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Orange Pi Development Boards

STMicro Introduces Two STM32 Discovery Kits with 2G/3G or 4G LTE-IoT Cat M1/NB1 Connectivity

February 17th, 2018 No comments

Embedded World 2018 trade fair will take place on  on take place on February 27 – March 1 in Nuremberg, Germany, and we’re starting to see some company announce new products and solutions for the embedded market.

STMicro has just announced their showcase their very first cellular development kits at the event, based on a display-less variant on their 32L496GDISCOVERY Discovery board with cellular add-on boards:

  • P-L496G-CELL01 Discovery kit with with a 2G/3G modem
  • P-L496G-CELL02 Discovery kit with with an LTE-IoT Cat M1 (eMTC) / NB1 (NB-IoT) / 2G model

Now the company has not started designed their own cellular modem, but instead relying on QUECTEL modems. Both kits share most of the same specifications:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L496AGI6 Arm Cortex M4F [email protected] 80 MHz with 1 MB Flash, 320 KB RAM in a UFBGA169 package
  • On-board memory – 8 Mbit PSRAM
  • On-board + external storage – 32 KB I2 C EEPROM with OTP page preloaded with board ID and voucher code; micro SD card slot
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG HS port, 1x micro USB port for debugging (see below)
  • Audio – SAI Audio CODEC, ST-MEMS digital microphones, stereo headset jack including analog microphone input
  • Camera I/F – 8-bit camera header
  • Expansion – Arduino Uno V3 and STMod+ connectors
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • P-L496G-CELL01 model
      • Quectel UG96 worldwide cellular modem penta-band 2G/3G module, 7.2 Mbps downlink, 5.76 Mbps uplink.
      • Pulse 2G/3G SMA antenna for frequency ranges: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
    • P-L496G-CELL02 model
      • Quectel BG96 worldwide cellular modem LTE Cat M1 (eMTC) & Cat NB1 (NB-IoT) & EGPRS module
      • SMA antenna
    • Modem reset red LED and modem signaling green LED
    • Switchable SIM interface, eSIM and MicroSIM

Click to Enlarge

  • Debugging – On-board ST-LINK/V2-1 SWD,JTAG debugger/programmer with USB re- enumeration capability: mass storage, virtual COM port and debug port
  • Misc – On-board current measurement, 2x user LEDs, 1x user and 1x reset push-buttons, 4-direction joystick with selection button
  • Power Supply – ST-LINK, USB VBUS, or external sources

Free software libraries and examples for the board will be available in STM32Cube package – soon including X-CUBE-CELLULAR software expansion packs – , and as usual, STM32 DISCOVERY boards are also supported by IAR, Keil and GCC-based IDEs, as well as Arm Mbed.

Back of STM32 Board with Arduino Headers, micro SD slot, and Audio Jack – Click to Enlarge

Each kit will come with an EMnify SIM card, specially designed for IoT applications and with a global reach of 133 countries. The SIM card can be managed from a dashboard, and a free 3-month trial data plan of 90 days will also included with the discovery kits. So it looks to be a competitor of Hologram SIM card, which I’ve recently been using in a Raspberry Pi 3G quick start guide.

 

Developers who are not familiar with C language will be able to run JavaScript scripts thanks to Espruino JavaScript interpreter for STM32 and through the Espruino Chrome Web IDE.  The company has also partnered with cloud services providers with their own strengths:

  • Grovestreams’ analytics capabilities can help bringing decision-making mechanisms to any software
  • Exosite for industrial and enterprise systems
  • AVSystem for M2M applications
  • Aimagin for scientific application with its MATLAB analytics
  • Ubidots for application building

All those providers offer a free trial account, and extras may be offer to users of either Discovery kit. Both kits are sampling now, and should be available for purchase in Q2 2018 at a currently undisclosed price. Visit P-L496G-CELL01 product page for more details, as the company has yet to setup a page for P-L496G-CELL02 kit.

Particle Unveils Three nRF52840 Bluetooth 5 Boards: Argon (WiFi), Boron (LTE), and Xenon, as well as Particle Mesh Technology

February 14th, 2018 1 comment

In the last year or so, Bluetooth has gotten an upgrade with the release of Bluetooth 5. The new protocol works on several existing platforms, but if you want support for the full set of Bluetooth 5 features such as longer range and higher bandwidth, we’ve seen you need a recent chip such as Nordic Semi nRF52840.

However so far, AFAIK you had to buy Nordic Semi own development kit for play with nRF52840, and now Particle has announced not one, but three low cost development boards powered by nRF52840 chip starting at just $9, and supporting their newly announced Particle Mesh technology. So for some reasons, it appears they did not go with Bluetooth Mesh.

Argon, Boron, Xenon

Particle Xenon – Bluetooth 5 + Mesh

Xenon is the cheapest model with the following specifications:

  • SoC – Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 Arm Cortex-M4F 32-bit processor @ 64MHz with 1MB flash, 256KB RAM
  • Storage –  2MB SPI flash
  • Connectivity (via nRF52840)
    • 802.15.4-2006 up to 250 Kbps
    • Bluetooth 5 @ 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps, 500 Kbps, 125 Kbps
    • Up to +8 dBm TX power (down to -20 dBm in 4 dB steps)
    • NFC-A tag
    • On-board PCB antenna
    • u.FL connector for external antenna
  • Expansion – 20x mixed signal GPIO (6 x Analog, 4 x PWM), UART, I2C, SPI
  • USB – 1x Micro USB 2.0 port full speed (12 Mbps)
  • Debugging – JTAG (SWD) Connector
  • Misc – RGB status LED, Reset and Mode buttons
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via micro USB
    • Integrated Li-Po charging and battery connector
  • Dimensions –  ~5.1 x 2.3 cm (Meets Adafruit Feather‘s dimensions and pinout)
  • Certifications – FCC, CE and IC; RoHS compliant (lead-free)

Particle Argon  – WiFi + Bluetooth 5 + Mesh

The Argon board has a similar designed as Xenon, except it adds a single core ESP32-S0WD for WiFi connectivity:

  • SoC
    • Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 Arm Cortex-M4F 32-bit processor @ 64MHz with 1MB flash, 256KB RAM
    • Espressif ESP32-S0WD single core 32-bit LX6 microprocessor, up to 200 DMIPS with 448 KB ROM, 520 KB SRAM
  • Storage –  2MB SPI flash for nRF52840, 1MB SPI flash for ESP32-S0WD
  • Connectivity via SoCs
    • ESP32
      • 802.11b/g/n WiFi (2.4 Ghz) up to 150 Mbps
      • u.FL connector for external WiFi antenna
    • nRF52840
      • 802.15.4-2006 up to 250 Kbps
      • Bluetooth 5 @ 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps, 500 Kbps, 125 Kbps
      • Up to +8 dBm TX power (down to -20 dBm in 4 dB steps)
      • NFC-A tag
      • u.FL connector for external antenna
    • On-board PCB antenna for Bluetooth or WiFi (user selectable)
  • Expansion – 20x mixed signal GPIO (6 x Analog, 4 x PWM), UART, I2C, SPI
  • USB – 1x Micro USB 2.0 port full speed (12 Mbps)
  • Debugging – JTAG (SWD) Connector
  • Misc – RGB status LED, Reset and Mode buttons
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via micro USB
    • Integrated Li-Po charging and battery connector
  • Dimensions –  ~5.1 x 2.3 cm (Meets Adafruit Feather‘s dimensions and pinout)
  • Certifications – FCC, CE and IC; RoHS compliant (lead-free)

Particle Boron – LTE (NB-IoT / eMTC) + Bluetooth 5 + Mesh

Bron board have a again a similar design, but instead adds LTE IoT connectivity:

  • SoC – Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 Arm Cortex-M4F 32-bit processor @ 64MHz with 1MB flash, 256KB RAM
  • Storage –  2MB SPI flash
  • Connectivity
    • u-blox SARA R410 LTE modem
      • LTE CAT M1/ NB1 module with global hardware support (MVNO support for US/Mexico only)
      • 3GPP Release 13 LTE Cat M1
      • EGPRS Power Class E2
      • Dual SIM support: Nano 4FF (unpopulated) and MFF2
    • 802.15.4-2006 up to 250 Kbps
    • Bluetooth 5 @ 2 Mbps, 1 Mbps, 500 Kbps, 125 Kbps
    • Up to +8 dBm TX power (down to -20 dBm in 4 dB steps)
    • NFC-A tag
    • On-board PCB antenna
    • u.FL connector for external antenna
  • Expansion – 20x mixed signal GPIO (6 x Analog, 4 x PWM), UART, I2C, SPI
  • USB – 1x Micro USB 2.0 port full speed (12 Mbps)
  • Debugging – JTAG (SWD) Connector
  • Misc – RGB status LED, Reset and Mode buttons
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via micro USB
    • Integrated Li-Po charging and battery connector
  • Dimensions –  ~5.1 x 2.3 cm (Meets Adafruit Feather‘s dimensions and pinout)
  • Certifications – FCC, CE and IC; RoHS compliant (lead-free)

All three boards support Particle Mesh, a mesh networking technology built on Thread, and “designed to connect the spaces in between existing Wi-Fi and cellular deployments with local networks that are low-cost, secure, and ultra-reliable”. Xenon boards can act as end-points or repeaters in the mesh network, while Argon and Boron boards would normally be used as WiFi/LTE gateways.

The company has priced the boards very aggressively at least during during the pre-order period with Xenon going for $9, Argon for $15, and Boron for $29, and shipping is free during the first 24 hours (9 hours left at the time of writing). The boards are expected to ship in July 2018, and after prices will go up to respectively $12, $19, and $39.

Particle also increased the free data allowance for their $2.99 cellular Device Cloud plan which now comes  with 3MB of data per month instead of just 1MB. If you exceed that amount, they’ve decreased the price per MB from $0.99 to $0.40 too.

Sixfab Launches Arduino and Raspberry Pi NB-IoT Shields with Four Sensors

February 8th, 2018 2 comments

SixFab previously introduced a 3G/4G base shield for the Raspberry Pi boards that would take Quectel based mini PCIe card in order to add cellular connectivity to the popular development boards.

The company is now back with NB-IoT shields that should better suited to IoT projects with lower hardware and data costs, and support either 40-pin Raspberry Pi boards or Arduino.

SixFab Raspberry Pi NB-IoT Shield

Specifications & features:

  • Module – Quectel BC95-B20 NB-IoT Module supporting 800MHz frequency (suitable for the European market)
  • Micro SIM card socket, PCB Antenna and u.FL socket for external antenna
  • I/O expansions
    • 4x Channel 12-bit ADC via ADS1015
    • Relay with optocoupler protection (24V DC, 120-220V AC Switching)
    • 3-pin 1-Wire interface for DS18B20, DHT21, etc…
    • 4-pin I2C interface
    • 3.3V reference voltage
  • Sensors
    • MMA8452Q 3-axis accelerometer
    • HDC1080 temperature sensor (-40 to +125 °C)
    • HDC1080 humidity sensor (0 to 100%)
    • ALS-PT19 ambient light sensor
  • Misc – User button and LED
  • Optocoupler (3 – 12 VDC switching)
  • Compatible with Raspberry Pi boards with 40-pin header

SixFab Arduino NB-IoT shield

The Arduino shield is pretty similar to the Raspberry Pi one, except or the lack of ADC and some I/Os, since the Arduino board can handle those:

  • Module – Quectel BC95-B20 NB-IoT Module supporting 800MHz frequency (suitable for the European market)
  • Micro SIM card socket, PCB Antenna and u.FL socket for external antenna
  • I/O expansions – Relay (24V DC, 120-220V AC Switching)
  • Sensors
    • MMA8452Q 3-axis accelerometer
    • HDC1080 temperature sensor (-40 to +125 °C)
    • HDC1080 humidity sensor (0 to 100%)
    • ALS-PT19 ambient light sensor
  • Misc – User button and LED
  • Compatible with Arduino boards

Both boards can be typically used for IoT applications such as smart farming, smart cities, smart home, smart metering, bike sharing, smart parking, asset tracking, environmental monitoring and more.

The company is now taking pre-orders for both boards for $66.75 with delivery scheduled on March 19. If you’re using Arduino and don’t need the sensors nor relay, RakWireless WisLTE board might be worth a look, as it’s a cheaper option at $40 + shipping.

Sixfab NB-IoT Evaluation Board

Sixfab also launched a tiny standalone NB-IoT evaluation board to test NB-IoT network and development with different platforms using a micro USB port to interface with the host platform. It is sold for $51.75 during the pre-order period, and also based on BC95-BC20, which according to Quectel BC95 product page is only suitable for the European market, while China, Korea, and Australia require a different version of the module.

Digi Introduces XBeeX3 IoT Modules with New Micro Form Factor, RF and Cellular IoT Connectivity

January 31st, 2018 1 comment

Digi International has just announced the Digi XBee3 series of RF modules and cellular IoT modules. The modules will be available in the existing Digi XBee SMT amd through-hole form factor, as well as a new micro form factor (19×13 mm) that’s about a third of the size of the original XBee RF module.

The RF modules will first come with ZigBee 3.0 and IEEE 802.15 support, but Bluetooth LE will be available through a firmware update later on, and WiFi and DigiMesh version will be brought to markets too. The first cellular module supports LTE Cat.1, but the company will eventually launch NB-IoT and eMTC (LTE Cat M) versions for Europe and the US respectively.

Some of the shared key capabilities listed by the company:

  • Over-the-air (OTA) changes to devices in the field for bug fixes and new features
  • Dynamically reconfigurable, based upon situation
  • Establish business rules to aggregate, store, transform and filter data via MicroPython programming capability
  • Create alerts and alarms for priority data and device health
  • Built-in support for advanced I/O including I2C, SPI, to drive modern sensors and actuators
  • Provide control logic for devices that require a microcontroller, without electronics redesign
  • With Digi Remote Manager, enables better bandwidth management via prioritization/ transmission of actionable information
  • Dynamic changes to behavior as requested from cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure (e.g., enabling real-time decisions based on local conditions)
  • Continue to operate during communications outages by dynamically executed logic that is not cloud-dependent

There are three RF models operating at 2.4 GHz up to 250 kbps, and available in the three package mentioned in the introduction (micro, surface mount, and though-hole):

  • Digi XBee3 ZigBee 3.0 supporting Zigbee Pro protocol
  • Digi XBee3 DigiMesh
  • Digi XBee3 802.15.4

Those modules, and corresponding development kits are certified for the US, Canada, and Europe.

XBee 3 Zigbee Mesh Kit – Click to Enlarge

They will be three cellular IoT models only available as through-hole module:

  • Digi XBee3 Cellular Cat-1
    • LTE Bands 2,4,5,12 and soon Verizon Band 13
    • 10 Mbps Downlink / 5 Mbps Uplink
    • Certified for US & Canada
    • Current Draw Tx/Rx – 1Amp / 10uA (Low Power Mode) @3.3V
  • Digi XBee3 Cellular LTE-M
    • Verizon Bands: 4 and 13, and AT&T Bands: 2, 4, and 12.
    • Up to 375 kbps Uplink and Downlink
    • For US & Canada
    • Current Draw Tx/Rx – 550mA / 20uA (Power Save Mode) @3.3V
  • Digi XBee3 Cellular NB-IoT
    • Bands 8 and 20
    • Up to 27.2 kbps Downlink, 62.5 kbps Uplink
    • Certified for Europe
    • Current Draw Tx/Rx – 550mA / 20uA (Power Save Mode) @3.3V

XBee 3 Cellular Development Kit – Click to Enlarge

More information is available about the modules and development kit on XBee product page. However, you won’t easily find any pricing information on their website,  so instead I had to do a web search about the part numbers to find out XB3-24Z8CM-J micro Xbee Zigbee 3.0 module is sold for $14.70, the XBee3 Zigbee Mesh development kit (XK3-Z8S-WZM) for $99, Digi XBee3 Cellular Smart Modem, LTE CAT 1 (XB3-C-A1-UT-001) for $99 as well, and the corresponding AT&T development kit (XK3-C-A1-UT-U) for $199.

Nordic nRF91 Multimode LTE-M / NB-IoT SiP Embeds Arm Cortex-M33, Arm TrustZone, and Assisted GPS

January 23rd, 2018 5 comments

Nordic Semi will soon launch nRF19 series low power cellular IoT solution, that consists of a system-in-package (SiP) combining a global multimode LTE-M / NB-IoT modem, an Arm Cortex-M33 core, Arm TrustZone security solution, assisted GPS, and flash memory into a 16x10x1.2 mm package.

Click to Enlarge

Nordic Semi nRF91 specifications known to far:

  • CPU – Arm Cortex-M33 ARMv8-M host processor
  • Memory / Storage – Built-in RAM and flash Memory
  • Connectivity
    • Multimode LTE-M (eMTC) and NB-IoT modem by Nordic
    • SAW-less transceiver
    • Custom RF front-end solution from Qorvo.
  • Location – Optional assisted GPS combining cellular and GPS technology for fast and accurate positioning
  • Security – Arm TrustZone security via Arm CryptoCell-310 security IP
  • Power Management
  • Package – 16 x 10 x 1.2 mm

Nordic Semiconductor nRF91 Series is said to include a complete suite of software and development tools for product development, but no details were provided at this stage.

The solution has already been demonstrated on the Verizon Wireless Network in the U.S. and on the Telia network in Norway, and nRF91 samples are being send to select customers. However, we’ll have to wait a little longer before seeing products based on nRF91, as general samples is only planned for mid 2018, and mass production for the end of the year.

Year 2017 in Review, Top 10 Posts, and Some Fun Stats

December 31st, 2017 21 comments

2017 is coming to an end, and as I do every year, I’ll take a look back at the year that was on CNX Software. The pace of development boards launches has not slowed down this year, and we get an even wider range from the low-end with Orange Pi or NanoPi boards, to much more powerful ARM boards, and some new entrants like Libre Computer. The same is true for TV boxes, most of which now support 4K HDR, ranging from ultra cheap models selling for less than $20 to higher end Android TV boxes, while mini PCs were dominated by Intel Apollo Lake models, although some Cherry Trail products were also launched.

Processor-wise, Amlogic launched more Amlogic S905X derivatives with S905W/S905D/S905Z, which are popular in the TV box market. Rockchip’s most interesting processor this year was RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor designed for 4K HDR Android TV boxes, but also popular with single board computers thanks to Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 interfaces that provide good I/O performance. Allwinner H2+/H3/H5 were launched last year, but they kept being used in cheap development boards, retro game consoles, etc.. The company also launched A63 SoC for 2K tablets, and H6 for 4K OTT TV boxes, and we can expect the latter not only to be found in TV boxes such as Zidoo H6 Pro, but in more Orange Pi H6 boards, and likely other products in 2018 since beside media capabilities, the processor also supports Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and PCIe. Intel’s Celeron and Pentium Apollo Lake processors dominated the entry-level Windows mini PCs market this year, and Linux was much better supported than in Bay Trail / Cherry Trail processors, but few manufacturers decided to offer Apollo Lake mini PC pre-installed with Ubuntu or other Linux distributions.

2017 was also an interesting year for the Internet of Things (IoT) with Espressif ESP32 going into full gear, and prices dropping to $5 for maker boards. Other WiFi IoT solutions that looked promising last year such as RTL8710AF, did not really took off in a big way. LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) solutions got even more traction with LoRa dominating, but far from being alone with Sigfox, and the emergence of 3GPP standards like NB-IoT and eMTC.

While I had written articles about 3D printing in the past, it really became a proper category on the blog this year, thanks to Karl’s reviews, and 3D printers provided by GearBest. I’d also like to thank Ian Morrison (Linuxium), TLS, Blu, Nanik who helped with reviews and/or articles this year.

Top 10 Posts Written in 2017

I’ve again compiled a list of the most popular posts of 2017 using the pageviews from Google Analytics, but for a change, I’ll show the results in reverse order:

  1. Google Assistant SDK Turns Your Raspberry Pi 3 into Google Home (May 2017) – Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant went beyond the companies’own products, and Google Assistant SDK release allowed developers to make their own DIY smart speaker based on Raspberry Pi 3 board, or other ARM Linux boards. I could successfully implement my own using an Orange Pi Zero kit.
  2. Mecool BB2 Pro Review – TV Box with DDR4 Memory – Part 2: Android Firmware, Benchmarks, Kodi (January 2017) – Mecool BB2 Pro was one of the first Amlogic S912 octa-core TV boxes with DDR4 memory, but my tests did not show any benefits over DDR3 memory.
  3. Mecool KI PRO Hybrid Android TV Box with Amlogic S905D SoC, DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 Tuners Sells for $80 (May 2017) – For some reasons, post about VideoStrong/Mecool Android set-top boxes are quite popular on CNX Software, and KI PRO was the first model based on Amlogic S905D processor with support for multiple demodulators.
  4. Orange Pi 2G-IoT ARM Linux Development Board with 2G/GSM Support is Up for Sale for $9.90 (March 2017) – “Cellular IoT Linux board for $10? Where’s the buy button?” might have been the first reaction to many people. But when buyers received their board, it was a struggle and may still be, since it was based on a  RDA Micro processor for phones poorly supported in Linux.
  5. Installing Ubuntu 17.04 on CHUWI LapBook 14.1 Apollo Lake Laptop (February 2017) – People want their cheap and usable Ubuntu laptop, and if manufacturers won’t make one for them, they’ll find ways to make their own. Sadly, CHUWI massively changed the hardware, and it’s not such a good solution anymore.
  6. ASUS Tinker Board is a Raspberry Pi 3 Alternative based on Rockchip RK3288 Processor (January 2017) – A large company like ASUS entering the maker board market, and the solution inspired from Raspberry Pi 3, but more much powerful. That got people interested!
  7. Creality CR-10 3D Printer Review – Part 2: Tips & Tricks, Octoprint, and Craftware (May 2017) – It was the year of cheap $100 to $200 3D printer, but CNX Software visitors were more interested in a better model, and Creality CR-10 review was the most popular 3D Printer review/post this year.
  8. Mecool KIII Pro Hybrid STB Review – Part 2: Android Firmware, TV Center, and DVB-T2 & DVB-S2 App (March 2017) – VideoStrong sells some inexpensive Android TV boxes with tuner under their Mecool, and KIII Pro was their first octa-core model with both DVB-T/T2 and DVB-S2 tuners.
  9. ASUS Tinker Board’s Debian & Kodi Linux Images, Schematics and Documentation (January 2017) – ASUS board was somehow started selling before the company intended to, and while firmware & documentation were there, they were hard to find, so people looked for that information, and found it on CNX Software.
  10. MINIX NEO U9-H Media Hub Review – Part 2: Android 6.0 Firmware & Kodi 17 (March 2017) – Apparently, I’m not the only to consider MINIX NEO U9-H to be one of the best Android TV boxes, as my review of the media hub was the most read post of 2017.

Stats

981 posts were published in 2017. Let’s go straight to users’ country and city location data.

The top five countries have not changes, but this year Germany overtook the United Kingdom in second position. Traffic from India increased on a relative basis, and Australia made it to the top ten at the cost of Russia. London and Paris kept the two top steps, but Bangkok rose to third position, while last year third, Tel aviv-Yafo went away completely from the list. New York is gone being replaced by Warsaw in 8th position.

The list of the most used operating systems, and browsers is fairly stable, but the trends noticed in past years continues, with Windows share of traffic going down, Android going up, and Linux stable, while Chrome dominated even more, with most other browsers going down in percentage basis, except Edge that is very slowly replacing Internet Explorer, and Samsung Internet that replaced Opera mini in the list.

Desktop traffic still rules, but mobile + tablet traffic now accounts for around a third of the traffic.

Finally, I went to dig into pagespeed data with pages loading in 15.58 seconds on average. I then filtered the countries with more than 5,000 pageviews, and CNX Software pages and posts loaded fastest in Portugal, Denmark, and Macedonia. However, people in Venezuela need to wait close to 2 minutes for a page to load on average, and in China and Iran around one minute.

Next year looks promising, and I expect to test Gemini Lake mini PC, and maybe some ARM based mini PCs or laptops, but I’ll review less TV boxes as due to some new regulations I can’t easily import them. The regulatory framework is now in place for LPWAN standards, and I should be able to start playing with LoRa and NB-IoT in 2018, using local services, or my own gateway(s). I’ll keep playing with development boards, as I’m expecting interesting Allwinner H6, Realtek RTD129x, Hilsicon, and other platforms in the year ahead, as well as various IoT products.

I’d like to come together with some of the devices and boards reviewed in 2017 (and a Linux tux) to wish you all a prosperous, healthy, and happy new year 2018!

Click to Enlarge

LoRaWAN Currently Leads LPWAN IoT Gateway Deployments Says VDC Research

December 15th, 2017 No comments

LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Weightless, RPMA, NB-IoT, etc… There are many LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) solutions, but it’s unclear whether most/all will survive and coexist, or there will eventually be a couple of winners used by everyone.

VDC Research is claiming that so far, LoRaWan assumes LPWAN leadership for IoT gateways, explaining that “LoRaWAN (LoRa) has generated considerable traction with new product launches from a number of gateway suppliers through the past 18 months”, but points to mounting competition from 3GPP standards such as NB-IoT and LTE Cat M1.

LPWAN Max Bitrate and Distance Range

Sadly, the company did not provides number in their public announcement, and those are only available in the paid report. VDC Research still released a public executive brief (free registration required), with some of the highlights including:

  • The global market for IoT gateway hardware is forecasted to grow to more than $2.5B in 2021.
  • While intelligent gateways generated more market revenue than M2M gateways in 2016, they will not comprise the majority of unit shipments until 2019.
  • Shipments of IoT gateway devices supporting LPWANs is set to explode with a 2016-2021 CAGR in excess of 100%.
  • The fastest growing Linux distributions for IoT gateways include OpenWRT, Ubuntu, and Wind River Linux.
  • Arm and x86 will extend their majority share among embedded CPU architectures in gateway hardware.
  • Nearly half of IoT gateway revenue will be generated in the Americas in 2021.
  • Two-thirds of current IoT gateway projects from VDC’s annual embedded engineer survey are connecting to sensors deployed in the field; sensor networks are driving gateway deployments.

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

December 9th, 2017 1 comment

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.

Click to Enlarge

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