Home RV Network, Internet and Security

RV Network, Internet and Security

Our RV requires both a network and Internet access. This post reviews why we need a network, how it is implemented and how we use it. Is a network and Internet access essential in the RV? In a word, YES - they are crucial for security, automation, and remote control. The network in an RV allows us to monitor and control devices via automation and remote control.

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flowchart LR
    No-Worries --> Security
    Vacation-Time --> Automation
    No-Surprises --> Security
    No-Guessing --> Remote-Control
    Security --> A
    Automation --> A
    Remote-Control --> A
    A((RV Network & Internet)) --> B{Need it?}
    z[/More-Stuff-To-Break/] --> B
    B -- Yes --> C[OK]
    C --> D[Rethink]
    D --> B
    B -- No ----> E[End]

Security in and around the RV

When we are traveling, we spend a limited amount of time in the RV, aside from getting from point A to B. We like to keep an eye on the RV when we are not in it.

  • Notify me when the vehicle moving and I am not in it. It could be by tow truck or it is being stolen.
  • Notify me when there people around the RV. This is good to know when you away from the RV and also at night while sleeping. Ever boondock in an urban setting?
  • Notify me if the smoke alarm is activated or an internal temperature sensor exceeds 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use Automation to manage things you don’t want to think about

Let’s face it, when you are on vacation, you don’t want to be bogged down with technical details or act as a power plant manager.

In an RV you live with constraints. Among them, the battery bank has only so much energy and the inverter has a high but limited capacity. There are certain combinations of appliances that when run at the same time will cause problems. When the sun is high, the batteries are fully charged, and you’re connected to shore power, there are few constraints. When you are off-grid with a cloudy day and diminished batteries there are more constraints.

Those pesky requirements, here are a few RV requirements for discussion, but I assure you, there are more:

  • Do not overload the 3000 watt inverter.
  • Don’t run the hot water heater when on batteries, and batteries less than 80%.
  • When the inverter is already pulling 2500 watts, disable the microwave.

This is shaping up to be a decision tree or a rule base and it’s going to be interesting. Stay tuned for a future post with all the details.

LTE 4G Internet, Cloudflare Tunnel and Remote Control

The RV is equipped with a Swiss Army Knife type piece of network gear known as a gateway. It the GL-750V2 Spitz, from GL-iNet, and it is impressive. It’s a router, a firewall, a file server, a WiFi hotspot, a VPN manager, and a LTE-4G Internet modem.

You pop a data-only sim card and a micro-sd card in it and you have a network with 24/7 access to the Internet. Using a Cloudflare Tunnel, devices on the network are associated with domain names, i.e., rv.mydomain.com, video.mydomain.com, victron.mydomain.com, jarvis.mydomain.com, etc. Let’s look at the big picture then dive into a few details.

RV Network RV Network Diagram

Let’s run through the components:

  • The Spitz operates on 12 volts DC and draws less than 6 watts. The battery bank voltage will move around a bit and just to keep things clean, and treat the Spitz with respect, an inexpensive 12 volt regulator will give it nice and even power.
  • The Spitz itself has a radio on the T-Mobile and AT&T network. This is nice given Google Fi operates on those same networks. Depending on where you are, one network might be better then the other.
  • The Spitz is also a Wifi hotspot supporting both 5GHz and 2.4GHz and kind of fancy with guest networks and the works.
  • The Spitz can also take a hardwire WAN feed or repeat another Wifi signal. When the RV is at the house or near good Wifi, it will use the Wifi data before using the 4G LTE Data
  • The Spitz presents a network to it’s LAN port which is connected to an Unmanaged Switch providing more ports to the LAN. This switch is inexpensive and the one we chose operates on 12 volts DC.
  • Next we have the Odyssey Blue Mini PC. This is a very capable but low power Intel Celeron computer with 4 threads, 8 GB RAM and a 2 TB SSD. It runs the Debian Linux based Proxmox virtualization package, ie, computers inside a computer.
    • Ubuntu Server - A headless server to run Docker and Home-Assistant
    • Ubuntu Desktop - a full desktop for display on the RV HDMI monitor
    • More virtualization utilities to follow, identify bird calls, etc.
  • Finally we have a Raspberry PI running Venus OS. This tiny computer is dedicated to communicating and managing the Victron Multiplus II and Solar Charge Controller products.

Odyssey X86 Mini PC

These compact devices can be paired with a wide range of equipment. They come with a built-in Arduino processor, two gigabit network ports, WiFi, Bluetooth, and two HDMI ports. They operate on 12 volts, consuming less than 6 watts. Additionally, they have a durable powder-coated metal casing. Stay tuned for more details on the impressive features of this small yet powerful machine in upcoming posts.

Unmanaged Switch

This unit has 10 ports, more than enough, and consumes less than 6 watts at 12 volts. It is thicker but otherwise the same dimensions as the 5 port switch with a convenient block to wire one or more 12 volt power sources.

Total Power Consumption

The selected Buck Boost power converter can deliver 60 watts of 12 volts DC, more than enough power to run the 4G LTE Gateway, the computer, and the switch.

ComponentPower Consumption
Odyssey X86 Mini PC< 6 watts
Unmanaged Switch< 6 watts
GL-750V2 Spitz< 6 watts
Raspberry Pi 4< 6.4 watts

12 Volt Buck Boost Power Converter

Even through the RV has a large battery bank, the voltage can vary from 12.5 volts to 12 volts when turning on/off appliances, or when the A/C cycles. The Buck Boost converter will supply a steady 12 volts.

Raspberry Pi 4, and Case

This little computer runs the Victron - Venus OS. Ideally it could be virtualized saving space, power and cost, but it runs an ARM processor that currently is not easy to emulated on the X86 processor. It requires 5 volts at roughly 3 amps, depending on use requirements.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.