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IoT and edge-cloud deployments can open up new possibilities to facilitate new business models and unlock societal benefits that serve the greater good. Rural environments in particular, are in need of a digital transformation that IoT and edge solutions can provide, but come with a number of challenges.
The Rural Cloud Initiative (RCI), is a coalition of technology and solution providers which spearhead a digital transformation initiative aimed at bringing broadband connectivity to remote rural environments and improving how technology is used for specific verticals, such as smart farming. To do this, RCI knew it needed a strong ecosystem of technology players to bring connectivity and a rich platform to rural farms to optimize farming operations, and Internet connectivity to underserved rural communities. Such improvements range from helping farmers plan their business and manage productivity, to bringing their products to consumers.
Grand Farm Test Site, Fargo North Dakota
The Grand Farm is creating the farm of the future by 2025, as a global example of solving challenges to farming worldwide, while unleashing vast new potential for technology. Together, members of the RCI installed the FarmGrid edge connectivity and compute platform and a host of agricultural solutions including:
- Trilogy Networks provides FarmGrid – the-farm-to-cloud/cloud-to-farm platform.
- Zyter SmartSpaces provides actional insight from sensors deployed across an area.
- LoRa sensors collection data: air temperature and humidity via a Laird sensor and a Dragino soil sensor for moisture.
- Specialized sensors are used for row crops, livestock, and high-valued crops (e.g., orchards).
- Veea deployed a mesh network with edge computing-cloud functionality, built around the VeeaHub Smart Computing Hubs, bringing a fresh take on how an edge computing-cloud platform can be architected to simplify deployments and bring the power of cloud applications to the edge.
The FarmGrid solution will provide edge compute and connectivity solutions support for the ongoing technical evaluations that happen out at this technological living lab.
We recently caught up with Veea, a member of Qualcomm Advantage Network (QAN) and the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program, to learn more about their platform and how they’ve worked with RCI.
The Veea Edge Platform
Veea believes that compute close to or at the device edge delivers optimal benefit because it helps reduce data transfers and the required backhaul. This is evident in their platform’s architecture that is based around VeeaHubs, and powered by chipsets from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI). These small, fan-less, stackable hubs form a mesh network (referred to by Veea as vMesh) that provides onsite cloud connectivity, and the necessary compute power to run cloud applications near the edge.
Their STAX (aka VHC25 Stacker) solution is the latest VeeaHub model. It uses a number of chipsets powered by QTI to provide the following functionality:
- Quectel RM502Q-GL 5G NR module equipped with the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System provides 5G connectivity.
- Qualcomm Networking Pro 800 Platform (IPQ8173) is employed in the base module to provide tri-band Wi-Fi 6 and quad-core compute power.
- Quectel 160RM provides 4G LTE Cat 16 connectivity.
Some of Veea’s other products also use the Quectel EC25 and EG25 (based around theQualcomm 9207 LTE Modem) to provide 4G LTE. Complementing these hubs are Veea’s BOLT products – a collection of IoT devices for smart spaces (e.g., smart lights, thermostats, etc.).
Veea provides its VeeaHub Toolkit to help developers build edge-cloud apps for VeeaHubs. The hubs run VeeaWare, a Linux-based OS that runs services in Docker containers. This OS provides a chain of trust while abstracting away the hardware (via their vBus middleware), as well as providing integration with Azure IoT. Developers can also use Veea’s IoT Toolkit to facilitate communications across multiple communication technologies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and LoRaWAN.
VeeaHub’s Edge Platform Management services are used to manage deployments. This includes the Veea Control Center online portal to manage deployments, and the VeeaHub Manager app for configuring and diagnosing VeeaHubs on mesh networks.
Veea now has similar deployments at several other farms, and farmers have stated that the relatively short deployment time (of a few days) has been a big win.
Improving Broadband in Underserved Rural Communities
In working with the RCI, Veea worked on several projects in rural areas around the United States, including low-income neighborhoods, where broadband access is often less than optimal or even unavailable.
Veea utilizes technologies like 5G in their VeeaHubs to provide a wireless backbone for these communities to close this digital divide. In some cases, they’ve demonstrated how deployments on farms, like the example provided above, can double as a broadband access point for the surrounding community. Veea says that private 5G networking will be used to get the coverage and capacity to the rural areas in many scenarios.
Through their deployments, Veea is redefining the traditional notion of a smart city, which often conjures up images of smart parking meters and intelligent traffic signals. Instead, Veea sees this digital transformation benefitting communities of all shapes and sizes in other ways, ranging from providing connectivity and solving bigger societal problems, to optimizing how sparsely-located businesses function.
Thanks to Veea, RCI has benefited from having a proven and scalable platform for managing hundreds of thousands of farms, along with millions of sensors. This also allows them to analyze data locally and share it to improve farmers’ monetization capabilities, improve crop yields, and minimize resource utilization (e.g., water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy).
Veea’s platform is demonstrating success in other areas beyond the RCI. For example, their Trollee platform shows how the shopping cart of the future may improve the shopping experience in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. And Veea’s upcoming immersive experience at Times Square in New York City will bring a fusion of senses from visual, sound, physical, virtual, and augmented realities along with new business opportunities to this popular venue.
So, whether it’s providing connectivity or optimizing operations, Veea’s platform is demonstrating the benefits of IoT and edge-cloud deployments.
If you have a cool project or technology that you’ve built with our chipsets, let us know about it, and we may feature it on QDN.
Snapdragon, Qualcomm 9207 LTE Modem, and Qualcomm Networking Pro 800 Platform are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. Qualcomm Advantage Network and Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program are programs of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.