven way, and get receipts that it accomplished its mission! (see more about this capability in our Advanced Configuration sections). But once you have associated your SolarNode with SolarNet, you can choose how often you want to capture and how often you want to transfer data – once again we leave it up to you.
Plugin support for a variety of services and devices
Add as many components as you like using the Plugin Repository – this is an “app store” for solarnode, and while there is a public repository, you can also make your own public private ones. To add more functionality to your solarnode, just choose the plugin and click Install. You can collect consumption information, solar generation, EV charging data, day and time meta-data (e.g. sunrise and sunset), weather reports and electricity spot-prices and more. But this is only the start – with our developer SDK, you can write your own plugins, and host them on your own repositories. Some users allow the SolarNodes to post critical building information to their Building Management Systems. It’s all up to you, but a coherent platform with rich services is there to help. In fact, solarnode will alert you when there is an updated plugin that you should consider – and upgrading is simply clicking a button.
Backup and Restore of custom configurations
As we have stressed before, features are one thing but management of whole array of distributed assets is another. Once you’ve got your custom configuration, complete with certificates so that the SolarNode can communicate with SolarNet, you can back it up to a .zip file. To restore this configuration to a new node, just point your browser at the new SolarNode and restore that configuration file. With all the automation of cloud-based repositories, there’s more that can be done for multi-client rollouts – so watch this space.
Low-cost, dependable, repeatable hardware – with options
SolarNodes are self-contained, DIN-rail mounted units that you can assemble and brand yourself. They connect to the internet via ethernet, WiFi, 3G and possibly other TCP/IP transport options, and with all the connectivity and networking hardware support built into the Linux operating system. There are many SBCs (Single Board Computers) you can use with downloadable boot images here, and we provide a tutorial on how to create your own boot image here. With one or multiple RS-485 or RS-232 adapters, SolarNodes can connect to a variety of devices, acquiring data concurrently and securely. It’s low cost to get started, you have rock-solid repeatable data acquisition, and it’s easy to setup and manage.
SLC media, managed persistence, managed networking
Having a reliable and dependable unit out in the field is critical to rolling out a distributed system of data acquisition. Our experience has shown that the use of SLC industrial media, with adjustable persistence settings makes this very resilient. solarnode as an application does not need to write to disk often as the whole application can easily run in the available RAM included on a Raspberry Pi. In fact our whole boot image can fit on a single 1GB microSD card. But because your data needs might vary – set up your caching schedule the way you want to, use the hardware that suits your needs best.. Network availability is also something we know people need – what happens when the internet goes down? Well for one thing, solarnode keeps on ticking – it can even keep tabs on the network connectivity and restart networking services proactively! The hardware for IoT sensors and clients is becoming a mature market – with SolarNetwork you can keep your options open and take advantage of the falling costs and increasing capabilities of the right hardware that’s emerging for IoT applications – for your applications and deployments today and tomorrow.
Advanced management capabilities
Interaction with different systems that your organisation already uses is a requirement that every IoT solution will deal with. With solarnode, you can write plugins that communicate with Building Management Systems, Customer Relationship Management systems, Billing Systems – whatever your business or organisation needs to integrate with. We expect that the energy systems that run your organisation do not live in a vacumn – they are stable and working because they have been tried and tested over the years. Let solarnode talk to them and make them even more valuable that they are today.