You have heard it before and you will hear it again; the Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly. We have more products than ever that are connected. With so many options to connect a product to choose from (cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and more), getting started from a chip level product can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Utilizing prebuilt boards can be your answer; it allows for ease of setup and deployment of a connected product.
The Arduino ABX00019. (Image source: Arduino)
I’m going to go over what parts are needed to get a basic cellular project up and running. The first thing needed is a cellular development board. The board I’ll use as an example is the Arduino ABX00019. The ABX00019 is an MCU and cellular connectivity device in one module. The cellular connectivity module is the u-blox SARA-R410M-02B. This board is fully compatible with Narrow Band IoT NB classes and LTE CAT M1 networks and designed for global use. Like many other Arduino boards, it can be run off a 5 V power supply or Li-Po battery. The other important part we cannot forget is a SIM card. In this situation, I’d recommend the Truphone CAT-M SIM card. This SIM card can be used in over 190 countries with the country specific carrier. Truphone offers a great variety of different sized data plans, with detailed explanations found on Digi-Key.com.
Using these just these two products will get you up and running with a cellular connected MCU; think of it as your own IoT Connectivity Starter Kit. At this point you can add a wide variety of parts to your setup; a typical application would be to add a few sensors. One idea would be to create a personal weather station with temperature and humidity sensors. Another potential application would be adding sensors to make your home a smart home. Temperature, humidity, motion, and other sensors could be used for this application. A couple of my favorite ready-to-go sensor suppliers are Seeed and MikroElektronika. For instance, Seeed has a variety of humidity/moisture sensors and MikroElektronika carries a gas sensor that, when combined, could function as an air quality monitor.
Your IoT Connectivity Starter Kit could be set up as your personal lab to be used in conjunction with school projects. This could be very useful since most students are back in school (either in person or via distance learning) at this time. To help these students, Digi-Key is currently giving away the Arduino Cellular development kit and Truphone CAT-M SIM card as part of the Grand Prize InstaLab in the Back to School 2020 contest. Visit the Back to School page to find out more and submit an entry.
Setting up a connected device, especially cellular, can be difficult and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Starting off with a development board and ready-to-go sensors is an ideal way to start and getting a free kit from Digi-Key to get you going is an added bonus. Using these example parts can be a great way to start and dive into IoT development.