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Posts Tagged ‘IoT’

Turn Your Raspberry Pi into a “Smartphone” or Cellular IoT Gateway with PiTalk 3G HAT (Crowdfunding)

December 11th, 2017 3 comments

The Raspberry Pi boards are used in a countless number of projects, and some of those turn one of Raspberry Pi boards into a (thick) smartphone powered by Linux. The first one was probably PiPhone based on Raspberry Pi 1 Model B, and other followed suit such as TyTelli based on Raspberry Pi Model A+, and more recently ZeroPhone powered, as its name implies, by Raspberry Pi Zero board.

UK based SB Components Ltd is offering another option with their PiTalk HAT based on a Quectel 3G UMTS module, and kits adding a 3.2″ to 5″ display, an optional camera, and/or Raspberry Pi 3 board.

PiTalk Camera Kit

PiTalk board specifications:

  • Cellular Connectivity
    • Quectel UC15 3G/2G UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/GPRS/EDGE module with up to 3.6 Mbps download, 384 Kbps upload
    • SMA antenna connector
    • Push push SIM card holder
    • Voice, SMS and data support
  • Audio – 3.5 mm audio jack, speaker and mic support via unpopulated headers
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for comm., 1x micro USB port for power only
  • 40-pin Raspberry Pi A+, 2/3, Zero/Zero W compatible header
  • Expansion – 2-pin ADC header
  • Misc – On/off switch; Status & “Netlight” indicators
  • Power Supply – 5V via header or micro USB port

Pi Talk HAT

The board can be controlled with Python code, but the company did not provide any details at this stage. A PiTalk GUI interface to control the board will also be offered, and the Open Hardware and Open Software logo are shown on the Kickstarter page, but again no detailed information about that part.

PiTalk Software

Somehow PiTalk “smartphone” is supposed to be powered via the RPi’s micro USB port, as there’s no battery provided, but you could always use a power bank, which will make it even bulkier, but should do the trick if you need some portability. Quectel UC15 module comes in three variants: UC15-E for EMEA/APAC, UC15-A for America, and UC15-T for Thailand, but it’s unclear whether SB Components will offer PiTalk with any of the three versions.

PiTalk has launched on Kickstarter with a 10,000 GBP funding target.  Rewards start at 47 GBP ($63) for PiTalk boad and an antenna, but if you need a kit, you’ll need to pledge 65 GBP ($87) and up starting with the 3.2″ LCD kit. Shipping adds 3 GBP to the UK, and 10 GBP to the rest of the world, and you can expect the rewards to ship in March 2018 if the project can be completed on time.

Via MickMake

RAK Wireless Introduces LoRa + BLE Module, LoRa GPS Tracker, and NB-IoT/eMTC Arduino Shield

December 9th, 2017 No comments

We’ve previously covered several products from RAK Wireless, including RAK WisCam Arduino compatible Linux camera, RAK CREATOR Pro Ameba RTL8711AM WiFi IoT board, and WisCore modular development kit for application leveraging voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa.

AFAIK, the company had not released any new products since their RAK831 LoRa gateway module launched last summer, but they just contact me with the release of three new wireless products, namely RAK813 BLE + LoRa module, RAK811 LoRa tracker board, and WisLTE NB-IoT/eMTC/eGPRS Arduino shield.

RAK813 BLE + LoRa module & Development Board

Main features and specifications:

  • Connectivity
    • LoraWAN via Semtech SX127x (LoRa) chipset
      • Frequency Ranges
        • 433MHz, 470MHz
        • FCC Frequency range 902~928MHz
        • CE Frequency range 863~870MHz
        • MIC Frequency range 920~928MHz
        • KCC Frequency range 920~923MHz
      • Receiver Sensitivity: LoRa down to -146 dBm
      • TX Power – adjustable up to +14 dBm, max PA boost up to 20dbm
      • Range – Up to 15 km in rural area, up to 5 km in urban area
      • u.FL antenna connector
    • Bluetooth 5 via Nordic Semi nRF52832 SoC, u.FL antenna connector
  • 33 castellated holes with up to 13x GPIO, 1x UART, 1x I2C, 1x SPI, 3x ADC, SWD, GND, VDD (LoRa/BLE), and antenna pins
  • Power – 3.3V DC input; consumption down to 2uA in sleep mode
  • Dimensions – 27.20 x 23 x 1.7 mm

Bear in mind that while nRF52832 SoC support Bluetooth 5, it does not support long range mode. The module is expected to be used  for environment monitoring, parking systems, smart cities, asset / personnel positioning, smoke alarms, industrial monitoring and control, and other remote battery powered applications.

In order to get you started before you design your own baseboard, the company also provide WisLoRaB-RAK813 Arduino compatible board with external antenna connectors, micro USB port for power programming, and a reset button. Documentation now is limited as we can only download the hardware datasheets for the module and board.

The module is sold for $14.90 on Aliexpress, with only 868MHz and 915 MHz models available right now, and the development board goes for $19.90 plus shipping, again with the same frequency range models.

RAK811 LoRa Tracker Board

Specifications:

  • Connectivity – LoRaWAN Version V1.0.2 via RAK811 module based on STM32L151 MCU and Semtech SX1276 LoRa chip; SMA connector for antenna
  • Location – GPS/GLONASS via Ublox MAX-7Q GPS Module, u.FL antenna connector
  • Expansion – 2x 10-pin with I2C, GPIOs, SWD, GND, VCC (3.3V)
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for charging and debugging
  • Battery – Optional 2200mAh rechargeable battery good for 2 years (depending on use)
  • Dimensions – 54mm x 22mm x17mm with antenna connector
  • Temperature Range – -20°C ~ 60°C

There’s also a RAK811 SensorNodeBoard with the same features minus GPS.

Documentation looks pretty good here, as beside the datasheet, we can download the user manual, schematics, etc.., and source can be found in Github with CoIDE  or Keil5 tools supported..

RAK811 TrackerBoard is sold with LoRa and GPS antennas, a micro USB port, some jumper cables, jumpers, and battery for $29.99 plus shipping on Aliexpress with two models for 868 MHz or 915 MHz bands.

WisLTE NB-IoT/eMTC/eGPRS Arduino Shield

Specifications:

  • Wireless Module – Quectel BG96 with Cat.M1 (eMTC) / Cat LTE NB1 (NB-IoT) & EGPRS connectivity, GNSS support (GPS)
  • Antennas – 2x u.FL antenna connector for LTE and GNSS
  • SIM card slot on back of the board
  • Expansion
    • Arduino UNO compatible headers with UART, 1x I2C, 2x ADC, etc…
    • UART switch pin (blue header)
  • USB – micro USB port for power and debugging, 1x USB host port
  • Misc – Reset and power buttons, USB boot jumper, serial voltage selection (3.3V or 5V)

I had heard about BC95 NB-IoT module before, but I think it may be the first time I come across BG96 module, and beside adding EGPRS and Cat M1, is also adds GPS positioning, a USB interface, I2C, one extra UART interface, and one extra ADC interface. NB-IoT uplink and download data rate are also a little higher than in BC95.

The company provides a getting started guide while connected to a PC, and BG96 AT command sets documentation on their website, but AFAICT there’s no code in their Github account, like Arduino libraries to easily use the shield. I did find another user, probably a beta tester, that wrote an Android Things driver for WisLTE.

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If you are interested in the board, WisLTE is sold for $39.90 plus shipping on Aliexpress.

ESP32-PICO-KIT v4 Board Based on ESP32-PICO-D4 SiP Now Available for $10

December 7th, 2017 2 comments

A little while ago, I received a bunch of ESP32 PICO Core development boards which were based on Espressif Systems ESP32-PICO-D4 system-in-package with ESP32, 4MB SPI Flash, and other components. The advantage of such chip is that is requires less external component, and allows for smaller designs. For example, the boards I received would leave two row of pin on each side of the board, while most other ESP32 boards will only expose one row on each side.

I used the board to play with Micropython ESP32 port, and later-on when I launched a giveaway of 8 of the boards, I found out the name had changed to ESP32-PICO Kit, with the documentation listing v3 with all pins connected to male headers, and v4 with 6-pin not connected to a male header as shown in the photo below. Both versions of the board also have a different pin layout. But you don’t need to care since AFAIK v3 was never up for sale.

ESP32-PICO-KIT v4 however has now just launched, and Electrodragon offers it for $10 plus shipping.

Board specifications:

  • SiP – ESP32-PICO-D4 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth LE system-in-package
  • 3D antenna
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power and programming;  CP2102 USB-TTL Serial Bridge
  • Expansion – 2x 20-pin headers with I/O and power signals. 2x 17-pin male headers soldered
  • Misc – EN and Boot buttons, on board power indicator LED.
  • Power regulator – AMS1117 3.3V regulator
  • Auto reset circuit
  • Dimensions – 51 x 20 mm

This board can be used like any other ESP32 board with ESP32 IDF SDK, Arduino Core, Micropython, and so on, it’s just narrower than most.

Other ESP32-PICO-D4 based boards have been launched such ESP32-PICO motherboard sold for $16 on Tindie, or TTGO T7, recently discovered by Time4EE, that can be purchased for $8.50 plus shipping on Aliexpress. The latter is however quite wider than the official Espressif devkit (estimated dimensions: 50×30 mm), but does provide a battery connector

TTGO T7

Standard ESP32 boards can now be purchased for as low as $5, so boards based on the SiP are currently a little bit more expensive, but I’d expect the price difference to come down overtime.

Riot Micro RM1000 NB-IoT and eMTC Baseband Chip Unveiled for the Cellular IoT Market

December 5th, 2017 3 comments

Telecommunication providers don’t intend to let newcomers like Sigfox or Semtech (LoRa) get all the fun and money with the Internet of Things, and that’s why LTE Cat M1 (eMTC) and Cat NB1 (NB-IoT) have been standardized.

We have already covered module and silicon vendors products such as U-blox SARA-R4 / SARA-M2 modules, or Mediatek MT2625 SoC supporting the new protocols defined in 3GPP release 13 specifications. U-blox even have a module that supports both NB-IoT and eMTC in a single chip, but they are not alone anymore, as a startup called Riot Micro introduced RM1000 baseband NB-IoT & eMTC chip.

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RM1000 key features & specifications:

  • MCU – ARM Cortex-M0 processor
  • Storage – QSPI Flash interface
  • Connectivity
    • LTE-M Baseband supporting 3GPP Release 13
    • NB-IoT Baseband supporting 3GPP Release 13
    • SIM interface with power control
  • Peripherals
    • Digital data and control interface to popular RFICs (RBDP/DIQ/SPI)
    • 3x UART interfaces
    • General purpose I/O
  • Integrated power management for external components
  • Temperature Range – -40 to +85°C

The MCU core is said to handle LTE-M/NB-IoT L1/L2/L3, IPv4, IPv6, TCP, UDP, SSL protocol stacks, as well as the AT Command stack. The company explains they applied techniques from the “BLE/Wi-Fi architecture to design the chip with cost/power levels characteristic of short-range wireless systems”.

Riot Micro RM1000 is available now in either an 8×8 mm 68-pad QFN package, or a 3.5×3.2 mm WLCSP, and reference designs for evaluation and module design can be provided to customers. More details may be found on the product page.

Categories: Hardware Tags: cellular, IoT, lpwan, lte, riot micro

This Tiny ESP8266 Board is Designed for DIY WiFi Switches

December 5th, 2017 3 comments

Various breadboard-friendly boards based on ESP8266 or other chips are available on the market, but some readers are not quite satisfied with the offerings, and need more available pins on the breadboard so they ended up hacking the board matching their needs by either bending header pins, or soldering modules to stripboards. As I browsed new arrivals on ICstation website, I found a tiny board with ESP8266 module that exposes I/Os via what looks like 2.54 mm pitch header that should fit right into a breadboard.

But after further checking only three I/Os are exposed, and the board is actually specifically designed for wireless switches, and comes with firmware that works with eWelink app used in Sonoff devices. So the module could be useful for people wanting to control devices without doing programming at all, and limited to no soldering. Just connect the module, and control it without smartphone.

Board specifications:

  • PSA-B ESP8266 module supporting 802.11 n/g/n WiFi
  • Ceramic antenna
  • 6-pin header with 5V, 2x GND, OUT pin, LED pin, and key input pin.
  • Misc – Status LED , matching button
  • Dimensions – 2.7 x 2.5 x 0.8 mm

The boards looks very convenient if you plan to use eWelink app, but the UART pins are not directly exposed. However, Tinkerman also found PSA-B module inside ITEAD Studio 1-Ch self-locking board, and located Tx, Rx, and GND pins on the top side of the board, managed to upgrade the firmware to ESPurna using a cable with 3 pogo pins. For reference, PSA-B module is sold for $3.00 on ITEAD Studio, so total price for the board above could be a little lower than the $6.23  currently offered on ICstation, but at least it may save you time.

Categories: Espressif, Hardware Tags: automation, esp8266, IoT, wifi

Amazon FreeRTOS Released for NXP, Texas Instruments, STMicro, and (soon) Microchip Microcontrollers

December 2nd, 2017 7 comments

FreeRTOS is an open source real-time operating system for microcontrollers released under an MIT license, and when it comes to adoption in embedded systems it’s right there near the top with embedded Linux according to Aspencore 2017 embedded markets study. For example, some Espressif SDKs for ESP8266 or ESP32 are based on FreeRTOS, and so is Mediatek LinkIt Development Platform for RTOS.

The recently announced Amazon FreeRTOS (a:FreeRTOS) leverages the open source operating systems, and extends it with with libraries that enable local and AWS cloud connectivity, security, and soon over-the-air updates. a:FreeRTOS is free of charge, open source, and available today.

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In order to get started, you’ll have a choice of 4 hardware platforms:

  • STMicro STM32L4 Discovery Kit IoT Node (B-L475E-IOT01A) powered by STM32L475 ARM Cortex-M4 MCU with 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, RF (868 / 915 MHz), and NFC connectivity, plenty of sensors

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  • Texas Instruments SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3220SF LaunchPad development kit (CC3220SF-LAUNCHXL) with  CC3220SF single-chip WiFi microcontroller (MCU) with 1MB Flash, 256KB of RAM.

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  • Microchip Curiosity PIC32MZ EF Development Board (Amazon FreeRTOS support coming soon) powered by PIC32MZ EF MCU (415 DMIPS) with 2 MB Flash, 512 KB RAM, integrated FPU, crypto accelerator, and connectivity via an on-board 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi module, and two MikroBUS connector for add-on boards.

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If you don’t own any of those boards, or don’t plan to purchase one, but still would like to play with a:FreeRTOS you could run the Windows Simulator instead.

Once we’ve selected our hardware platform (or simulator), we can access Amazon FreeRTOS console to configure and download the FreeRTOS kernel and software libraries for our application.  Development of the application is done though the tools provided for the board for example TI Code Composer Studio, STM32 System Workbench, IAR Embedded Workbench, or Visual Studio Community Edition.

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Amazon FreeRTOS is free as in speech and free as in beer, with the source code and links to documentation available in Github. Amazon will make money when you utilize AWS services such as AWS IoT Core, data transfer, or AWS Greengrass. The price list of AWS services that may be charged (if enabled) while using Amazon FreeRTOS can be found here.

Mediatek MT2621 Supports Dual Mode NB-IoT and GSM/GPRS for IoT, Wearables, and Industry 4.0

December 1st, 2017 5 comments

Mediatek introduced MT2625 ARM Cortex-M SoC supporting NB-IoT (aka LTE Cat NB1/NB2) compatible with 3GPP Release 14 last summer, and designed for global cellular IoT devices.

The company has now unveiled a new NB-IoT part with Mediatek MT2621 ARM7 dual-mode IoT SoC that is capable of both NB-IoT R14 and GSM/GPRS connectivity for applications such as smart trackers, wearables, IoT security, smart metering and industrial applications. The chip would allow you to start deploying devices with GSM connectivity, and once available in your locale, switch to the more efficient NB-IoT protocol.

Mediatek MT2621 specifications:

  • Processor – Single ARM7 core @ up to 260MHz
  • Memory – 160KB + 4MB PSRAM
  • Internal Flash
  • Connectivity
    • Integrated Baseband, RF, Antenna, and Modem DSP
    • NB-IoT ultra-low/low/mid bands defined by 3GPP Rel-14
    • GSM/GPRS
    • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Display – LCM interface
  • Camera – Camera interface
  • Audio – Audio Amplifier
  • Integrated PMU

Mediatek is really light on details, but still confirms a single SIM and antenna covers both cellular networks (NB-IoT & GSM) with dual standby functionality (SSDS). This will allows a single UICC and mobile number for both networks, “saving PCB space, simplifying design, minimizing cost and speeding time-to-market”.  The company also claims “applications can be built using an easily customizable Linux-based OS”.

You may visit the product page, but you won’t find much there.

Thanks to TLS for the tip.

Categories: Hardware, Linux Tags: bluetooth, cellular, IoT, lpwan, lte, mediatek

MatchBox LoRaWan Gateway Review – Part 1: Unboxing and Teardown

November 30th, 2017 14 comments

Last spring, I wrote about MatchX.io MatchBox LoRaWAN gateway with GPS, WiFi, and Ethernet connectivity. The gateway is equipped based on a Mediatek WiFi module running Linux (OpenWrt/LEDE), Semtech chips for the LoRa part, and support up to 65,535 nodes, such as the as well as MatchStick, MatchModule, and MatchCore sensors provided by the company.

I’ve just received MatchBox gateway for review, but I’m still waiting for 920-925MHz LoRa nodes as they are going through the FCC certification process, and I also have to wait for clarifications regarding local regulations. So in the meantime, I’ll check out the gateway hardware.

MatchBox LoRaWAN Gateway Unboxing

The gateway is shipped with a power supply, power cord, two antennas, an installation guide,…

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as well as three screws and pegs to wall mount the gateway and power supply, and in case you want to install the gateway on a pole, as shown below, for greater range (up to 20km LOS), a clamping collar is also provided.

The power supply has 100-240V 50/60Hz input, and 24V DC / 0.5 output. It includes on two Ethernet ports, the “PoE” port to connect to the gateway, and the LAN port which you can connect to your broadband or 3/4G router.

One hand of the router includes two antenna connects for GPS and LoRa.

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On the picture above above we can see the model (MX1702) has FCC certification, and since the company is based in Berlin (hence the photo with the television tower above), CE certification has also been passed, but another model number (MX1701) is used due to the different frequencies.

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The other end of the gateway has a cover revealing the PoE port, a USB 2.0 port for storage, a USB type C port for debugging, and a Link LED. Installation is easy, as you just to plug a standard Ethernet cable – although a shielded one is recommended – into the PoE ports of the gateway and the power supply.

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Put back the cover to protect the ports of the gateway from elements and insects. You could also use another Ethernet cable to connect the gateway to your router, but using WiFi is also possible.

MatchBox Gateway Teardown

At this stage, I normally open the device to check out the hardware design, but an enclosed letter asked me not to because the enclosure of rated IP65 and ultrasonic welded to it may not be waterproof anymore after I reassemble it.

The letter also explain how to register the gateway with its serial number at https://matchx.io/cloud using the cloud services in Europe,  North America, Oceania, Korea, Japan/SEA (South East Asia), or India, so the service is basically available worldwide, provided your country allows it.

So instead of tearing it down myself, I asked the company to send some high resolution photos of the board.

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A Hi-Link HLK-7688A module is used on the board for WiFi with two u.FL antenna connectors (ANT4 and ANT3), and a PCB antenna. That module should be based on Mediatek MT7688A MIPS processor, but MatchX reports the processor is actually MT7628A. Both SoCs are very similar, but the latter supports 2×2 MIMO.

LoRa functionality is implemented with four Semtech chips:

  • SX1301 Base Band Processor for Data Concentrator for Long Range Communication Network
  • 2x SX1257 RF I/Q Multi-PHY Mode Transceiver 860-1000MHz
  • SX1272 long range, low power RF Transceiver 860-1000MHz with LoRa Technology

LoRa circuitry is then connected to ANT2 u.FL connector.

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On the other side of the board, the most notable part is Ublox MAX-7Q GNSS module supporting GPS/QZSS, GLONASS, and connected to ANT1 antenna connector.

You’ll find more details on Matchx.io website, and on MatchBox User Guide which provide more technical details, and explains how to get started. I’ll try that next time around.