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LR1110 module - Tiny LoRa & WiFi/GNSS positioning

Leveraging the LR1110 to create the smallest geolocation+LoRaWAN combined module for use in tracking.

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Semtech have recently announced their new LoRa Edge platform that integrates a long range LoRa transceiver, passive Wi-Fi AP MAC address scanner, and GNSS receiver to enable ultra-low power asset tracking.

Unfortunately this part is complex to design with and as a result its amazing capability is inaccessible to most hobbyists. I'm sure there are many others excited about the potential for this part too, so I wanted to create a module that can easily be dropped into a design without worrying about the RF voodoo that makes it all work.

My intention is to complete the design and have a small batch made if there is enough interest. In this case I may also design a breakout board or arduino shield to remove as many barriers as possible for anyone who is keen to play with this awesome new part


If you're interested fill out the survey (link below)

Using assisted GNSS and WiFi AP scanning the ORV1110A is capable of delivering ultra-low power metre-accurate positioning alongside standard LoRaWAN communications. What once required multiple parts each with dedicated communication interfaces is now available in a tiny, simple to integrate package. Measuring 25mm x 16mm this module is ideally suited for small, battery-powered tracking applications. 

With all of the messy RF design built into the module, it reduces the cost and complexity to incorporate this technology into projects and new product developments.

If you're interested, please fill out this survey to guide future development!

Key features

  • 25mm x 16mm x 2.5mm!
  • Mutli-region LoRaWAN 
  • GPS + Beidou positioning
  • 2.4GHz WiFi AP Scanning
  • Cryptographic Engine
  • Control via SPI
  • 3x Configurable GPIO/interrupt pins
  • 1.8-3.7V supply
  • Ultra-low power - Potentially lasts years on battery!
  • Easy to solder; No hidden pads here!

Planned project goals

  • Finalised form-factor and pin out  ✔
  • Design review with Semtech  ✔
  • Break-out board  ✔
  • Prototype manufacture [Underway]
  • Testing
  • Schematic components and footprints (Eagle, KiCAD, Altium)
  • Drivers and Libraries
  • Datasheet and design guide

Longer term goals

  • Arduino shield
  • LRDuino dev kit
LR1110 module dimensions ORV1110A
LR1110 module ORV1110A

  • Ordering prototypes & firmware development

    Sensors07/14/2020 at 12:11 0 comments

    I've noticed that a few distributors now have a date for when they will have stock of the LR1110 (22nd July), which means it's time for me to get assembly of the first prototypes underway. Alongside that I'll have some breakout boards manufactured to make testing easier. I estimate that I'll have assembled units in hand by mid-August.

    I may fund this first batch myself rather than do something like crowdfunding. It ain't gonna be a cheap production run, but the module is still untested so I wouldn't feel comfortable selling it as a 'finished product' to anyone at the moment. I'd like to hear people's thoughts on this.

    Firmware/Library development

    It's likely my time to work on the firmware for the module is going to become more restricted, so I'd like to get the modules into the hands of people who are wanting to create open source libraries for arduino, etc.

    If you're interested in helping with the firmware development for the module please express your interest in the survey.

  • Mechanical Drawings

    Sensors07/02/2020 at 13:01 0 comments

    I've just finished the mechanical drawings and pad layout for the datasheet

    (All units are in mm)

    You'll notice the height is 2.8mm rather than the planned 2.5mm. That's just because of the 1mm PCB for the first revision to make manufacture easier, but I'll likely move to 0.5mm thickness PCB if I can for a total height of 2.3mm!

  • Finalised Break-out board

    Sensors07/01/2020 at 13:54 0 comments

    As I previously mentioned I had a concern about the existing break-out board design, especially if it were to be made available as a self-soldered kit since the u.Fl connectors and 0402 passives of the tuning networks can be difficult to solder. 

    I'm pleased with the solution I settled upon which has two main updates:

    1. Removed the antenna tuning networks:  Without these the RF performance might not be ideal, but there are far too many variables involved at the prototyping stage to properly tune 3 antennae anyway, especially for LoRaWAN with various regional frequencies.
    2. Supports u.Fl and SMA connectors: This should give people the option to avoid soldering the fiddly u.FL connectors if they want to.

    I've done my best to ensure the feed lines for the antennae are 50 ohm matched, but they're so short anyway the losses if unmatched will be negligible. I would have liked to support the two connector types simultaneously, but I can't think of how to achieve that without creating a stubthat would degrade RF performance.

    The SMA connectors are pretty bulky, so if this is used on a breadboard it'd have to be placed at one end to give enough clearance below.

    With u.FL connectors populated:

    With SMA connectors populated:

    And of course, all connections are labelled on the bottom:

  • Semtech official LR1110 DevKit ain't cheap!

    Sensors06/16/2020 at 10:50 0 comments

    I've been keeping my eyes peeled for any indication of how much the dev kit for the LR1110 is going to cost, and recently a new product listing popped up on Symmetry Electronics....

    A product titled "LR1110 DVK @915MHZ FOR NORTH AMERICA" is showing up for $199.99. Not much product detail, but I think it's safe to assume this is the NA regional development kit.

    I'd like to hear what everyone else thinks, but in my book that's prohibitively expensive for hackers and hobbyists. It's just another reason to push forward with this project to make the part more accessible and affordable for all!

  • A design review with Semtech

    Sensors06/16/2020 at 10:25 0 comments

    The  engineers over at Semtech were kind enough to carry out a PCB design review of the module. The feedback was positive overall, but pointed out a few areas I could modify to improve performance.

    The key points:

    • Use a TCXO instead of regular crystal oscillator as my 32MHz reference. This improves GNSS performance for portable devices where temperature compensation may be more important.
    • Improve RF isolation between RF Power Amplifier pin and Sub-GHz RF output pin
    • Spread out RF switch and RF power traces to reduce crosstalk
    • Remove a few unnecessary test points

    Here's a snapshot highlighting some of the inner layer changes:

    I'm pretty happy with the feedback I got on the design, the next step is to get this built once I get my hands on the LR1110!

  • Breakout board - A first pass

    Sensors05/12/2020 at 13:10 0 comments

    For people to tinker with this module prior to using it on a custom PCB I wanted to create a break-out board/development kit. This is my first pass at it, but I think there are some changes that I think may be required, which you can read about below.

    ORV1110 breakout PCB Rev.1

    Things I like about this design:

    • Compact: It's small enough to fit onto a breadboard, and could even be used in projects in this form
    • Flexible: The antenna connectors give a lot of flexibility for what antennae can be used.
    • Simple: All the RF stuff is dealt with, you just need to slap on some antennae

    Things I don't like

    • Fiddly: The u.Fl antenna connectors and matching networks can be pretty hard to solder, meaning it might be challenging for some people to receive unsoldered/as a kit to assemble themselves. I could potentially replace the u.Fl connectors with/have option for SMA connectors but they're quite clunky and large.

    Lastly, I'm thinking about the real necessity of connectors for WiFi and GNSS. Potentially I could get away with on-board antennae for both of those since they're region agnostic, but the performance would undoubtedly be reduced.

    I'll mull it over, but any external input would be welcome!

  • ​Finalised Design

    Sensors05/04/2020 at 11:19 0 comments

    I settled on the antenna connection locations and finished off the signal routing/via stitching yesterday. That allowed me to also finalise the  dimensions and put together a pretty 3D render!

    ORV1110A dimensional render
    ORV1110A design render

  • Preliminary design

    Sensors04/29/2020 at 16:20 0 comments

    Digging into the documentation I started to get an idea of the complexity of the design, there's no way around this being a 4-layer design. Along with the dozens of passives and feed-lines required for the RF bits, power and signal lines would have to be routed in amongst it all to control the LoRaWAN RF path switch and LNA for the GPS antenna.

    With size being important I started with an outline of the absolute maximum acceptable size and worked within its boundaries to fit everything in. 28mm x 18mm was my starting point.

    Read more »

  • A Summary of Low-Power Geopositioning

    Sensors04/28/2020 at 10:53 0 comments

    The LM1110 leverages three technologies to have its position determined:

    1. Wi-Fi Passive Scanning
    2. GNSS Scanning
    3. LoRaWAN Geolocation

    The important thing to note is that these positioning techniques are only fully (or at all) effective when used in conjunction with an external source of information or service, which imposes a bit of limitation on potential applications.

    Read more »

  • Background

    Sensors04/27/2020 at 16:40 0 comments

    I got started on this project a week ago when I found details of the LR1110.

    This is what Semtech say about it:

    After reading this I started to get excited about the potential... Imagine having a tiny device that can remotely give you meter-accurate location and run on battery for a year or more! This could be used for tracking anything including vehicles and bikes, livestock, pets, valuables, etc.

    Allowing myself to get carried away I started reading into the datasheet and reference designs. I decided fairly early that I'd like to make a module with this part, to scratch my itch for hardware design, support a few of my own personal projects, but also make the part much easier to incorporate for anyone else who was interested. 

    With that in mind I had a few key requirements:

    1. Tiny: If it can be tiny, why shouldn't it be? My original goal was 24mm x 18mm.
    2. Easy to solder: It needs to be able to be soldered without reflow. No hidden pads underneath!
    3. Multi-region: One module to support CN/EU/NA/AU regions

    As an extra point, I wanted to avoid including any antennae on this module. To try to fit 3 different antennae or one multi-band antenna on the module would make it fairly large, and on top of that, module antennae are usually pretty difficult to optimise and crap as a result. It provides much more flexibility to allow the user to choose their own antenna setup; this can be as simple as 3 separate SMA connectors for external antennae or as complex as a custom multi-band PCB trace antenna.

    The end goal for this project is to have a few modules built that I can tinker with and test for my own projects, and perhaps also make a batch available to the community if there is significant interest!

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Discussions

charles.palmer wrote 4 days ago point

An interesting chip, but I watched a Semtech seminar that stressed it was ot suitable for "continuous" GPS fixes. It did not explain why. Does anyone understand? How to decde when it becomes viable?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Sensors wrote 4 days ago point

I imagine it might be to do with the fact that it needs to communicate via LoRaWAN to determine location. The frequencies that runs on will have a maximum time on air so it's maybe not feasible to communicate often enough to give a continuous position.

  Are you sure? yes | no

charles.palmer wrote 4 days ago point

Yes, I can see it is not appropriate to send LoRaWan messages at a high rate. I guess it is not practical to do the location calculation locally? Is the format of the messages emitted by the LR1110 known?

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Alexey Novikov wrote 07/21/2020 at 06:36 point

What MCU will drive LR1110?

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Shaun wrote 07/14/2020 at 19:07 point

Excellent work, well done to you. Will follow your progress with keen interest. 

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Bart wrote 07/14/2020 at 14:58 point

Very cool project! I am imagining lots of applications for this chip.

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Kosma wrote 05/04/2020 at 12:08 point

look at pygo, this are better? less power?

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Sensors wrote 05/04/2020 at 13:29 point

This project and PyGo aren't really directly comparable. PyGo is a finished product, and this is a module intended to make integration of geo-positioning technologies + LoRaWAN more accessible to hackers.

The PyGo also isn't really targetted at long term asset tracking like this module, and it's battery life reflects that. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

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