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Revision as of 10:34, 13 October 2017 by Bertrik Sikken (talk | contribs) (completed!)
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Project TTNHABBridge
A software bridge between TTN and the HAB network
Status Completed
Contact bertrik
Last Update 2017-10-13


The bridge application has been implemented in Java and works. It has been tested in practice with the 'koppelting1' payload on 2017-8-26.

Next steps:

  • discuss/review with the people at habhub/ukhas/TTN


This idea is about using TheThingsNetwork as a receiver for high-altitude balloon telemetry.

Receiving telemetry from high-altitude balloons is currently typically done on the 434 MHz band using RTTY modulation, with dedicated receivers listening for RTTY-modulated ASCII strings. The operator of each receiver has to prepare his radio setup for receiving the telemetry, by tuning to the correct frequency at the correct time, setting up a dedicated software client that decodes the RTTY modulation and forwards the data to a central system over the internet. The central system accepts data from many such receivers, performs de-duplication, keeps track of who received what and updates a nice graphical map of where each balloon is and where the receivers are. It can do a burst prediction, landing prediction based on a weather model

TheThingsNetwork consists of a world-wide network of LoRaWAN receivers that can accept data from nodes to receive low-bitrate telemetry packets and forward them on the internet. It uses LoRa as a modulation scheme which allows for very small transmission power and is much less susceptible to slight tuning errors than the currently used RTTY modulation. This means that telemetry packets can be received completely autonomously by TTN gateways, no need for a radio operator to make adjustments etc.

In short, the idea is:

  • you attach a LoRaWAN transmitter to the balloon, which been pre-configured with a set of keys generated by the TTN
  • the balloon broadcasts its telemetry every once in a while (say a few times per minute) and this is picked up by one or more TTN gateways which forward into the TTN infrastructure
  • the bridge software listens for packets received by the TTN and decodes the payload data into an id, latitude, longitude, altitude of the balloon
  • we can convert each telemetry packet according to 'UKHAS' conventions and forward it to the server which displays it on a convenient map, along with a burst/landing location prediction
  • we also forward the TTN gateway locations, so they also appear on the map, along with their name / EUI and antenna altitude
  • the server still sees the same messages like it would if there were many traditional receivers, so doesn't need any modification!

This way, the entire things network can be used to receive balloon telemetry! There is no longer a need for radio operators to be present at their receiver at the exact time the balloon is launched, making manual adjustments, etc. The Netherlands is already covered by many TTN gateways, greatly increasing the chance the balloon telemetry will be picked up.


Source code

Source code is available at:

The README explains the tool chain setup.

Using this source code, the basic functionality works.

There is no user guide yet, but the .properties settings file has a one-line comment explaining what each setting does.


The software consists of the following modules.

Main process

The main process of the bridge is something like this:

  • listen to the MQTT stream of the HAB application
  • once we get data:
    • decode the payload into latitude/longitude/altitude, and encode it into a habhub ASCII sentence with correct CRC, see
    • for each gateway that received the data:
      • send a listener info and a listener telemetry document to the habhub server
      • send the payload telemetry (ASCII sentence) to the habhub server

MQTT listener

Implemented using the Eclipse paho MQTT client. We can listen on a certain application and catch *all* traffic for all nodes registered to that application.

Example invocation, using mosquitto_sub:

 bertrik@zenbook:~$ mosquitto_sub -h -t '+/devices/+/up' -u 'ttnmapper' -P 'ttn-account-v2.Xc8BFRKeBK5nUhc9ikDcR-sbelgSMdHKnOQKMAiwpgI' -v

Actual result:

 ttnmapper/devices/mapper2/up {"app_id":"ttnmapper","dev_id":"mapper2","hardware_serial":"0004A30B001ADBC5","port":1,"counter":1,"payload_raw":"d4WaWXATAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD/","metadata":{"time":"2017-08-21T07:02:14.842855925Z","frequency":868.1,"modulation":"LORA","data_rate":"SF7BW125","coding_rate":"4/5","gateways":[{"gtw_id":"eui-008000000000b8b6","timestamp":865620531,"time":"2017-08-21T07:02:14.846095Z","channel":0,"rssi":-119,"snr":-3.8,"rf_chain":1,"latitude":52.0182,"longitude":4.70844,"altitude":27}]}}
 ttnmapper/devices/mapper2/up {"app_id":"ttnmapper","dev_id":"mapper2","hardware_serial":"0004A30B001ADBC5","port":1,"counter":4,"payload_raw":"loeaWW4T2+8BHzYZzAIeAA8A/QUS","metadata":{"time":"2017-08-21T07:11:18.313946438Z","frequency":868.3,"modulation":"LORA","data_rate":"SF7BW125","coding_rate":"4/5","gateways":[{"gtw_id":"eui-008000000000b8b6","timestamp":1409115451,"time":"2017-08-21T07:11:18.338662Z","channel":1,"rssi":-114,"snr":-0.2,"rf_chain":1,"latitude":52.0182,"longitude":4.70844,"altitude":27}]}}

Habitat uploader

payload upload

This uses a HTTP interface, performing a PUT to a certain URL with a certain content:

  • the URL is<doc_id>
  • the <doc_id> is created from the telemetry sentence by doing ASCII to BASE64 conversion, then hashing using SHA-256 and encoding as ASCII-hex (as LOWER case!).
  • the HTTP method is a PUT with the following headers:
    • "Accept: application/json"
    • "Content-Type: application/json"
    • "charsets: utf-8"
  • The contents of the PUT is the following JSON structure
  "data": {
    "_raw": "[base64 of telemetry sentence]"
  "receivers": {
    "[receiver_id]": {
      "time_created": "[timestamp]",
      "time_uploaded": "[timestamp]"

The "[receiver_id]" part can be repeated as many times as there are gateways that received the data. Eh, no, this results in a 500 internal error from habitat!

listener upload

To figure out how to upload information about the receiver station, I captured some traffic between dl-fldigi and habitat, it seems the following happens:

  • a GET is done on, this returns a list of 100 UUIDs, where a UUID is the lower-case ascii hex representation of 16 bytes.
  • a PUT is done with a "listener_information" doc to /habitat/<the first UUID>
  • a PUT is done with a "listener_telemetry" doc to /habitat/<the second UUID>

Perhaps implement this with an expiring cache, so listener information/telemetry is uploaded regularly (say every 20 minutes) but not with *every* payload telemetry.

Payload encoder/decoder

This part decodes the binary payload received from the TTN into a standard habitat sentence.

The bridge application currently allows the following encodings for the telemetry data, configurable in the application properties:

The habitat ASCII sentence typically looks like:

Property mapping
Field value SodaqOne raw JSON Cayenne Remark
ttntest1 TTN node name TTN node name TTN node name TTN node name
20:41:10 field 0 TTN metadata time TTN metadata time TTN metadata time
52.022100 field 3 "lat" latitude from GPS sensor latitude (degrees)
4.693100 field 4 "lon" longitude from GPS sensor longitude (degrees)
20.0 field 5 "gpsalt" altitude from GPS sensor altitude (meters)
14.0 field 2 "temp" value from TEMPERATURE sensor temperature (degrees Celcius)
3.88 field 1 "vcc" value from ANALOG_IN sensor battery voltage (volts)

The field 1C8A is the CCITT-CRC16 over the characters between $$ and *, interpreted as bytes using US-ASCII encoding

Listener cache

The cache keeps track of when listener information / telemetry was sent last. This makes it possible to avoid sending the listener information / telemetry with each payload telemetry document, reducing the load on the server.

Listener information / telemetry is sent only:

  • when this is the first time we are sending something for this listener
  • when it has been more than X minutes ago that we sent listener information / telemetry for this listener, where X is typically 10 minutes or so.

Helpful links

From a conversation on #highaltitude:

20:24 < adamgreig> there's a) a python library that's a lot easier to read
20:24 < adamgreig> but b) basically the gist is you just PUT to<id> with some stuff
20:24 < adamgreig>
20:24 < adamgreig> so you have a new string, you take the sha256 hex digest of the base64 encoded raw data
20:25 < adamgreig> you PUT to that URL with that ID
20:25 < adamgreig> and you include that JSON struture with your callsign/details

C implementation of the interface between the client and the habitat server

list of habitat JSON schemas

The habitat interface is accessed as a REST service, using a combination of Jetty/Jersey/Jackson Java libraries.

JSON examples

MQTT data

Over MQTT, it looks like this:

  "app_id": "ttnmapper",
  "dev_id": "mapper2",
  "hardware_serial": "0004A30B001ADBC5",
  "port": 1,
  "counter": 587,
  "payload_raw": "g3ybWXkTef8BH1EOzAK1\/wEA5wQT",
  "metadata": {
    "time": "2017-08-22T00:36:18.674804288Z",
    "frequency": 868.1,
    "modulation": "LORA",
    "data_rate": "SF7BW125",
    "coding_rate": "4\/5",
    "gateways": [
        "gtw_id": "eui-008000000000b8b6",
        "timestamp": 3979529499,
        "time": "2017-08-22T00:36:18.345616Z",
        "channel": 0,
        "rssi": -120,
        "snr": -7,
        "rf_chain": 1,
        "latitude": 52.0182,
        "longitude": 4.70844,
        "altitude": 27

Tracker configuration for the TTN-HAB bridge software

Roughly the following configuration is needed for your tracker to use the TTN-HAB bridge:

  • setup your LoRaWAN device for use with TheThingsNetwork
  • create a payload configuration document on the webpage
  • download, configure and run the ttnhabbridge software

Setting up the tracker for TTN

Find out the LoRaWAN EUI of your tracker:

  • specifically for the SodaqOne, the EUI (LoRaWAN hardware address) is shown at startup of the tracker
  • perhaps just make up your own, if you don't use an RN2483?

Create the TTN application and register your tracker with TTN:

  • Create an account on TTN
  • Go to the TTN console and create a new application, or select an existing application you want to add the device to.
  • create a new node/device, this needs to be equal to the habhub payload name (but cannot use uppercase characters)
  • In the device settings screen:
    • under 'Device EUI', fill in the EUI of your LoraWAN tracker
    • under 'Activation method' choose ABP
    • disable option 'Frame Counter Checks'
    • click Save

Copy the network credentials back to your LoRaWAN tracker:

  • this means the "device address", "network key" and "application key"
  • in case you use a SodaqOne serial debug console, type the following:
    • copy the Network Session Key from the TTN console and type in the SodaqOne serial debug console 'key=<key>'
    • copy the App Session Key from the TTN console and type in the SodaqOne serial debug console 'app=<key>'
    • copy the device id from the TTN console and type in the SodaqOne serial debug console 'dev=<deviceid>' (is this right?)
  • configure the following additional settings in the SodaqOne:
    • enable ABP mode (disable OTAA), by typing 'otaa=0'
    • set spreading factor 7: 'sf=7'
    • disable ADR: 'adr=0'
    • enable GPS: 'gps=1'
    • set GPS fix interval: 'fi=1'
    • set GPS fix timeout: 'gft=30'
    • set GPS satellite count: 'num=1'

Creating a payload configuration document


  • Go to the habhub habitat website and create a new payload document
  • under 'payload name' fill in the callsign (e.g. 'ttntest1'), this has to match exactly with the TTN device/node name
    • add a parser configuration, using the 'new format wizard'
    • enter the following example string: $$ttntest1,64,20:41:10,52.022100,4.693100,20.0,14.0,3.88*1C8A
  • click save

Configuring the TTN-HAB bridge software

  • get the release zip file and unzip it in some place
  • make sure you have Java 8 installed
  • In the bridge configuration properties file (, fill in the following
    • with the name of your TTN application
    • with the key of your TTN application (you can find this in the TTN console)
    • ttn.payload.encoding with the type of payload encoding you use ('sodaqone' for their tracker software)
    • you can probably leave the other settings at their default value
  • start the bridge software from the command line, either using the .bat file (for windows) or the .sh file (for Linux)