Turn Your XIAO nRF52840 into a Meshtastic Device to Send, Receive, and Rebroadcast Messages Low-Power and Long-Range

Now Meshtastic supports XIAO nRF52840 for decentralised encrypted long-range and low-power communication.

Ever wanted to build a portable, battery-efficient device to exchange messages over long distances, especially when you’re in areas with limited cellular coverage or internet access? If your answer is yes, you’ll be excited to explore the Ikoka Nano Meshtastic Device.

Designed by ndoo, the Ikoka Nano is a compact, Meshtastic-compatible communication device built using the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 and EBYTE E22 series LoRa modules. Once configured, it joins the LoRa mesh network, allowing the device to send, receive, and rebroadcast messages to other devices in the network.

What’s Meshtastic?

Meshtastic® is an open-source project that leverages inexpensive LoRa radios to create a low-power, long-range, off-grid communication platform, especially useful in areas lacking reliable communication infrastructure. Entirely community-driven, Meshtastic supports decentralized, encrypted communication without needing a dedicated router or phone. It boasts an impressive range—holding a record of 254 kilometers—and excellent battery life, making it ideal for outdoor adventures or emergency scenarios. Users can send and receive text messages within the mesh network, and optional GPS-based location features further enhance its utility.

Meshtastic Network and Devices

The technology behind Meshtastic utilizes LoRa, a widely accessible long-range radio protocol that does not require additional licenses or certifications, unlike HAM radio operations. These radios create a mesh network by rebroadcasting messages, ensuring even the furthest member of a group can stay connected. The network can support up to 100 devices concurrently, with each radio paired with a single phone for direct messaging. Meshtastic’s open-source nature means it continually evolves, with contributions from a dedicated community of volunteers who maintain and enhance the project’s codebase.

Currently, Meshtastic officially supports devices with these types of Micro-Controller Units (MCUs): ESP32, nRF52, and RP2040 with official firmware. You can find the official firmware for the XIAO nRF52840 on Meshtastic’s GitHub.

How Ikoka Nano Works?

The Ikoka Nano operates as a standard Meshtastic device within a mesh network, where each device relays messages to extend communication range. Designed for small size, it doesn’t have onboard buttons or displays. It relies entirely on the Meshtastic client app for user interaction, device configuration, and mesh network management. Assembly involves soldering components onto a custom PCB and flashing the Meshtastic firmware. This setup enables secure, long-range text messaging and sensor integration for reliable communication in remote or disaster-stricken areas. Although the device itself does not have a GPS, it can be connected to I²C sensors for additional capabilities.

Here is the hardware breakdown of the device:

  • Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840: Acts as the brain of the device, offering Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity for pairing with smartphones and running the Meshtastic firmware.
  • EBYTE E22 LoRa Module: Handles long-range communication using the LoRa protocol, enabling the device to send and receive messages over extended distances.
  • Connectors: Includes connectors for I²C sensors for additional functionality.

Custom Design Your Own Device

If you want to embed a display, button, or even a GPS module onto the Ikoka Nano Meshtastic Device, you can access all the KiCad files here and redesign. Before you get your hands dirty, check out this forum discussion on the PCBA design for this device, which I believe is super helpful.

Once you have your design, feel free to reach out to us at maker[at]seeed.cc to apply for our Fusion PCBA prototyping sponsorship to get your design fabricated for free. If we like your design as much as you do, we can co-create to scale up your design and sell it on the Seeed official store while you receive a license fee for every piece sold.

Notes at the end.

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May 2024