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Orange Pi Development Boards

BigClown is a Battery Powered Modular Wireless IoT Kit for Makers (Crowdfunding)

January 24th, 2018 No comments

BigClown IoT Kit is designed to be as easy to use as building a castle from LEGO bricks or an IKEA cabinet. The open source kit is comprised of a coreboard module with STMicro STM32L0 Cortex M0+ micro-controller, and a sub GHZ (868/915MHz) radio for wireless communication, that accepts one or more compatible modules (currently ~30 different options), and communicate to a gateway such as Raspberry Pi or Turris Omnia where you’d connect BigClown RF USB dongle, although it’s also possible to include a Sigfox module for communication, and , LoRa & NB-IoT module appear to be planned.

That’s for the hardware…The kit then connects to your chosen gateway via MQTT, which in turns accesses cloud services such as Ubidots, Microsoft Azure IoT, AWS, IFTTT, etc… , and you can monitor the data or control the kit through a web based dashboard or your own application.

Core Module specifications:

  • MCU – STMicro STM32L083CZ Arm Cortex M0+ MCU with 192KB flash, 20KB RAM
  • Connectivity  – sub-GHZ Radio (868/915 MHz)
  • Sensor – Temperature, 3D accelerometer
  • Security – Security chip

They also offer a compact version of the Core module called Cloony with the same chips, except it lacks the 3D accelerometer, and measuring only 23×23 mm for easy integration into your own board.

Then you can select modules & tags (smaller boards) as needed from the following list:

  • Communication – Sigfox module, NFC tag,
  • Sensors – CO2 module, climate module (temp., humidity, light, and pressure), PIR module, temperature tag, humidity tag, lux meter tag, barometer tag,
  • Interfaces – Sensor module (analog or digital I/O), 1-wire module to connect I2C devices, Tag module for up to 6 Bigclown I2C tags
  • Power – Mini battery module (2x AAA), battery module (4x AAA), power module (5V DC power source + 230V/16A relay)
  • Others – Button module, LCD module (128×128 resolution), relay module, encoder module, breadboard module, probe modules

3D printed enclosures, and covers are also available, so fully assembled kit will look like as the ones below.

Firmware is written in C language to make sure battery-life is optimal. The company – HARDWARIO – has also release a firmware SDK to make development easier, and including an API that “feels like working in a high-level language.” The project is mostly open source with firmware, gateway software, SDK, and hardware files (PDF only) released on Github, together with the company’s website…

BigClown IoT has been launched on Indiegogo aiming to raise $30,000 from a flexible funding campaign. Perks start at $69 for the minimal kit with a core module, mini battery module, mini cover module, 3D printed enclosure, and the USB RF dongle. The link I provided should also have a “Premium Kit – Secret Deals” for $249 with 5 core modules, 5 enclosures, a suitcase, and some Ubidots credits. If you want to get all modules, then you’d have to go with the $599 Ultimate Kit including 7 core modules and enclosures, all modules and tags listed above, a suitcase, and more Ubidots & Blynk Energy credits. Shipping adds nothing to $49 depending on the selected rewards and destination country. People based in Europe won’t have to pay for extra custom duties since everything is shipped from Europe. Delivery is planed for August 2018. More details may be available on the official website.

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.

PingPong IoT Development Board Supports Cellular Connectivity, WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Sigfox, and More

October 19th, 2017 No comments

Round Solutions, a supplier of products, services and concepts for industrial M2M and IoT markets, has introduced PingPong IoT development board with either Microchip PIC32MZ running an RTOS, or PIC32MZ DA running Linux, and equipped with a Telit modules for either 2G or 3G cellular + GNSS connectivity.

The board can also support WiFi, Bluetooth, ISM/RF, NFC/RFID, LoRa, Sigfox, Iridium satellite, and serial interface thanks to a range of expansion boards.

PingPong IoT board specifications:

  • MCU / Flash
    • RTOS version – Microchip PIC32MZ 32-bit Microcontroller @ 200 MHz, with 512 KB RAM and 2 MB Flash Memory + 4 MB external memory
    • Linux version – Microchip PIC32MZ DA  (Full specs TBA)
  • Connectivity
    • Cellular connectivity
      • Telit xE910 module with 2G, 3G and/or 4G LTE (coming soon)
      • Data
        • GSM/GPRS – Uplink/Downlink: 9.6 kbps
        • UMTS – Downlink: 384 kbps, Uplink: 384 kbps
        • HSPA+ – Downlink: 42.0 Mbps, Uplink: 5.75 Mbps
        • LTE – Download: 100 Mbps, Uplink: 50 Mbps
      • Frequency Bands (MHz) – 1800, 1900, 2100, 850, 900
      • 2x SIM card slots, SIM on chip
      • u.FL antenna connector
    • GNSS
      • Telit SL869 module for GPS, Glonass, and Galileo E1
      • u.FL antenna connector for GPS
    • 10/100M Ethernet (RJ45)
    • Connectivity stackable expansion boards for
      • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: with webserver on board
      • Satellite communication: Iridium
      • ISM/RF:433MHz/868MHz/915MHz/2.4GHz
      • NFC/RFID: Protocol EPCglobal Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C)
      • Sigfox/LoRa: Ultra low power transmitter
  • Other stackable expansion boards:
    • I/O & Serial Board: 10 digital/10 analog/4 frequencies, RS485, RS232
    • Still image and video camera
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • I/Os
    • 2x connectors for stackable extension boards with UART, SPI, CAN, I²C
    • 1x CAN interface, 2x analog inputs, 4x 3-state logic inputs, 4x NMOSFET outputs, 1-wire interface
    • 2x current measurement inputs (24-bit resolution)
  • Sensors – Magnetometer, accelerometer
  • Power Supply – 9 to 60V DC
  • Dimensions – 85 x 52 x 23 mm
  • Temperature Range – -40 C to +85 C (industrial grade)
  • Certification CE

 

The RTOS version uses C/C++ and Python and comes with a USB CDC bootloader, while the Linux version is more versatile with support for Open VPN, IPSEC tunnels for example for IoT gateway / router functionality. The source code is available for both operating system, and the company can also provide ready-made software packages for remote metering, asset tracking, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth gateway, MODbus over TCP, or MODbus RS485.

The board is also compatible with MPLAB Harmony, and can connect to Cumulocity IoT Cloud Platform or Telit m2mAIR Cloud out of the box.

The Linux & 4G versions of the board still appear to be in development, but PingPong IoT 3G/RTOS board is available now, starting at 197 Euros with the board only, and up to 445 Euros with the WiFi/Bluetooth, and RF/ISM add-on boards.

TECHBASE Moduino X Series Industrial IoT Modules / Endpoints are Based on ESP32 WiSoC

September 27th, 2017 4 comments

We’ve previously covered TECHBASE ModBerry industrial IoT gateways leveraging Raspberry Pi 3, FriendlyELEC NanoPi M1 Plus, or AAEON’s UP Linux boards. The company has now launched Moduino X series modules powered by Espressif ESP32 WiFi + Bluetooth SoC to be used as end points together with their ModBerry gateways.

Moduino X1

Two models have been developed so far, namely Moduino X1 and X2, with the following specifications:

  • Wireless Module – ESP32-WROVER with ESP32 dual-core Tensilica LX6 processor @ 240 MHz, 4MB pSRAM (512KB as option), 4MB SPI flash;
  • External Storage – X2 only: micro SD card slot
  • Connectivity
    • 802.11 b/g/n WiFi up to 16 Mbps + Bluetooth 4.2 LE with u.FL antenna connector
    • X2 only: 10/100M Ethernet
    • Options: LoRa (Semtech SX1272); Sigfox (TI CC1125); LTE Cat M1/NB1; Zigbee
  • Serial – 2x RS-232/485
  • Display – Optional 0.96″ OLED display with 128×64 resolution
  • Expansion I/Os
    • 4x Digital I/O (0 ~ 3V)
    • 2x Analog Input:
    • A2 Only: 2x analog output (optional)
    • A2 only: support for Techbase ExCard add-on modules for extr RS-232/485 ports, Ethernet ports, PCIe slots, analog input and output, digital I/Os, relays, M-Bus interface, etc…
  • Battery – Optional battery power support (A1 only); optional UPS function with LiPo battery or Supercapacitor
  • Power Supply -5V DC
  • Dimensions
    • A1 – ABS: 90 x 36 x 32 mm (LxWxH); Aluminum: 95 x 35 x 41 mm (LxWxH)
    • A2 – ABS: 90 x 71 x 32 mm (LxWxH); Aluminum: 95 x 71 x 41 mm (LxWxH)

Moduino A1 consumes less than A2, and can be powered by batteries only, but both models can use battery as UPS. The modules support Espressif ESP-IDF SDK, Zephyr Project, Arduino programming, MicroPython, Mongoose OS, and more, and would typically be used as meters & sensor nodes capable of reporting temperature, humidity, pressure, acceleration, & light with attached sensors. More sensors are being developed by the company.

Moduino X2 (right)

Moduino X1 & X2 appear to be available now, but you’d need to contact the company to get price information. Visit Moduino X series product page for more details.

WizziKit is a DASH7, LoRa and Sigfox Wireless Sensor & Actuator Network Kit

September 13th, 2017 2 comments

Over the last few years, I’ve written several article about LoRaWAN, Cellular IoT, and Sigfox based long range low power IoT solutions. DASH7 is another LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) standard that operates on the same 868 and 915 MHz ISM bands as LoRa and Sigfox, but has much lower power consumption, and the cost of a shorter range up to 500 meters, instead of the 5+km associated with LoRa or SigFox.

The DASH7 Alliance Protocol (D7A) is an Open Standard, and if you want more details you can download version 1.1 of the specifications on DASH7 Alliance website. I’m writing about DASH7 today thanks to an article on ST blog about Wizzilab’s Wizzikit, an evaluation kit and framework for DASH7 with a gateway, and several nodes that can also optionally support LoRaWAN and Sigfox protocols.

Click to Enlarge

The kit is comprised of the following items:

  • WizziGate GW2120 Ethernet/Wifi/Dash7 gateway – based on GL-iNet AR150 router –  with antenna for the selected band (868/915 MHz) and USB power cable.
  • 2x Nucleo-L432KC STM32 development board compatible with Arduino. mbed, and ST morpho
  • 2x D7A SH2050 Nucleo Shield with a multimode Murata Lora Module supporting LoRa, DASH7, and Sigfox, as well as four sensor chips: light sensor,  magnetometer & accelerometer, humidity and temperature sensor, and a pressure sensor.
  • 2x mini USB cable to power up and program the Nucleo boards

DA7 SH2050 Shield

You’ll also need to add you own USB power adapter for the gateway. The kit also comes with access to the company’s DASH7Board cloud service. The Wiki includes some information, including a quick start guide explaining how to register the gateway, and start loading the demo code using mbed. Since DASH7 is much more power efficient than LoRaWAN it can either be used to prolong battery life, or to send more frequent messages for example to control actuators. With LoRaWAN, downlink access can only be initiated by the end node, but DASH7 is bi-directional allowing for OTA firmware upgrades. The solution was showcased a few months ago at ST Techday with two demos: sending a message to a single node, and OTA code upgrade (actually picture upload) to multiple boards with a broadcast message.

Wizzilab’s Wizzikit is sold for 299.00 Euros with either 868 and 915 MHz band. Further details on be found on Wizzilab website.

Arduino MKRFOX1200 Board Combines Microchip SAM D21 MCU with Sigfox Module in MKRZero Form Factor

April 19th, 2017 3 comments

Arduino MKRFOX1200 is the first official Arduino board to feature LPWAN technology thanks to a Microchip ATA8520 Sigfox module combined with a Microchip SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0+ micro-controller, all that in the same form factor as MKRZero or MKR1000 boards.

Click to Enlarge

Arduino MKRFOX1200 specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip SAMD21 ARM Cortex-M0+  MCU @ 48 MHz with 256KB flash, 32KB SRAM
  • Connectivity – Microchip AT8520 Sigfox module operating @ 868 MHz with 2dB “GSM” antenna connected to u.FL connector
  • 2x 14-pin headers for I/Os:
    • 8x digital I/O
    • 8x external interrupts (0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, A1 -or 16-, A2 – or 17)
    • 7x analog inputs (8/10/12-bit ADC)
    • 1x analog out (10-bit DAC)
    • 12x PWM pins ((0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, A3 – or 18 -, A4 -or 19)
    • 1x UART, 1x SPI, 1x I2C
    • 3.3V operating voltage
    • DC Current per I/O Pin 7 mA
  • USB – 1x full speed micro USB device and embedded host
  • Misc – Reset button, LED
  • Power Supply
    • 5V via USB or VIN pin
    • 2x AA or AAA batteries good for up to 6 months (connected via green screw terminals)
  • Dimensions – 67.64 x 25 mm
  • Weight – 32 grams

Since the Sigfox module is limited to 868 MHz, the board can only be used in Europe, Africa, and Middle East. You’ll get 2-year free subscription to Sigfox network with the board (for up to 140 messages per day), as well as free access to Spot’it geolocation service that allows you to track the board without GPS or any extra hardware. How well that works will depend on the coverage in your area, and I could not find no accuracy information allowing us to compare it to GPS. Just like other Arduino board, MKRFOX1200 is fully open source hardware, and can be programmed with the Arduino IDE. You’ll find the full documentation in the Getting Started Guide.

Official Arduino boards are usually fairly expensive compared to the competition, but I find Arduino MKRFOX1200 to be pretty good value at 35 Euros (Select European website) considering you also get 2-year of Sigfox network access, and geolocation tracking.

SigFox Launches Spot’it Low Cost GPS-Free IoT Geolocation Service

February 17th, 2017 4 comments

Asset tracking was traditionally done using a combination of cellular and GPS technology, and LPWAN standards like LoRa & Sigfox promised to lower the cost of communication and hardware while still relying on GPS technology, but Sigfox has just announced Spot’it geolocation service, which will get rid of GPS all together, and instead use radio signal strength analysis and deep learning techniques in order to provide location information both outdoors and indoors.

Key benefits listed by the company include:

  • Lowest-cost IoT location service – Spot’it does not require any additional hardware or software upgrades, and the device does not have to transmit more messages, meaning there is no impact on the solution operating cost for customers.
  • Low energy – Spot’it does not rely on energy intensive GPS technology, nor require additional processing or any more energy than what Sigfox-enabled devices already consume.
  • Enabled through a planetary network – Spot’it is embedded in Sigfox’s global network footprint and represents the first global IoT geolocation offer. This allows the simplification of global supply chain management: once a device is registered into the Sigfox Cloud, the geolocation service is available in all territories where the network is present.
  • Unlike traditional GPS-tracking, Sigfox Spot’it works both indoors and outdoors.

For this to work, you’ll need to be covered by Sigfox’s network in one of the 31 countries currently covered, so coverage is not exactly “global” yet. The service does not need any new hardware, and you can use existing Sigfox modules, which you can get for as low as $2 (in quantities), and track them at low cost. Sigfox has not provided that much details on how they are doing it, but they still explained Spot’it was the first big data based Sigfox server, which relies on their Cloud service analyzing signal strength to determine the location.

So there are still unanswered questions, such as accuracy of the system, and how much the company charges for the geolocation service on top of the network access fee.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: cloud, gps, IoT, lpwan, sigfox