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LTE NB-IoT Shield for Arduino

This open-source, low-power LTE shield uses cutting-edge CAT-M technology and also integrates GNSS location capabilities!

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This open-source LTE shield uses SIMCOM's SIM7000-series modules with the latest LTE CAT-M technology to allow Arduino users to painlessly connect their low-power IoT devices with the next-generation cellular technology! NB-IoT is also available for many countries (but sadly not in the USA yet) simply by swapping out to a different SIM7000 module version. Luckily SIMCOM made it super easy to integrate this module because most of the AT commands are identical to previous version, and Adafruit has a wonderful library for their FONA 2G and 3G products. Check it out and help make this happen! You can view the latest code and design files here on my Github page: https://github.com/botletics/NB-IoT-Shield. Note: The hardware works great but software is still under development! I plan on launching an Indiegogo campaign when I get a fully-working prototype, so stay tuned for updates!

Introduction

With the emergence of low-power IoT devices with cellular connectivity and the phase-out of 2G (with only T-mobile supporting 2G/GSM until 2020), everything is moving toward LTE and this has left many people scrambling to find better solutions. However, this has also left many hobbyists facepalming with legacy 2G technology like the SIM800-series modules from SIMCOM. Although these 2G and 3G modules are a great starting point, it's time to move forward and SIMCOM recently announced their new SIM7000A LTE CAT-M module at a developer's conference. How exciting!   :)

The amazing part of all of this is that SIMCOM made it extremely easy to migrate from their 2G and 3G modules to this new module! The SIM7000-series use many of the same AT commands which minimizes the software development by miles! Also, Adafruit already has a wonderful FONA library on Github that can be used to introduce this new SIM7000 into the party!

What is LTE CAT-M?

LTE CAT-M1 is considered the second-generation LTE technology and is lower-power and more suitable for IoT devices. NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) or "CAT-M2" technology is a Low-Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology specifically designed for low-power IoT devices. It is a relatively new technology that is, unfortunately, not yet available in the US, although T-Mobile has announced that they plan on delivering nation-wide (USA) NB-IoT coverage in 2018.

For IoT devices using radio technology (RF) there are several things to keep in mind:

  • Power consumption
  • Bandwidth
  • Range
  • Packet size (send lots of data
  • Cost

Each of these have tradeoffs (and I won't really explain them all); for example, large bandwidth allows devices to send lots of data (like your phone, which can stream YouTube!) but this also means it's very power-hungry. Increasing the range (the "area" of the network) also increase power consumption. In the case of NB-IoT, cutting down the bandwidth means that you won't be able to send much data, but for IoT devices shooting morsels of data to the cloud this is perfect! Hence, "narrow"-band technology, ideal for low-power devices with little amounts of data but still with long range (wide area)!

The LTE Shield for Arduino

The LTE shield that I've designed uses the SIM7000-series to enable users to have extremely low-power LTE CAT-M technology and GNSS at the tip of their fingers! The shield also supports LiPo battery charging mainly to power the device (as it can take large current spikes) and a MCP9808 I2C temperature sensor, great for at least measuring something and sending it via LTE! Currently I am using the SIM7000A (the CAT-M1 module) because in the US we poor souls don't have NB-IoT yet, unlike our European counterparts. However, for those in other places of the world with NB-IoT it's as easy as swapping out the SIM7000A with other versions like the SIM7000ESIM7000C, and SIM7000E-N modules.

Since I'm a huge fan of open-source (as you can see from my Reflowduino project) I've made this project completely open-source as well, with special thanks to Adafruit for their FONA library! (And if they'd allow it, I'd call this the "FONA LTE" but I'm not making that official due to copyright purposes lol).

Goals for this Project

Currently I'd like to have this open-source design fully-integrated to the hobbyist market for Arduino users all around the world! I believe this is where the future is for cellular communication. In order to do that I'm planning on launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in the near future after getting a fully-functional and tested design! Stay tuned for updates and feel free to comment, give suggestions, and share, because that's what this is all about!

Best,

~ Tim

"Share to learn, learn to share!"

  • 1 × LTE Shield Kit I plan on selling it on my website and it will come with headers and the proper LTE/GNSS antennae: https://www.botletics.com/products/
  • 1 × Arduino This could be an UNO, Mega, Leonardo, etc.

  • Working Great!

    Timothy Wooa day ago 0 comments

    Hey guys, quick update: I've been testing things with an AT&T IoT SIM card and everything is working fabulously! HTTP commands work, GPS is insanely quick to get a fix on location and all the normal commands that worked with the 2G and 3G modules also work, like battery level, network registration, etc.

    I'll be ordering v2 of this board soon and hopefully start building and stocking them on my website! Let me know if you're interested in ordering one of these so I can get a head count. I've also been talking with SIMCOM (the maker of the SIM7000 module) and they are very interested in this project and it might get officially endorsed by them! Stay tuned for news on a crowdfunding campaign soon!

  • Dev/Testing of LTE Shield v1 Underway!

    Timothy Woo11/10/2017 at 00:08 0 comments

    I am currently in the process of testing the functionalities of the first LTE Shield prototype and adding them to the Adafruit FONA library! Stay tuned for more details, and as always, check the LTE Shield Github page for the latest code and source files!

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