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Posts Tagged ‘IoT’

Checking out Hologram’s Developer SIM Card for Worldwide IoT Projects

August 20th, 2017 1 comment

Hologram is a service that offers 2G/3G/4G cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things via a SIM card that works in over 170  countries, and with pricing starting at $0.40 per month. In order to promote their services, the company offers a free developer SIM card which I ordered when I first wrote about the service last month. I was pleased and surprised they would sent it to Asia for free, and I got the card in a bubble envelop.

The back of the card includes a 18 to 22 digit SIM card number and bar code, that we’ll need to use for activation, and a link that redirects to https://hologram.io/docs/.

I planned to try the card with Wio GPS tracker board which requires a nano SIM card, and there are convenient cutouts to convert the SIM card to micro SIM or nano SIM card formats.

Before using the card in your board, you’ll need to activate it by logging into the dashboard with email and password you used to purchase the SIM card.

You can then click on Activate your first SIM to get the activation page.

In the first part of the page, you’ll need to type your SIM card number, and select your data plan between developer, pay-as-you-go, or monthly.

The second part of the page will allow you to select the zone with zone 1 being cheaper buy supporting less countries, and zone 2 supporting all countries shown above. It will show the cost summary, in my case $0.00 since I’m using the developer plan, and you can click on Activate to complete registration. That’s it, no requirement for ID card or passport copy, or anything.

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You’re newly registered SIM card will then show up the list of devices.

I tried two Arduino samples with Wio GPS tracker:

  1. Send SMS (MC20_SMSSend.ino)
  2. Download text file over GPRS / HTTP (MC20_GPRSHTTP.ino)

The first failed without error, and the second requires you to change the APN to hologram (See line 2):

But the program also failed with QIOPEN AT command failure (ERROR:QIOPEN) when trying to establish a TCP connection. Roaming needs to be enabled, but I could find a way to do so, and I did not have much luck already with my own SIM card during Wio GPS review possibly to the 2G limitation of the board, so I decided to try another option. Hologram has a tutorial with Raspberry Pi and a 3G USB dongle, but I did not want to purchase a dongle that I would not use regularly, so I decided to try the card with my phone, even though it’s definitely not the use case for it.

So I replace my current SIM card with hologram SIM card in my phone, and immediately I could see a 4G connection was established with the notification showing a “Local Telco”|Hologram message, and the local Telco changing between at least two different companies during my review.

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I then tried to send an SMS to a local number using the internal format with country code, and it was successful from my side, but the other phone never received anything, even after several attempts and enabling roaming.

I went back the Hologram Dashboard in my web browser and send an SMS via the web interface and it worked nicely with the SMS coming from a number in the UK (+44), but you can already spoof any number using the dashboard or SMS API.

Going into Configuration part of the dashboard, I discovered the SIM card did not come with phone number by default, which may explain why I could not send SMS in the first place. But you can purchase a US phone number for $1.00, and various prices for numbers from some other countries, but note that option is not available for number from all countries, for example you can’t currently get a number from Framce or Thailand. Here’s what the page says about getting a phone number:

A phone number allows you to easily send an SMS to your device from another SMS-compatible device. Phone numbers are NOT necessary to deliver an SMS via API calls or via the Dashboard – they basically enable you to send an SMS to your device directly from another cell phone.

The main reason to purchase a phone number is if you want to send an SMS from a phone to your device instead of using the Dashboard or API.

Note that the device will be able to respond back to your SMS but the response may show up as being from a different number. This is a special, internal number that your phone may not be able to SMS directly so you should send all messages to the purchased phone number. This is something that we’re working with our carrier partners to improve in the near future.

Beside SMS, you can also use the SIM card for data, and to do so you have to configure hologram APN in your device without username/password, and enable roaming.

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I could do this easily in my Android phone. The company also mention to enable DHCP, but I did not have that option in my phone and it was not needed. Finally, I enabled data connection in my phone, and created a small text files on my server to download it over a cellular data connection. I did so, because you have to remember your free monthly data is limited to 1MB, and the average webpage is now 3MB… The text in the file reads “Hologram GPRS Success”, but it was actually done over an LTE data connection.

It might also be a good idea to disable auto-sync, if you plan to test the SIM card in your phone, as background traffic is not negligible with 586KB of data transfered over a few seconds. The Usage Reports in the dashboard is not updated in real-time at all, as I took the screenshot below after 5 hours, and no activity was registered at all.

But checking out the data after and the usage report seemed correct.

So in summary I was able to receive SMS from the dashboard, and setup a cellular data connection to access the web, but for some reasons, I was unable to send SMS using the SIM card, maybe because I did not purchase a phone number. If you live in a country with strict regulations for local SIM cards such as providing an ID card copy and/or proof of address, it looks like it is not needed with Hologram SIM card, because it’s a foreign SIM card that works with roaming, in the same way that tourists would use their phones while in vacation in a foreign country.

When I ordered the card there was a coupon – now expired – for free shipping, so I got it completely for free. However, I’ve been told another LOSANTHIGH5 coupon is now working for free shipping and $3 credit, and you can still get the free developer SIM card for evaluation. Now, I should think about getting a3G or 4G capable IoT board…

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 2g, 3G, 4g, cellular, hologram, IoT, lte, review

$14 Orange Pi R1 Allwinner H2+ Board Comes with Two Ethernet Ports, 256 MB RAM

August 18th, 2017 9 comments

Shenzhen Xunlong has introduced the new Orange Pi R1 board with Allwinner H2+ quad core Cortex A7 processor that’s a bit different from their other models, as it includes two 10/100M Ethernet port, and should be suitable for intelligent controllers, or simple IoT gateways.

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Orange Pi R1 board specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner H2(+) quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 256 DDR RAM
  • Storage – micro SD card slot, 16 MB SPI flash
  • Connectivity – 2x 10/100M Ethernet (including on via RTL8152B USB to Ethernet) + 802.11 b/g/n WiFi (Realtek RTL8189ETV) with u.FL antenna connector and external antenna
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Expansion headers
    • Unpopulated 26-pin “Raspberry Pi B+” header
    • 13-pin header with headphone, 2x USB 2.0, TV out, microphone and IR receiver signals
  • Debugging – 3-pin header for serial console
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port
  • Dimensions – 60 x 45 mm

Since it’s based on the same Allwinner H2+ processor as on Orange Pi Zero board, the extra Ethernet port is implemented via USB, and the I/O headers looks to be the same, it should be possible to run Armbian images on the board without that many modifications. The board may not be the best solution for small router, as there are already many cheap OpenWrt compatible routers that should do the job just as well, but thanks to the expansion header, it may make a useful intelligent controller or ModBus gateway to manage relays, sensors, robots, etc…

Potential Use Case for Orange Pi R1 Boards – Source: MGate MB3170 Product Page

If you have the kind of cascaded setup above, the 16MB SPI flash could save you the use of micro SD card, with network boot either from the control PC (if it is always on), or one of the Orange Pi R1 fitted with a micro SD card.

Orange Pi R1 board is sold for $13.90 plus shipping ($17.29 in total here) on Aliexpress.

Thanks to Anton for the tip

CrazyPi Board Runs Ubuntu and ROS on Rockchip RK3128 SoC for Robotics & IoT Projects (Crowdfunding)

August 10th, 2017 4 comments

CrazyPi is a maker board powered by Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor that can take various magnetically connected modules such as LIDAR, gimbal, 4G LTE, etc.., and runs both Ubuntu and ROS (Robot Operating System) for DIY robotics & IoT projects.

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CrazyPi main board specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3128 quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with ARM Mali GPU
  • MCU – ARM Cortex-M3 @ 72 MHz
  • System Memory – 1GB DDR3L @ 1066 MHz
  • Storage – 16GB eMMC flash pre-loaded with Ubuntu and ROS
  • Connectivity – 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi @ 150 Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port
  • Expansion Headers – Two headers with a total of 36-pin exposing 1x HDMI, 1x speaker, 1x microphone, 3x PWM, 1x I2C, 1x UART, 1x SPDIF, 1x SPI, 1x USB
  • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port ?
  • Dimensions – Smaller than credit card

The full details are not available yet, but the company claims CrazyPi is “completely open source and DIY”, so I’d assume more details will eventually show up on CrazyPi github repo (now empty). A cloud service also allows you to stream the webcam output from anywhere in the world.

Webcam View and Map Generated from CrazyPi Robot Kit

What’s  quite interesting is that the board is designed to be connected to add-on boards, modules and accessories allowing you to build robots:

  • Robotic shield board to control motors / servos
  • Media shield board for HDMI output and use the board as a mini computer
  • 4G LTE module (maybe part of the robotic shield board?)
  • Crazyou 4K LIDAR sensor with SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) function to automatically create map of your environment
  • 720p camera module
  • 2-degrees gimbal
  • 4-wheel robot chassis
  • 2x 18650 batteries and case

Again, we don’t have the exact details for each, but the promo video explains what can be done with the kits.

Crazyou – that’s the name of the company – has launched the project on Kickstarter to fund mass production with a 200,000 HKD goal (around $25,800). The board is supposed to cost $29, but is not offered standalone in the crowdfunding campaign, so instead you could start with a $59 CrazyPi Media Kit with the mainboard, camera and media board. If you want the complete robot shown above, you’d have to pledge $466 for the CrazyPi Advanced Kit reward with the camera module, the mainboard, the gimbal, the robotic shield board, battery case and charger, the chassis, and LIDAR. Various bundles are available to match different projects’ requirements. Shipping to most countries adds around $19, and delivery is scheduled for October 2017. There’s not much to see on Crazyou website, but eventually more details may emerge there.

Thanks to Freire for the tip.

SKATE-212 Snapdragon 212 Development Kit with 7″ Display is now available for $349

August 8th, 2017 4 comments

Last month, I wrote about two boards based on Snapdragon 212 processor that can be used for smart speakers, IoT applications, industrial automation, etc..: Intrinsyc Open-Q 212 SBC selling for $595 without LCD, and Kaynes Technology SKATE-212. We did not have that much information about the latter at the time, but the company has now published some photos, more details, and revealed pricing.

SKATE-212 single board computer specifications:

  • SoC –  Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 quad core Cortex A7 @up to  1.3GHz with Adreno 304 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0, OpenCL, DirectX
  • System Memory – 1 GB LPDDR3 (Expandable upto 2GB)
  • Storage – 8 GB eMMC flash (Expandable up to 16GB) +  micro SD slot
  • Video Output / Display  – 7″ capacitive touchscreen, full size HDMI port (Only one or the other can be used at a given time)
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.x LE, GPS with optional GLONASS support
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host ports, 1x micro USB device port (can not be used at the same time as Ethernet, and other USB host ports),  1x micro USB debug console
  • Camera –  8 MP primary camera; 2MP secondary camera
  • Audio
    • Mono loudspeaker output
    • 3.5mm stereo audio jack with mic
    • On board single (default)or dual microphone
  • Expansion – 40-pin expansion header with SPI, I2C, GPIO, etc.. signals
  • Sensors – 6-axis MEMS gyroscope & accelerometer; 3-axis magnetometer
  • Power supply – 12VDC power adapter, or optional 3.7V/2,500 mAh battery
  • Dimensions – 90 x 70 mm

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The company provides support for Android Nougat for the board, with Linux support available on request.

The development kit can be pre-ordered for $349 by companies interested in developing their products with the solution, and includes the board itself, a 7″ LCD capacitive touch display, a 12V power supply, a USB type A to Micro-B cable, an “Android delivery package”, and documents. Customers will also get 4 weeks free technical support from the date of kit is received. You may want to visit the product page for further information.

Gumstix Pi Conduit Gateway Board Leverages Raspberry Pi Compute Module, Off-the-Shelf LoRa and Cellular Modules

August 4th, 2017 No comments

Gumstix has designed Pi Conduit Gateway baseboard for both the Raspberry Pi Compute Module and RisingRF RHF0M301 LoRa gateway module, in order to create a Linux based LoRa gateway that can optionally support LTE or other cellular connectivity via NimbeLink Skywire cellular modem.

Conduit Pi LoRa Gateway board specifications:

  • 200-pin SO-DIMM connector for Raspberry Pi Compute Module / Raspberry Pi 3 Compute Module (CM3 / CM3L)
  • Headers for RisingRF RHF0M301 LoRa Module
  • NimbeLink Skywire 2G/3G/4G cellular modem connector
  • Low profile 10/100M Ethernet jack (implemented via USB 2.0)
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for debugging via an FTDI USB to TTL chip
  • Misc – User (GPIO5) and reset buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V via power barrel

The board was designed using Geppetto, which means you should be able to customize it to your needs by modifying it the original design in a web browser, and order your brand new custom board from there.

Let’s have a closer look at the LoRa and LTE modules – pictured above – for the baseboard:

  • RisingRF RHF0M301 LoRa Gateway and Concentrator Module:
    • 10 channels (8 x Multi-SF + 1 x Standard LoRa + 1 x FSK) LoRa/LoRaWAN gateway or concentrator module.
    • RF input power – less than -13dBm
    • Frequency ranges (SKU dependent) – 430MHz ~ 437MHz; 470MHz ~ 490MHz; 779MHz ~ 787MHz; 859MHz ~ 870MHz; 900MHz ~ 930MHz
    • Host Interface – SPI
    • 24 pins DIP header
    • Operating voltage – <= 6V
    • Dimension – 40 x 63 mm
    • Temperature range – -40°C to +85°C
  • NimbeLink Skywire cellular modem modules:
    • 2x 10-pin headers
    • Several models for 2G CDMA, 2G GPRS, 3G EVDO, 3G HSPA+, LTE Cat 1/3/4, or LTE Cat M1
    • GPS supported on some models
    • Interfaces – XBee Standard, UART, and USB (on some models only)
    • Operating voltage – Depends on module (
    • Dimensions – 33 x 29 x 10.5 mm
    • Temperature range – -40°C to +85°C

Gumstix are known for their Overo modules based on Texas Instruments OMAP/Sitara processors, so they’ve also made an Overo Conduit Gateway using Overo modules instead of the Raspberry Pi SoMs, but only supporting RisingRF LoRa module, not the cellular ones. The video below gives an overview of the new Gumstix LoRa solutions and how to customize the board in Geppetto.

Pi Conduit Gateway board is sold for $84, but bear in mind that you need to add the price of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, RisingRF module, and optionally NimbeLink Skywire cellular mode. The Overo baseboard is quite cheaper, and also customizable at $59. Visit Gumstix LoRaWAN family page for the full details.

Mediatek MT2625 NB-IoT SoC is Designed for Cellular IoT Devices working Worldwide

August 4th, 2017 1 comment

Mediatek has recently unveiled MT2625 SoC based on an ARM Cortex-M core, equipped with an NB-IoT “WorldMode” modem allowing for a single design worldwide, and supporting the latest 3GPP Release 14 (LTE Cat NB2) specification.

Mediatek MT2625 specifications:

  • CPU – ARM Cortex-M @ up to 104 MHz with FPU
  • Embedded Memory – 4MB PSRAM
  • Storage – 4MB NOR Flash
  • Connectivity
    • NB-IoT compatible with 3GPP Release 14
    • Full frequency band (450MHz to 2.1GHz) of 3GPP R13 (NB1) and R14 (NB2) standards
    • Integrated baseband, RF, and modem DSP
  • Peripherals – I2C,  I2S,  PCM,  SDIO,  UART
  • Power Supply – Integrated PMU

The solution will be found in products for worldwide transportation, municipal use, and consumer products, with a much longer battery life compared to existing devices relying on other 2G/3G/4G standards.

According to the press release, one of the first module based on MT2625 has been designed in collaboration with China Mobile, integrates the company’s eSIM card, and supports OneNET IoT open platform. You won’t find many details on Mediatek MT2625’s product page, but you could contact the company there, if you plan to design and deploy such modules in large quantities.

Realtek RTL8195AM Ameba WiFi + NFC Module Sells for $9 Shipped

August 1st, 2017 1 comment

Last year, Realtek Ameba IoT SoCs and development kits launched with boards such as Ameba Arduino, and later, the family got some buzz thanks to $2 RTL8710AF modules like Pine64 Padi IoT stamp, which looked competitive priced against ESP8266 SoC, and featuring an ARM Cortex-M3 core. Back to 2017, ESP8266 appears to still be the preferred platform for makers, and the community around Reatek Ameba processor is relatively small, but maybe the solutions are being integrated into commercial products rather than hobbyists project. Today, as I browsed the web, I noticed that are also some Realtek RTL8195AM module with WiFi, and NFC starting with an “Realtek Ameba-RTL8195AM WiFi & NFC Module” I first found on DFrobot for $15 per unit, but after spending a bit more time searching, I ended finding what looks like the same model for $8.99 including shipping on IC Station.

RTL8195AM module (MJIOT-AMB-02) specifications:

  • SoC – Realtek RTL8195AM ARM Cortex-M3 processor @ 166 MHz with 1MB ROM,2MB SDRAM,512KB SRAM
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n 1×1 Wi-Fi up to 150 Mbps via u.FL antenna connector, NFC read/write
  • Interfaces via half-holes:
    • 10/100M Ethernet MII/ RMII/RGMII interface
    • 1x USB OTG
    • SDIO device/SD card controller
    • Up to 30x GPIO
    • 2x SPI master-slave, 3x UART (2x HS-UART, 1x log UART), 2x I2C, 4x PWM
    • 2x I2S/PCM
    • 2x ADC, 1x DAC
  • Security – Hardware SSL engine in Realtek SoC
  • Power Supply – 3.0V~3.3V
  • Dimensions – 24 x 19mm
  • Temperature range – -20℃~+85℃

The module can be programmed with the Arduino IDE and Micropython, and you can have access to the SDK via Ameba IoT website. For evaulation, you may consider to order the module with breakout board instead going for $9.74 shipped.

The module appears to be manufactured by Shenzhen Minjun IOT Technology, and you’ll find more technical details and information about the module on the product page. Other RTL8195AM modules include CC&C WM-8195AM, and Rayson WFM-250, none of which appear to support NFC.

Intel Curie Module, Arduino 101 Board Are Being Discontinued (Too)

July 26th, 2017 No comments

Intel seems to have completely given up on its efforts to bring products specific to the Internet of Things. After discontinuing Intel Edison, Galileo and Joule boards & modules last month, forcing companies to look for alternatives, the company has now issued product discontinuance / end-of-life notices for Intel Curie Module and Arduino 101 board, itself based on the Curie module.

The two product change notification notice can be found below for:

  • Select Intel Curie Module Products – PDF
  • Select Intel Arduino 101 Products – PDF

The use of the word “Select” would normally mean some versions of the module and board won’t be affected, but I fail to see which ones here, as AFAIK there’s only one Arduino 101 board, and two variants of Curie modules, all three to be discontinued.

Arduino 101 will be phased out faster with the following milestones:

  • July 17, 2017 – Product Discontinuance Program Support Begins
  • September 17, 2017 – Last Product Discontinuance Order Date
  • September 17, 2017 – Orders are Non-Cancelable and Non-Returnable
  • December 17, 2017 – Last Product Discontinuance Shipment Date

However, you’ll still have until July 17, 2018 to get Intel Curie modules:

  • July 17, 2017 – Product Discontinuance Program Support Begins
  • September 15, 2017 – Product Discontinuance Demand To Local Intel Representative
  • January 17, 2018 – Last Product Discontinuance Order Date
  • January 17, 2018 – Orders are Non-Cancelable and Non-Returnable
  • July 17, 2018 – Last Product Discontinuance Shipment Date

Intel also posted about the news in a forum post, where they mentioned searching for alternative manufacturers for Arduino 101 board, that is until Curie is completely gone, and documentation and tools will be available until June 15, 2020, and open source code will still be found in Github.

Intel’s IoT firing squad will obviously cause collateral damages, as any company who worked on products with Curie module may have to change plans. Affected products include UDOO X86 board, Gumstix Radium 96BIE board, and Xiaomi smart running shoes. At least Intel allows companies around one year to receive enough modules to possibly continue selling their products until 2019 or 2020. It will all depend on how much stock they are ready to order before January 17, 2018.

Via Hackaday and Golem