Introduction: Remote Monitoring Via 3G

Picture of Remote Monitoring Via 3G

I had the requirement to monitor wind turbines in various remote sites. I also wanted to be able to re program the grid tie controllers remotely and also "see" the turbine with some sort of camera.

This setup can however be used for any local software that you want to monitor a remote device.

In my case the monitoring/programming software was provided by the supplier that ran only locally with the PC connected directly to the grid tie unit via a USB to RS232/485 cable converter (these are cheap and easily found on eBay).

RS485 is basically RS232 that is addressable to upto 32 devices via just two wires. (Unshielded twisted pair)

See http://www.rs485.com/rs485spec.html

Hardware requirements for remote monitoring:

TP-Link TL-MR3020 Portable 3G Wireless N USB Router (eBay)

RS 485 to Ethernet converter (eBay) This can be any converter.

5v power to both of the above

2G/3G/4G USB dongle with SIM for internet access with PUBLIC IP address be sure it has an external antenna connection

Optional antenna for the 3G USB dongle if 3G signal is weak (recommended)

Software requirements:

Tibbo Virtual Serial Port Software http://tibbo.com/soi/tdst.html

Local software ie camera software or monitoring software

Step 1: Conceptual Understanding

Picture of Conceptual Understanding

If you look at the picture above it gives you an overview of how it all hangs together. Some lines have vanished when uploading but gives you the idea and some IP address also.

What we are dong is basically fooling any locally run software that the device is connected directly to the PC.

By using the Tibbo Virtual Serial Port software we fool the local application into thinking the device is local but it is in fact on the internet.

It is a free application.

The only hard bit (if it is that hard) is setting up the software and the ports in the devices so they all talk to each other.

A BIG factor to remember is that when sourcing your 3G SIM be sure it has a PUBLIC IP address. It does not need a fixed IP address.

Some cheaper 3G suppliers supply a private IP address. This will not work in our situation as we have to get into the device remotely.

The IP address that your 3G supplier provides is dynamic. That means it is not fixed and can change at any time.

To ensure you always have the correct IP address you need to sign up to one of the free Dynamic DNS suppliers such as DYNDNS or NoIP. Basically the TP Link router (and most if not all routers) has a setting where you tell it what Dynamic DNS provider you are using and the router automatically updates the correct IP address if it changes.

More on this later.

Step 2: The Hardware

Picture of The Hardware

If you look at the image above I mounted all the hardware into an electrical box with a clear lid (available at most electrical stores)

On the RHS is a 240VAC to USB 5VDC power adaptor with four USB ports. I drilled a hole on the RHS so that the figure 8 power cord could be plugged in. I think this came with the TP-Link. You can use anything that will provide 5v DC to both the TP Link and the RS485 to Ethernet converter. Allow 500mA each.

Next to this is the Ethernet to to RS-485 converter. (exposed PCB) I had to butcher a USB cable by cutting off one end and wiring the other end to a standard power connector. Do a Wiki search on USB Connector and it will give you the pin outs. The outer two pins are power with red + 5v and black ground. Wire red to the center post of the standard power connector and black to the outer post. Just cut off the two data wires.

The yellow and blue twisted pair cables coming out at bottom are the RS-485 cables

Next is the key to this solution. The TP-Link TL-MR3020

This has:

a USB connector for the USB 3G router (see left hand side of box)

a mini USB for power

an Ethernet connector that goes to the RS-485 converter

and it also has wireless so you can run a wireless IP camera or any other wireless device

Pretty snazzy unit with low power usage also

You can also see the 3G antenna plugged into the USB 3G dongle.

Step 3: Antenna

Picture of Antenna

This is the type of external antenna I used to boost the signal. The stronger the signal the more bandwidth you will get.

It has a 16dB gain and can be mounted out in the elements so the rest of the stuff can be in a shed for example.

3G is line of site so be sure you place the antenna so it has direct line of site to the 3G transmitter

Step 4: The Setup

Picture of The Setup

There are three devices that need to be set up

  • The Tibbo Software
  • The Ethernet to RS485 device
  • The TP Link router (next page)

Tibbo Virtual Serial Port

The first image above is how the Tibbo software should be set up

It is set to run on COM3 so set whatever application software you are running to use COM3 or whatever COM port you want to use that does not conflict with any local COM port you already have on your PC. This is a virtual port ie it does not physically exist.

At the bottom you can see the Dynamic DNS we have set up. In this case we registered with DYNDNS and obtained the address windturbine1.dyndns.org

When we did this you could get up to three addresses for free. We swapped over to noip later on as we found it a bit easier to use.

Just go to their websites and check it out.

So locally we are now all set up. We tell our local application that device we want to monitor is on COM3 . The Tibbo software then translates everything and puts it on the Internet transparently to the application.

Ethernet to RS485 converter.

The second image is the setup of the Ethernet to RS485 converter. It comes with software that lets you set this up.

Set it up as shown


Step 5: The TP Link Router

Picture of The TP Link Router

The TP Link router


The above images should allow you to set up the TP Link router.

The key is to set up port forwarding so that you can "get through" the router to the various attached devices ie the Ethernet to RS485 converter and cameras. You can see we have allowed for extra devices.

Comments

AparajitA1 (author)2017-07-20

I’m building an outdoor-rated box that uses an outdoor-rated 4G phone (instead of a dongle) to provide the Internet connection for monitoring.


  1. Do you have any suggestions for an outdoor-rated router to use with this configuration? The router in the pictured configuration is rated to about 104-degrees Fahrenheit, so I’m looking for a router with an outdoor rating (say 150-degrees Fahrenheit tolerance).
  2. If I use an outdoor-rated 4G phone do you have any suggested changes to the configuration in this paper? I placed an outdoor-rated phone in an outdoor-rated box and have already placed one outside in the sun and that phone is working fine so far as an internet hot spot. I still need to figure out how to connect the phone to some outdoor fixed wireless radios for monitoring purposes. Alternatively, do you know of any outdoor-rated dongles? Thanks!
MarcV3 (author)AparajitA12017-07-20

is it just me but does anyone else see the irony in looking for a high temperature solution for an internet 'hot" spot....

Sorry I just source the gear. 150 deg F is 65 deg C. That is pretty hot. Maybe you could look at heat sinks, fans and solar/battery to run the fan???

MarcV3 (author)2015-11-01

I used Virgin Mobile who use the Optus network and that was pretty good value on a yearly plan. I did try Amasim but they had the private IP range of 192.168.x.x so no good. FYI as I mention above I also ran wireless outdoor IP cameras. In fact with this setup you could run as many IP devices as you like. Even wired if you added a small 5 port switch that runs at 5v. Plenty around on eBay. So a standard setup that allows any IP device to connect is I think a neat and simple setup.

praxidice (author)2015-11-01

Apologies for problems with previous post but I couldn't delete that dirty great banner. Anyway, a dial-in arrangement would avoid the IP problem and wouldn't need the router, although it would be necessary to get mgetty / pppd working.

MarcV3 (author)praxidice2015-11-01

Thanks for your replay. By public IP I mean it does not need to be fixed IP which tend to be more expensive. I also found some lower cost 3P providers give ip addresses in the 192.168.x.x and multiplex them. The latter as I found out pretty quickly could not be accessed remotely as they were in the "private" IP range. So in summary make sure you have an ip address outside the 192.168.x.x and 10.x.x.x range. Your suggestion has merit but requires obtaining new skills with Raspberry, something I had no time for.

praxidice (author)MarcV32015-11-01

Thanks for your reply. I am quite aware of the need for a public IP with your dial-out arrangement, and I did look around Australian mobile service providers'. Only one would allocate a public IP (actually one of mine), and at a cost that makes it completely unviable. I have configured unix dial-in (albeit several lifetimes in the past) so it shouldn't be an impossible task with a raspberry running linux. That said, extensive research has failed to turn up any recorded instance of someone doing it and I'm wondering why. As I recall, my previous undertaking employed a german made 'Falcom' GSM modem on the called end. That Falcom modem isn't being used at present since the business for which it was used has been sold, however its in storage and we have yet to locate the thing. I've also acquired a new / surplus PIC development board mit GSM900 module and plan on experimenting with that in the next week or so. Seems the later 3G modules aren't compatible with the old GSM modules however 3G / LTE dongles are as cheap as chips and when its all said and done, they are all as far as I'm aware ATA command compatible modems. In any case, GSM has a very limited life in Australia and is scheduled to go completely sometime in 2016 so GSM technology is really only of curiosity value. Ultimately I suggest the answer is doing away with the hardware router which is really only needed to assist with keeping the outgoing connection alive, and configuring mgetty / pppd to accept incoming calls. I did notice a report that someone had been messing around with mgetty in a raspberry pi but I don't recall seeing what resulted. Since we have control of the calling end, it doesn't matter whether a private or public IP is used, which means the choice of mobile service provider is irrelevant. Personally I prefer to use Optus re-seller Amaysim because there is no flagfall, no monthly fee and data charges are minimal. Coverage depends on location but in many cases Optus has the best mobile coverage anyway. Vodafail and Telstra are companies I endeavour to avoid.

praxidice (author)2015-11-01

Whilst this arrangement is obviously workable if one can convince the mobile service provider to allocate a public IP, that isn't something most Australian mobile companies want to know about. With this in mind, would it not be better to dial in to the raspberry pi ??pi ??

seamster (author)2015-01-07

Nicely done. Thanks for sharing this!

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