This summer I discovered Hologram global cellular IoT SIM card, and since they provided free developer samples with 2MB of monthly data includes, I decided to get one to try it out. I received it a few weeks later, and to my surprise it worked, despite my country of residence having some strict requirements with regards to SIM card registration. The SIM card uses roaming, but with a low fixed worldwide pricing, and does not come with a phone number by default, so maybe that’s why I did not have to register.
The company is now back with Nova, an open source hardware cellular modem certified by OSHWA (ID #US000077). It’s basically 2G/3G USB dongle that’s controlled by Hologram Python SDK, specifically suited to Debian systems like Raspberry Pi 3 or BeagleBone Black. Hackster.io is also involved in the launch with a worldwide contest offering 200 free kits comprised of Nova 3G USB dongle and Raspberry Pi Zero W board for the best project ideas leveraging cellular IoT.
Nova will eventually come in three versions
- 3G (in production now) – Ublox Sara-U201 module; Global 3G/2G GSM; GPRS/GSM/UMTS/HSPA: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz;
- Cat-M1 (November 2017) – Ublox Sara-R404M module; USA LTE Cat M-1; FDD: 13 (Verizon)
- Cat-M1/NB1 (Q1 2018) – Ublox Sara-R410M-02B module; Global LTE Cat M-1+ NB; FDD: 1,2,3,4,5,8,12,13,17,18,19,20,25,26,28
All should have the same other interfaces and other specs:
- u.FL Antenna Connector
- Nano SIM card holder
- UART GPIO Pads
- USB Serial
- Network Status LED; Power LED
- Fully end certified (FCC, PTCRB, CE, and AT&T)
- Dimensions – 46mm x 19mm x 6mm (Plugged in PCB); 71mm x 23mm x 9mm (w/ case)
- Weight – 8 grams
The hardware kit includes the dongle, Hologram global IoT SIM card, a transparent enclosure, 2 Quad-band flexible u.FL antennas, and access to Hologram Developer Tools for modem and data management.
The dongle can be controlled using Hologram client tool, or Hologram Python SDK requiring ppp and Python 2.7 packages, and will allow you to send SMS, setup data connection, and more. Any SIM card should work, and it’s not tied to Hologram SIM card. While the company claims OSHWA certifications, the number US000077 is not present (empty line) in the OSHWA certification list yet, and so far, they’ve only released the PDF schematics. However, Python SDK is fully open source and released under an MIT license on Github.
More details can be found in the product page, and Nova 3G kit can be purchased now for $49.
But as mentioned in the introduction, if you have a great project idea, you could also get the kit for free, and possibly another “grand prize” (Apple Watch Series 3)once the project is completed. The contest is opened worldwide (except to US sanctioned countries) with the following timeline:
- Submit your proposal by October 27, 2017
- Best project ideas will be selected, and be sent their kit within around 14 days
- Build and submit your project to Hackster.io by January 5, 2018
- 8 Grand Prize winners will be announced on January 8, 2018 for four categories: gateway, asset tracking, remote controlling, and remote monitoring.
There are already 135 participants. Good luck!
Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.