Our makerspace submitted two concepts for the Voltaic Systems Build Night. The first concept was an automated battery charger that cycles through AA or AAA rechargeable batteries processing each battery, the second concept was a wireless wiki that could be accessed by nearby users with mobile devices.
Building a good automated battery charger quickly turned into a project with design challenges and is still a work in progress (we'll get to posting that soon), however, building a wireless wiki isn't nearly as complicated - and might have some real world applications. Here's how to get started.
What we did is take an off-the-shelf 3G router and turn it into a wireless wiki server. Once that is paired up with Voltaic's solar panel and battery kit, this is a completely off-the-grid device that could run 24x7x365 in some climates serving up files to anyone within range.
What did we use?
-Voltaic 1A panel and 4Ah battery. That combination is ideal once the battery is configured in "always on" mode
-TP-LINK TL-MR3220 3G/4G Wireless N Router, requires around 100ma during operation, has USB port
-8GB flash drive, can be used to serve content to visitors and store user/system data
-Factory firmware files, OpenWrt, lots of command-line customization (for now)
There are literally a hundred (or more) steps in transforming an off-the-shelf version of this TP-LINK product into a wireless wiki box. From the screenshots you'll be able to get an idea of what we ended up with - the website being served is based on OpenWrt and Haserl editing a text file with comments in it.
The firmware image still needs a good responsive website, a captive portal to allow users to easily find it etc. The next steps would be to spend some more time (if there is interest) and build a single firmware update file for this product that goes from factory 3G/4G router to wiki box in a single click.
If you're interested in learning more about how to do this, these links are a good starting point:
It's also worth adding that this type of modification to a product generally voids any warranty, and if the process is performed incorrectly can easily render your product inoperable (bricked). Please do the research before attempting anything.
Best regards, William