RF24Network Arduino/RPi Library - A New Development
What is RF24Network?
It is a library built upon the core RF24 driver for nrf24l01 radio modules that attempts to provide a simple interface for connecting anywhere from a few, to hundreds of wireless radio modules, connected to Arduino or Raspberry Pi devices. Uses don't need to know every detail of the radio modules in order to setup and operate a network of them. The library handles configuration, addressing, interconnections, and routing, so users can focus on creating household or long distance radio sensor networks, with data being routed automatically through the network to its intended destination.
I've been doing quite a bit of work on the core RF24 radio driver, including a wide range of changes and updates, and wanted to test out some of the more interesting features of the modules on a large scale. The existing network layer (originally by ManiacBug) provided a great foundation to begin, as it contained all of the required features of an RF24 radio network, and used a system of routing and addressing that is well suited to small devices like Arduino or ATTiny.
Some of the new features may seem unnecessary or overkill, and some will probably be, but others will support scenarios just not possible in the previous configuration. I've created a development repository and associated documentation that will be kept up roughly in accordance with development, since it will all take time to test fully, but it seems to work well and some of the features are pretty interesting.
The development version currently uses a different addressing format, using specific addressing chosen for use in radio transmission. See the datasheet and this blog post for more information. Users simply specify an octal address (01-05) as before for example, and the radio addresses will be configured accordingly.
Routing and Acknowledgement
Previously, payloads that were routed over one or more nodes were not acknowledged, so the transmitting radio had no way of knowing if payloads were delivered. In the development version, the same or less traffic is used to provide network-wide acknowledgement of payloads, so individual nodes are aware if data transmission is successful. There are a few benefits to this arrangement, since it automatically helps to prevent nodes from flooding the network with traffic, and allows nodes to fail over to a backup node when transmission is failing.
Direct Routing and Failovers
Network frames can now be logically addressed to one node, and sent to any other node for routing. This allows some dynamic topology, and can also be used to reduce routed traffic on a network. See the documentation links below for specifics and limitations.
A multicasting feature has also been added that allows, for example, the master node to send out a single network payload, and have it delivered to hundreds of network nodes very rapidly. Multicast relay nodes can be used to disperse messages throughout all or partial areas of the network. Multicasting is enabled by un-commenting #define RF24NetworkMulticast in the RF24Network_config.h file, since it requires additional program space and memory.
Performance on the network will be similar, but users will see a much higher error rate using the development version, as it gives a real indication of success or failure of payloads. Data throughput should be increased in most cases, due to reduced retry periods, and the new routing protocol.
Additional Technical Details and Information:
Documentation for the development version can be found here, and should be kept pretty consistent with changes. It contains information specific to the new routing and delivery protocols, as well as updated class documentation for usage.
The development repo is found here, and it can be downloaded here. Features and functions found to be stable and beneficial are likely to be merged into the master branch eventually. The development branch should be relatively stable at any given time, but is in no way guaranteed to be.