Veracruz, Mexico based Verse Technology has recently launched Goblin 2, an Arduino compatible IoT development, based on Atmel/Microchip ATmega328P MCU, featuring a built-in SIM5320A 3G and GPS module, supporting RS-485 communication, and providing 3.3/5 and 24V power output.
RS-485 protocol @ 10Mbps for up to 256 nodes on the bus
Header to Keypad, microphone and speaker for SIM I/O
Misc – 8 LEDs for power, battery, networking, RS485, UART, plus one user LED; Power switch, RS-485 /GPIO switch, program / SIM AT+ switch
Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port, solar panel up to 5V/200mA, 3.7V battery charger
Power Output- 5V @ 3A , 3.3V @ 300 mA and 24 V @ 500 mA
Dimensions – 65.5mm x 82.2mm
The board can programmed like any other Arduino compatible with the Arduino IDE uploading the code via the micro USB port, or if you want more control over the board using Atmel Studio.
Documentation can be found on Verse Technology website’s Docs page, and examples can be found directly on Github.
Goblin 2 is now for sale for $134 + shipping on the company’s website, and you may want to visit Goblin 2 product page for further details. In case, you are mostly interested in SIM5320 module’s features for your project, Adafruit sells a $80 FONA 3G breakout board to interface with your own board, and provides good documentation. Alternatively, you’ll also find SIM5320 modules (~$30) and breakout boards (~$50) on Aliexpress. The module has been around for several years, so it should be pretty easy to integrate into your own project. Note the last letter in the product name is for the continent, namely A is for America, E for Europe & Asia Pacific, and J for Japan.
Asset tracking was traditionally done using a combination of cellular and GPS technology, and LPWAN standards like LoRa & Sigfox promised to lower the cost of communication and hardware while still relying on GPS technology, but Sigfox has just announced Spot’it geolocation service, which will get rid of GPS all together, and instead use radio signal strength analysis and deep learning techniques in order to provide location information both outdoors and indoors.
Key benefits listed by the company include:
Lowest-cost IoT location service – Spot’it does not require any additional hardware or software upgrades, and the device does not have to transmit more messages, meaning there is no impact on the solution operating cost for customers.
Low energy – Spot’it does not rely on energy intensive GPS technology, nor require additional processing or any more energy than what Sigfox-enabled devices already consume.
Enabled through a planetary network – Spot’it is embedded in Sigfox’s global network footprint and represents the first global IoT geolocation offer. This allows the simplification of global supply chain management: once a device is registered into the Sigfox Cloud, the geolocation service is available in all territories where the network is present.
Unlike traditional GPS-tracking, Sigfox Spot’it works both indoors and outdoors.
For this to work, you’ll need to be covered by Sigfox’s network in one of the 31 countries currently covered, so coverage is not exactly “global” yet. The service does not need any new hardware, and you can use existing Sigfox modules, which you can get for as low as $2 (in quantities), and track them at low cost. Sigfox has not provided that much details on how they are doing it, but they still explained Spot’it was the first big data based Sigfox server, which relies on their Cloud service analyzing signal strength to determine the location.
So there are still unanswered questions, such as accuracy of the system, and how much the company charges for the geolocation service on top of the network access fee.
Ping GPS Tracker is really small, last several months on a charge, and works with GPS, Bluetooth, and Cellular (GSM/EDGE or HSPA/UMTS) connectivity. It helps you track kids, pets, bags, keys, bicycles, cars or anything that may be lost or stolen using your iOS or Android smartphone.
Ping GPS Tracker Potential Use Cases
Ping GPS tracker specifications:
HSPA/GSM module + embedded 3G module
Bluetooth Low Energy module
GPS + GLONASS module
Sensor – 3-axis accelerometer
Misc – Inset tactile button for check-in & SOS, LED activity indicator
Battery – 300 mAh custom lithium ion battery good for about 3 months
Dimensions – 34 x 34 x 12 mm (PMMA silicone & elastomer materials)
Weight – About 30 grams
Waterproof – Up to 10 meters
You’d use GPS + cellular connectivity when you are far from the tracked asset, and Bluetooth to locate it when it’s close. A button allows for your kid to send a signal (short press) when they’ve reached destination, or an SOS message (long press) in case of issue.
The app will list all your tracked assets with estimated remaining battery life, you can click on the one you want to check out, and it should show on the map a short time later. One feature that appears to be missing is geofencing, which can be useful if a kid or an older person, for example suffering of Alzheimer, go beyond the limit you defined on the map. The project is popular so maybe they’ll add it if people request it.
Ping GPS tracker has recently been launched on Indiegogo, and the project has raised over $300,000 so far. A $99 pledge should get you the tracker with a clip attachment, a charging cable, and one year free service with Cellular connectivity included for the US, Canada, and Mexico. If you want coverage outside of North America, you’ll need to add $10 extra at activation time for coverage in 157 countries for one year. After the first year, you’ll need to spend $3 per month to pay for cellular connectivity. Shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to $30 to the rest of the world, and delivery is scheduled for July 2017.
Qualcomm first mentioned Snapdragon 835 processor in November, but at the time, they only disclosed it would be manufactured using 10nm process technology in partnership with Samsung, and claimed the obvious “faster and lower power consumption” compared the previous generation. The company has now provided much more info ahead of CES 2017.
Snapdragon 835 key features and specifications:
Processor – 8x Kryo 280 cores used into two clusters:
performance cluster with 4x cores @ up to 2.45 GHz with 2MB L2 cache
efficient cluster with 4x cores @ up to 1.9 GHz with 1MB L2 cache
GPU – Adreno 540 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0 full, Vulkan, DX12
DSP – Hexagon 682 DSP with Hexagon Vector eXtensions and Qualcomm All-Ways Aware technology
Memory I/F – dual channel LPDDR4x
Storage I/F – UFS2.1 Gear3 2L, SD 3.0 (UHS-I)
Display – UltraHD Premium-ready , 4K Ultra HD 60 Hz, 10-bit color depth, DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB Type-C support
Video – Up to 4K @ 30 fps capture, up to 4K @ 60 fps playback, H.264, H.265 and VP9 codecs.
Audio – Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec and speaker amplifier; Qualcomm aptX audio playback support: aptX Classic, aptX HD
Camera – Spectra 180 ISP; dual 14-bit ISPs up to 16MP dual camera, 32MP single camera
Connectivity – 802.11ad multi-gigabit, integrated 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi with MU-MIMO (tri-band: 2.4, 5.0 and 60 GHz); Bluetooth 5.0
Modem – X16 LTE modem; downlink up to 1 Gbps, uplink up to 150 Mbps
Location – GPS, Glonass, BeiDou, Galileo, and QZSS systems content protection
Snapdragon 835 will use about 25 percent less power than Snapdragon 820, while being 35 percent smaller, and delivering 25 percent faster 3D graphic rendering. The processor is expected to be found in premium consumer devices such as smartphones, VR/AR head-mounted displays, IP cameras, tablets, mobile PCs, and more. The first devices announced with Snapdragon 835 are Osterhout Design Group (ODG) R-8 augmented/virtual reality smartglasses and ODG R-9 smartglasses and devkit for wide field of view (WFOV) experiences
Google may just have released Android Things operating systems for IoT applications, but its big brother – Android – has already gotten into some other IoT systems such as Quectel SC20 module powered by a Qualcomm processor and supporting LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and GNSS functions.
Quectel SC20 comes in different flavors to cater for various markets, but all module share most of the same specifications:
SoC – Unnamed Qualcomm processor
System Memory – TBD
Storage – 8GB flash
Cellular Connectivity – FDD LTE, TDD LTE, TD-SCDMA, EVDO/DCMA, WCDMA, and GSM; antenna: MIMO 2×2, supports Rx-diversity
Other Wireless Connectivity
WiFi – 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n (SC20-CE/-W); Dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (SC20-E/-A/-AU/-J)
Compliance – CCC/CE/FCC/GCF/PTCRB/AT&T/ACMA RCM/Verizon (Many still work-in-progress)
I first found about the module, as SinoVoip showcased some pictures of their next BPI-SC20 board using Quectel SC20-CE, but they did not provide other details.
Nevertheless it was easy enough to find Quectel SC20 product page listing all the specs above, plus details about LTE, WCDMA, etc… bands, Rx/Tx power levels, and more. Six models of the module will be available: SC20-W with WiFi and BLE only, as well as country or zone specific variants: SC20-CE, SC20-J, SC20-AU, SC20-A, and SC20-E with different supported cellular bands and standards.
The company is also said to have an evaluation board with a display and two cameras, with the processor used part of – or similar to – Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 series.
There are plenty of Android car systems for sale with DVR and/or GPS navigation capabilities on the net, but sometimes they lack some features, or come in a 2 DIN form factor, which is nice if you know how to disable your car dashboard, but it might be a little complicated if you don’t. An alternative is to get an Android rear view mirror, but obviously the display is much smaller, and it reduces the usable space on the rear view mirror to see what’s going on behind. However, this morning I’ve come across Junsun H552C Android 4.4 system with a 7″ display, rear and front cameras, and GPS navigation system that might be easier to install since it sits on top of the dashboard, and is selling for $118.54 on Dealextreme.
Junsun H552C specifications:
Processor – Quad core CPU @ 1.3 GHz
System Memory – 1GB RAM
Storage – 16 GB flash (13.07GB available for apps and data) + micro SD slot up to 32GB
Display – 7″ touch screen display with 1920×1080 resolution
Camera – 2.0 Wide angle (170°) front camera for 1080p recording + external rear camera (140° angle) for 720p recording; simultaneous recording support; PiP display with both camera shown on display
Video – AV input
Audio – Built-in microphone and speaker
GPS ( SiRF Star III module) with built-in antenna
WiFi & Bluetooth 4.0
FM transmitter to output audio to car speaker
Navigation – Sygic maps for US and Canada
USB – 1x mini USB port
Sensor – G-Shock Sensor to automatically save the record video in case of collision
Battery – 8,000 mAh battery
Dimensions – 12 cm x 4.4 cm x 8.4 cm
Weight – 750 grams
Maps appear limited to North America, but descriptions on DX are often incorrect, and since the system is running Android 4.4, you should be able to install your own GPS navigation app.
The kit include the 7″ “car dvr system”, a power cable, the rear camera and cable to use while you drive in reverse gear / park your car, a USB data cable, a bracket for the dashboard, and a suction cup bracket in case you prefer to hook the system to your windshield, and a user’s manual.
I could not find H552C on other website, but found the same model without model number on Junsun’s official Alipress store selling for $101.83 shipped. They provided some more information about support maps, and indicate that they will load Europe, North America, South America, Southeast Asia, or Middle East map depending on the country of the buyer. They also mention yearly map updates:
About the map, if you want to update the map, please contact us, we will upload it to the “Dropbox”, please do not download in other places, otherwise it will damage the original map. Update map time: once a year
Most companies specializing in development boards may sell a few accessories for their boards, but usually leave product design to their customers. Next Thing Co. does that too, but the company also produces some products like PocketCHIP portable Linux computer & retro game console, and more recently Dashbot, a voice controller assistant for your car’s dashboard powered by CHIP Pro module.
Dashbot hardware specifications:
CPU Module – CHIP Pro with Allwinner GR8 ARM Cortex A8 processor @ 1.0 GHz, 512MB NAND flash, 256 DDR3 RAM, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
External Storage – micro SD slot
Display – Red LED display
Audio – 32-bit audio DSP for beamforming & noise suppression; fairfield audio pre-processor with 24-bit ADC; high fidelity MEMS microphone array (106 dB dynamic range)
USB – 1x USB host port
Power Supply – 5V via USB port or 12V via power port (aka cigarette lighter) + backup LiFePo4 battery
Dimensions – 84 x 60 x 28 mm
The bot runs mainline Linux, source code will be available, as well as hardware design files making open source hardware (likely minus CHIP Pro module itself). Once you’ve stuck the magnetic adhesive mount to the dashboard, and placed Dashbot on top, you can connect it to your car stereo via Bluetooth or your car’s auxiliary jack. Wait what? My car does not have any of those two connection methods… But no problem as the company also offers a Retro Pack adding an FM transmitter and cassette adapter for older cars.
The main goal of Dashbot is to keep your smartphone in your pocket, and control it with your voice in order to keep your eyes on the road. But you’ll still need your phone, and after installing Dashbot app on your Android 5.0+ or iOS 10+ smartphones, you’ll be able to tell Dashbot to start playing music from online services like Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, and others, or tell it to “go home” and it will show the directions from Google Maps on the red LED display, and of course you can also answer phone calls, and reply to SMS.
Dashbot “AI powered hands-free car kit” launched on Kickstarter a few hours ago, has already raised over $50,000, and I’m confident it will surpass its $100,000 funding target. A $49 pledge should get you Dashbot, a power port for your cigarette lighter and an AUX cable, but if you have a car with a stereo that does not come with Bluetooth nor an AUX IN jack, you can get the Retro Pack for $65 with an FM radio/cassette player adapter. They also have rewards with an OBD-II dongle, and bundles with multiple Dashbots. Shipping adds $9 or more depending on rewards and destination, and delivery is planned for July 2017.
I’ve already taken pictures and shown Antutu benchmark in the first part of Vernee Apollo Lite review, an Android 6.0 smartphone powered by Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core processor. Now that I’ve had time to play with the phone for over 10 days, I’ve ready to report my experience and write the second part of the review about performance, features, and issues I encountered with the phone.
First, the build quality feel pretty good, the phone is light and slim. I’ve only called once or twice, and voice quality was good, but I mostly use my phone over WiFi to browse the web, check emails, watch YouTube, and access social networks. More rarely, I also use GPS while running and during trip, and play some games. To be honest, the first few days did not work as expected, as many apps would either be much slower than last year Iocean M6752 smartphone or failed to start entirely with the message “Unfortunately app has stopped”. Fortunely, I eventually found that Android 6.0 Adoptable Storage was the source of those two issues, as when I installed a 32GB Class 10 micro SD card I used as storage device, and most app would install on the micro SD card, which has very good sequential speeds, but terrible random I/Os performance. The latter explain apps were not always responsive, and some apps simply don’t like to be installed on an SD card – at least on Apollo Lite Android firmware – like Firefox or MAPS.me, while others lose the ability to access Widget such as Adsense. Once I found out about the issue, I moved most apps back to internal storage, and everything felt much faster, and I could run Firefox, MAPS.ME, and access Adsense Widget.
However, I have to say it’s hard to really notice a big difference in terms of performance between my older Mediatek MT6752 octa-core Cortex A53 based Iocean M6752 phone, and Mediatek Helio X20 deca-core Cortex A72/A53 based Vernee Apollo Lite phone for most tasks, except for some 3D games, and handling large PDF files.
One big improvement over Iocean phone is the battery, since it’s much bigger on Vernee Apollo Lite, and usually last well over 24 hours with 3 to 4 hours of active browsing and/or YouTube watching per day. Charging is much faster too, and while Iocean would take over 3 hours to charge, I can charge Apollo Lite in just one hour from about 10% to 100% thanks it is fast Pump 3.0 charger. Overnight battery discharge rate is however a little high with WiFi and 3G (calls) enabled, as the charge goes down between 20 to 25%, meaning if my phone was fully charge before going to bed, I’d only get 75 to 80% charge in the morning.
Once I found a workaround for the issues related to adoptable storage, I was very happy with the phone, although a better rear camera, and slightly more accurate GPS would have been a bonus.
Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMarks
I’ve reproduced Antutu 6.2.1 benchmark results for people who have not read the first part of the review.
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A comparison with other models reveals Apollo Lite is right between 360 N4 smartphone (also based on Helio X20 processor) and iPhone 6 performance.
Vellamo benchmark shows Vernee Apollo Lite performance is roughly equivalent or even a little better than Samsung Galaxy S6 with Exynos 7420 Octa processor, or LG G Flex 2 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.
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So far, I’ve always tested graphics performance using 3Dmark Ice Storm Extreme in my mobile and TV box reviews, but the ARM Mali-T880 GPU found in Mediatek Helio X20 SoC is a bit too fast for the task, and the score maxed out, despite frame rate not always topping at 60 fps.
The GPU also supports 3Dmark Sling Shot, the reference benchmark for OpenGL ES 3.1, and the smartphone got 995 points. Since there are less OpenGL ES 3.1 capable devices, or simply because this benchmark is less popular, Apollo Lite would be ranked in 68th position among phones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor.
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Storage and Wi-Fi Performance
A1 SD Benchmark app was use to test the performance of the internal storage (32GB eMMC flash), and my micro SD card, and Vernee seems to have gone with a cheaper eMMC flash only capable of 36.25MB/s read speed, and 12.05 MB/s write speed. The Class 10 SD card I used has much higher performance with 92.76MB/s and 55.92 MB/s write speed. However, you must remember those are sequential speed tests, and for app IOPS also matter a lot, and based on my experience app installed in internal memory run much faster than the one installed in the SD card, so that’s something to keep in mind.
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You can see from the chart below with mobile devices (smartphones / tablets) with a green dot, that Vernee Apollo Lite does not exactly have the fastest storage.
Read and Write Speeds in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
I transfered a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer three times to test 802.11n @ 2.4 GHz and 802.11ac performance, and I placed the smartphone in the exact same location where I usually review TV boxes and development boards in order to have results that can be comparable.
Throughput in MB/s – Click to Enlarge
The results are quite surprised because Vernee Apollo Lite has both one of the worst WiFi performance with 802.11n @ 2.4GHz averaging 1.4 MB/s, and one of the best 802.1ac performance averaging 6.5 MB/s in my environment. Download and upload speeds are similar with 802.11n, but there’s an asymmetry with 802.11ac, as downloads average 9.5 MB/s, and uploads only 5 MB/s.
Rear and Front Facing Cameras
I’ve taken photos with different focus points, and light conditions using “high quality” settings with renders 5376×3024 resolution JPEG images with quality set to 95. You can find 26 photo samples in the linked Google Photo album.
Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album
The way the camera focus works is a little weird, as it only relies on focus before you press the button, and once you press the button, it assumes focus is already done, and shots immediately. In my case, this led to many pictures looking a little blurry or washed out due to a lack of good focus.
I also shot two videos using the default settings (medium). The first one during day time.
So overall, the rear camera is clearly not the strong point of this smartphone.
I’ve also take a few pictures with the front camera, which can be found in a Google Photo album. The images native resolution is 2560×1920.
Click on the Image to Access the Photo Album
I also made a 1h30 video call with Skype using the front camera, and the quality was perfectly satisfying.
I manually installed Antutu Video Tester 3.0 app in the phone in order to evaluate video playback, and Apollo Lite got 849 points, which remains acceptable, but still not reaching the best devices that achieve a little over 1,000 points.
The partially supported videos were so, because of failed audio playback of AC-3, DTS, and Flac audio.
Seven videos completely failed to play, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason since for example, MKV files could be played, as well as videos with AVC codec, but a particular MKV + AVC video failed to play at all.
Vernee Apollo Lite battery is the most significantly improved over my previous phone. The large 3,180 mAh battery allows for well over 24 hours of use, with my typical use case being 3 to 4 hours a day browsing the web, watching YouTube videos, and checking emails. My previous phone, Iocean M6752, would barely last from morning to evening, but not quite reaching bed time.
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Another big improvement is that charging from basically 0% to 100% just takes one hour, while Iocean M6752 would take 3h30 to charge to 100% (one hour to 90%) while new, and 18 months, it’s even slower to reached an acceptable charge level.
In order to give a more formal evaluation of battery life, I ran LAB501 Battery Life app‘s web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming tests. I started from a full charge until the battery level reached about 15%, with Wi-Fi & cellular (3G, no data) enabled, and brightness set to 50%.
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Vernee Apollo Lite results
Browsing (100% to 15%) – 467 minutes (7h47).
Video (100% to 15%) – 396 minutes (6h36), or about 3 to 4 typical movies.
Gaming (100% to 15%) – 261 minutes (4h21)
Battery life in minutes
Vernee Apollo Lite’s 3,180 mAh battery, compares to the 2,300 mAh battery in Iocean M6752 smartphone, and 3,550 mAh battery in Infocus CS1 A83 7″ tablet.
The only real downside about battery life is that “Phone Idle” may consume a little too much, as the battery level drops between 20 and 25% overnight. Some members of Vernee complained about this since “OTA-2” firmware update, so a subsequent firmware update may improve this.
I could pair the phone with other Android devices, and transfer photos and files between them. Bluetooth LE works fine too, as I could retrieve fitness data from my Bluetooth 4.0 smart fitness band using Smart Movement app. I also used a Bluetooth 3.0 audio headset successfully.
GPS fix is super fast, as test with GPS Test, and maps app such as Google Maps or MAPS.ME. Accuracy is not perfect however when using Nike+ Run Club, the new version of Nike+ Running. The screenshot above shows the map and running path as shown from the app when WiFi and GPS “High accuracy” are enabled, and when only GPS device is used with WiFi disabled.The latter was tested since I’ve previously found out that disabling WiFi could greatly improve GPS accuracy.
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I follow a road around a stadium, so it should be a nice regular ellipse like shape, and it’s not perfect both in “High accuracy” mode with GPS , WiFi, and Cellular network, and in “Device only” mode with WiFi disabled. It’s basically the same. The undulations are about 5 to 15 meters which may be within GPS accuracy (TBC).
One problem I have with Nike+ Run Club is that the screen will turn off after 30 seconds (or whatever settings are set in Android), while the old app Nike+ Running had no such issues. I’ve worked around the issue by setting Settings->Display->Sleep to 30 minutes in Android settings before I go for a run.
Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 all played very smoothly as expected with an ARM Mali-T880 GPU. So I tried a more demanding 3D racing games with CSR Racing 2, and again it felt the game was rendered at 60 fps, or close to this framerate.
Multitouch app reports the touchscreen supports 5 touch points. The smartphone looks like it has stereo speakers since it has two sets of holes on the bottom side. However, I can mute the phone, by covering one of the hole… I’d say audio quality through the speaker is only average, and I recommend using headphones whenever possible, or external speakers. I also find myself often muting the phone inadvertently by placing my thumb right on the speaker location. It would have been much better to place the speaker on the back of the phone instead.
If you’d rather see the smartphone in action, I’ve shot a video showing some of the settings, benchmark results, the camera function, GPS fix speed, gaming with Riptide GP2 and CSR Racing 2, handling a large PDF, and show there are no stereo speakers, but only one speaker.
Vernee Apollo Lite has good firmware, fast and stable (after I moved apps to internal storage), with performance similar to Samsung Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 according to benchmarks, 802.11ac performance is one of the best I’ve seen, and the battery life is much better (~ 24 hours) and charging times much shorter than my previous Mediatek phone.. However it’s not quite perfect, as the camera does not always deliver pretty pictures, which has probably more to do with the firmware than the hardware itself, the company has gone cheap with the eMMC flash, 2.4 GHz 802.11n performance is poor, despite being stable,
Fast Mediatek Helio X20 (M6797) deca-core processor
Plenty of memory (4GB RAM)
Good 1920×1080 display
Excellent Wi-Fi 802.11ac performance
Outstanding gaming performance
Long battery life, and short charing time (~1 hour)
Tomtop kindly sent Apollo Lite smartphone for review, and if you are interested in the phone, you could consider purchasing it from them for $209.99 including shipping with ApolloLite068 coupon. There are also several other sellers offering the phone including GearBest, GeekBuying, eBay, and Aliexpress for $227.99 and up.