Posts Tagged ‘nb-iot’

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


  • 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


  • 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.

NB-IoT Overview, Technical Presentation, and Getting Started (in Thailand)

December 7th, 2017 5 comments

As I mentioned in my post yesterday I attended a talk about NB-IoT at Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0 (2017). It was presented by representatives from AIS, a large telco company in Thailand, and I’ll give a summary of what I learned beside that Xiaomi Mi A1 camera is not that good after all, and I should have taken my DSLR camera with me instead. So apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos…

The talk started from a higher level, including marketing / business propositions, and has time passed it become more and more technical.

The first part of talk was presented by Phuchong Charoensuk, IoT marketing specialist at AIS, and he provided some more details about the company, and their current B2B IoT/M2M market (400,000 subscribers), before providing an overview of IoT, and how NB-IoT will bring in not only larger businesses but also startups and makers.

He also went through some of the benefits of NB-IoT network with (eventually) low cost devices, easy deployment, deep penetration (works indoor and underground), low power consumption with up to 10+ years batter life, and support for 100K connection per cell.

At some points he explained the different use cases of 4G, 3G, and NB-IoT / LTE Cat M1, and showed how LTE in automotive application was used by both the company to first track manufacturing and then telemetry, and the consumer for infotainment. Of course, no NB-IoT here.

The second speaker was Jarun Sinsawasmongkol, Future Network Developer Manager, and he started from a slide by ndimensionz showing the differences between M2M and IoT, with the former more focused on machines, and hardware based, while IoT is mostly software based with the cloud and big data, although we still obviously need the sensors to get data.

He went through the main component of the IoT network from B2C/B2C/B2C2B users, sensors and devices, the network itself which can be private or the Intenret, IoT platforms in the cloud, and finally the apps running on the platforms.

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Next up was the start of a comparison between IoT solutions following 3GPP standard such as eMTC, NB-IoT, or EC-GSM-IoT, and competing solutions like Sigfox, LoRa, Ingenu RPMA, etc…

But before that an explanation of about NB (Narrow Band) means, basically NB-IoT communication just takes over 200 kHz either in standalone mode, in the guard band, or inband.

NB-IoT comes with many of the same features as LTE like OFDMA for download and SC-FDMA for upload, but has been tweaked to provide a simpler and lower power comsumption with the following changes:

  • 200 kHz bandwidth
  • More retransmissions (up to 100 times)
  • No MSISDN needed
  • No IP mode
  • Network resource optimization

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The table below compares Sigfox, LoRa, LTE Cat-1/0, LTE Cat M1 (eMTC) and LTE Cat NB1 (NB-IoT) with the latter having similar features and complexity as Sigfox/LoRa solutions.

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NB-IoT coverage should eventually be better than LTE coverage thanks to NB-IoT coverage extension features using power spectrum density boosting (PSD) and repetition to extend the range of a cell tower.

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NB-IoT power saving mode (PSM) is what makes 10+ years battery life possible, as the node can stay in sleep state for up to 310 hours.

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The final two speakers, including Pornsak Hanvoravongchai, Device Innovation Manager, dealt with the node / sensor part of NB-IoT. First, Nb-IoT should be using embedded SIMs (eSIM) instead of traditional SIM cards since they allow for smaller footprints, and are more durable with better resistance to vibration, high temperature, and humidity levels.

Plenty of companies are already involved with NB-IoT starting with Silicon vendors including Hisilicon, Qualcomm, ZTE Welink, Sequans communication, Mediatek,  Nordic Semi, Intel and Altair Semiconductor. But as we covered a few days ago, there are also new entrants like Riot Micro.
The list of NB-IoT modules is even longer with:

I just added links to the companies I had never heard from. Some modules were listed on the next slides..

Some extra companies also joined the development ecosystem with devkits, MCU, sensors, or even antennas and batteries especially designed for NB-IoT, and other LPWAN standards.

Finally, another person took over the talk with more practical technical information for makers.

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NB-IoT includes three connection modes: CONNECT while transmitting/receiving data, IDLE, and PSM (Power Saving Mode) where it does not attempt to make any connection for a given time, which depends on your own requirements.

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Power consumption for the three modes is illustrated in the chart above. I could see the scale on the right even during the live event.The company also introduced their NB-IoT Arduino shield with embedded SIM. They also appear to have XBee and mPCIE (USB) NB-IoT modules, again with an eSIM.

The software architecture of AIS NB-IoT platform includes an Arduino library for AIS NB-IoT shield, CoAP protocol, a dashboard, and an API.

Some IoT projects use the REST API (HTTP) or MQTT, but CoAP over UDP is recommended in this case, because it minimizes the amount of data required compared to HTTP, and hence saves power.

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AIS NB-IoT Arduino library and sample code can be found on Github, and works with Arduino 1.8.1 or greater. Next up was time for a demo from an AIS representative showing transmission and reception of data with one base station that was enabled with NB-IoT for the event.

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If you are based in Thailand, it’s now possible to register your interest for AIS NB-IoT Arduino shield that will be sold for 1,990 THB (~$61) and ship on February 14, 2018. The registration page is only opened until December 9th. I was expecting some more details about the kit on that page, but sadly it’s just a form asking for contact details.

It should be noted that only a few base station will work with NB-IoT at first, with connectivity first available in Bangkok around AIS D.C., AIS SC Tower, and Chulalongkorn University, and upcountry close to Chiang Mai Maker Space, Prince of Songkhla University, and Khon Kaen University. Anywhere else and you will likely not be able to connect at least in early 2018.

Finally, we got a demo from a member of the Chiang Mai Maker Club that got an early sample of the Arduino shield, connected it to an Arduino Mega with GPS, and various sensors, and as I understand that retrieved data while flying a drone (TBC).

I talked with AIS a little bit after the event, asking confirmation about initial coverage, and since it’s not exactly free to enable NB-IoT, despite using the same LTE base stations, they will only enable a few as previously mentioned. Considering NB-IoT will only be enabled for the 4-day event at the exhibition center, I suspect they may be recurring fees or royalties that AIS may have to pay to maintain the network.

A Day at Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0

December 6th, 2017 6 comments

The Chiang Mai Maker Party 4.0 is now taking place until December 9, and I went there today, as I was especially interested in the scheduled NB-IoT talk and workshop to find out what was the status about LPWA in Thailand. But there are many other activities planned, and if you happen to be in Chiang Main in the next few days, you may want to check out the schedule on the event page or Facebook.

I’m going to go though what I’ve done today to give you a better idea about the event, or even the maker movement in Thailand.

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Booth and activity area should be the same over the 4 days, but the talks, open activity, and workshop will be different each day. Today, people could learn how to solder in the activity area.
The even was not really big with manufacturers/sellers like ThaiEasyElec, INEX, or Gravitech closer to the entrance…

… and slighter higher up in a different zone, companies and makers were showcasing their products or projects. I still managed to spent 5 interesting hours at the event attending to talks and checking out the various projects.

I started my day with a talk entitled “Maker Movement in South East Asia” presented by William Hooi, previously a teacher, who found One Maker Group and setup the first MakerSpace in Singapore, as well as helped introduce the Maker Faire in Singapore in 2012 onwards.

There was three parts to talk with an history of the Maker movement (worldwide), the maker movement in Singapore, and whether Making should be integrated into school curriculum.
He explained at first the government who not know about makers, so it was difficult to get funding, but eventually they jump on the bandwagon, and are now puring money on maker initiative. One thing that surprised me in the talk is that before makers were hidden their hobby, for fear of being mocked by other, for one for one person doing an LED jacket, and another working on an Iron Man suit. The people around them would not understand why they would waste their time on such endeavors, but the Maker Space and Faire helped finding like minded people. Some of the micro:bit boards apparently ended in Singapore, and when I say some, I mean 100,000 units. Another thing that I learned is the concept of “digital retreat for kids” where parents send kids to make things with their hands – for example soldering -, and not use smartphone or tablets at all, since they are already so accustomed to those devices.

One I was done with the talk, I walked around, so I’ll report about some of the interesting project I came across. I may write more detailed posts for some of the items lateron.

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Falling object detection demo using OpenCV on the software side, a webcam connected to…

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ASUS Tinker board to handle fall detection, and an NVIDIA Jetson board for artificial intelligence. If fall is detection an alert to send to the tablet, and the system also interfaces with Xiaomi Mi band 2.

Katunyou has also made a more compact product, still based on Tinker Board, for nursing home, or private home where an elderly may live alone. The person at the stand also organizes Raspberry Pi 3 workshops in Chiang Mai.

I found yet another product based on Raspberry Pi 3 board. SRAN is a network security device made by Global Tech that report threats from devices accessing your network using machine learning.

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Nordic Technology House showcased a magic mirror based on Raspberry Pi 3, and a webcam to detect your dance move, but their actual product shown above is a real-time indoor air monitoring system that report temperature, humidity, CO2 level, and PM 2.5 levels, and come sent alerts via LINE if thresholds are exceeded.

One booth had some drones including the larger one above spraying insecticides for the agriculture market.

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There was also a large about sewing machines, including some smarter one where you can design embroidery in a table before sewing.

There were also a few custom ESP8266 or ESP32 boards, but I forgot to take photos.

The Maker Party is also a good place to go with your want to buy some board or smart home devices.

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Beside Raspberry Pi Zero W / 3, ESP8266 boards and Asus Tinker board seem to be popular items in Thailand. I could also spot Sonoff wireless switch, and an Amazon Dot, although I could confirm only English is supported, no Thai language.

BBC Micro:bit board and accessories can also be bought at the event.

M5Stack modules, and Raspberry Pi 3 Voice Kit were also for sale.

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Books are also available for ESP32, Raspberry Pi 3, IoT, etc… in Thai language.

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But if you can’t read Thai there was also a choice of book in English about RPi, Arduino, Linux for Makers, IoT and so on. I then attended the second talk of the day: “NB-IoT” by AIS, one of the top telco company in Thailand. Speakers included Phuchong Charoensub, IoT Marketing Specialist, and Pornsak Hanvoravongchai, Device Innovation Manager, among others. They went through various part include a presentation of AIS current M2M business, what IoT will change (e.g. brings in statups and makers), some technical details about NB-IoT, and the company offering for makers.

I’ll go into more details in a separate post tomorrow, but if you want to get started the good news is that it’s now possible to pre-order a 1,990 THB Arduino Shield ($61) between December 6-9, and get it shipped on February 14, 2018. NB-IoT connectivity is free for one year, and will then cost 350 Baht (around $10) per year per device. However, there’s a cost to enable NB-IoT on LTE base stations, so AIS will only enable NB-IoT at some universities, and maker spaces, meaning for example, I would most certainly be able to use such kit from home. An AIS representative told me their no roadmap for deployment, it will depend on the business demand for such services.

If you are lucky you may even spot one or two dancing dinosaurs at the event.