ESP32- Now With Long Range Wi-Fi

Nowadays, Wi-Fi is a word we hear often, and it is a technology that we use all the time. There are around 279 million Wi-Fi hotspots in the world, and in 2021 that number is expected to increase to 542 million hotspots. The wireless nature of this technology allows users to access a network from any convenient location. Wi-Fi chipsets are pieces of hardware designed for wireless communication and they are cheap, and readily available, but the range don’t match the expectations, and configuring its coverage is no easy task.

Support for the 802.11 LR mode in the ESP-IDF was added at the end of 2016. The 802.11 LR mode can achieve a 1 km line of sight range if both the station and the Soft-AP are connected to an ESP32 device.

ESP32 is a low cost, low power system on a chip (SoC) with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. It was created for mobile devices, wearables electronics, and for Internet of Things applications. The devices have low power consumption. The EPS32 uses Tensilica Xtensa LX6 microprocessor and it was created by Espressif systems.

The mode was included quietly, so there has not been much talk about it, but some people noticed the inclusion, and have been testing the long-range mode in the field. Enabling the mode requires only a function call, making it easy to use. The long-range mode comes with a cost which is the data rate which is significantly reduced. In addition, a lot more can be done if the common router antenna is replaced by directional antenna.

This device has already been tested by some users for drones and long-distance applications, but there is no formal data about the device’s performance, problems, and even the applications are not clear enough. The recent increase in popularity could lead to conclusive data which could make the mode more reliable.

The applications for this includes remote drone video, telemetry (collecting data at remote or inaccessible points and transmitting it for monitoring), wardriving (finding Wi-Fi hotspots from a moving vehicle) etc. There are many possibilities, but we must give makers time to figure this new mode on their own, and to test its capabilities.

[Source]

ESP8266 (ESP-03) Based Ultra Low Power Weather Logger

Yet another ESP8266 (ESP-03) based ultra low power weather logger with 4 sensors.

Features

  • Working with two AA battery
  • Ultra low power consumption
  • 4 sensors and 6 measurements:
  • HDC1080 – Temperature & Humidity
  • LPS25HB – Pressure
  • VEML6070 – Ultraviolet Index
  • TSL2561 – Ambient & Infrared
  • Built-in 3.3v Boost Converter
  • TPL5111 System Timer (20 mins update interval, can be customized via resistors)
  • Battery voltage monitor
  • UART port for programming & debugging

ESP8266 (ESP-03) Based Ultra Low Power Weather Logger – [Link]

Step-down micro DC/DC converters have integrated coil

Step-down micro DC/DC converters make up the XCL225/XCL226 series from Torex Semiconductor.

The 18V coil-integrated converters contribute to space-saving on the board and a shorter development time because a circuit can be configured by simply adding two external ceramic capacitors, explains Torex. An internal coil lowers EMI and also simplifies the board layout and makes it possible to minimise radiation noise and circuit operation issues.

The package is a small DFN3030-10B, measuring 3.0 x 3.0 x 1.7mm. The maximum input voltage of 18V allows the XCL225/XCL226 to be used for a range of industrial equipment and IoT devices, including refrigerators and air conditioners. Other target applications are electronic devices, point of sale terminals, industrial equipment, and IoT devices that use two or three lithium-ion batteries or four or more dry-cell batteries.

The operating voltage range is 3.0 to 18V, and the maximum output current is 0.5A. The switching frequency is 1.2MHz. The XCL225 uses PWM control to provide minimum output ripple voltage by fixing the operating frequency. The XCL226 uses PWM/PFM auto switching control to lower the operating frequency at light loads which reduces power dissipation and realises high efficiency from light loads to heavy loads. The output voltage can be set within a range of one to 15V using external resistors, adds Torex.

Redefining Signal Processing with Air-T

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that works towards creating machines that could make decisions, react, and interact just like a human would. To be considered AI a computer must be capable of recognizing speech, learn, plan, and solve problems. To do all this a computer must have a way to perceive the world and even interact with it (move). This type of technology has been used for personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa, for customer prediction (Netflix and Pandora), for autonomous vehicles, gaming etc. However, one application that has not been exploited is for signal processing.

Deepwave Digital decided to be pioneers in using AI for signals. The company created the AIR-T (Artificial Intelligence Radio Transceiver) which is a high-power SBC that uses NVIDIA Jetson TX2 for signal processing and deep learning applications.

Nowadays we deal with an increasing number of signals, because of Wi-Fi and cellular communications, and the technology is still human dependent to select the correct frequencies. Because of this, the need for an AI to do the work for us has become increasingly high, and as it turns out the AI can do the work better than us.

The AIR-T board also includes Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA and an Analog Devices 9371 MIMO transceiver with two RX channels of 100 MHz and a couple of TX channels of 250 MHz for connectivity, the device includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, GPIO/UART, USB 2.0 and 3.0 etc. It uses Ubuntu 16.04, and it can be programmed using Python or C++.

All these characteristics make the device adaptable to many applications which will allow users to create and shape different projects. This project gives users the ability to adapt to software defined radio. Deepwave said:

This versatile system can function as a highly parallel SDR, data recorder, or inference engine for deep learning algorithms. The embedded GPU allows for SDR applications to process bandwidths greater than 200 MHz in real-time.

The device is not yet on sale, and Deepwave is expected to launch a crowdfunding to commercialize the product in the future, so there is still no information about price or sellers.

The idea is to redefine how signal processing is done using machine learning.

[source]

NanoPC-T4 – A High-Performance Low Cost Single Board Computer Powered By RK3399

FriendlyElec recently released a pretty exciting hacker board which is super cheap, considering the features of the board and the price it is being sold for. The Single Board Computer (SBC) is based on Rockchip RK3399; a low power, high-performance processor. The board which is called Nano PC – T4 can be regarded as the smallest rock chip based board as it measures 100mm by 64m as compared to other RK3399 SBCs. It is different from other Nano Pi, and Nano PC SBCs produced by FriendlyElec because previous boards run on Samsung of Allwinner System on Chips (SOCs).

NanoPC-T4

The board comes with a default 4GB RAM and a whopping 16G eMMC (embedded Multi Media Card). It also works with Android 7.1 which can be exchanged for the full fledged Lubuntu Desktop version of Ubuntu. Nano PC – T4 uses the same system-on-a-chip (SoC) as Samsung’s Chromebook Plus but at a lesser price. Other features are 16 GB storage onboard bundled with a heatsink, radio antennas, a power adapter, and an acrylic case. The RK3399 SoC supplies two Cortex-A72 cores that are clocked at up to 2.0GHz, and an additional four Cortex-A53 cores clocked to 1.5GHz. There’s also a high-end ARM Mali-T864 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) included into the device.

The board comes with an M.2 2280 connector, which allows high-speed PCIe SSDs to be used, the M.2 connector supports PCI Express 2.1, that has been wired for x4, making it possible to get I/O speeds at a very fast speed. On the other end, we have the Firefly-RK3399, which is being sold for $149 with a 2GB RAM or $209 with a 4GB RAM. Another board is the Orange Pi which goes for $109 and has a 2GB RAM. Unlike the expensive Orange Pi RK3399, the NanoPC-T4 gives a wider 0 to 80℃ temperature range, ADC interfaces, DDR4 instead of DDR3 RAM, and twice the amount of RAM for the oversight configuration.

Below are some of the device’s specifications:

  • Processor — Rockchip RK3399 (2x Cortex-A72 at up to 2.0GHz, 4x Cortex-A53 @ up to 1.5GHz); Mali-T864 GPU
  • Memory:
    • 4GB LPDDR3 RAM (dual-channel)
    • 16GB eMMC 5.1 flash
    • MicroSD slot
    • Optional NVME SSD via M.2 M-Key (see expansion section below)
  • Media:
    • HDMI 2.0a port (with audio and HDCP 1.4/2.2) for up to 4K at 60Hz
    • DisplayPort 1.2 (via USB Type-C)
    • MIPI-DSI (4-lane)
    • eDP 1.3
    • 2x, 4-lane MIPI-CSI (up to 13MP) with dual ISP support
    • 3.5mm analog audio I/O jack
  • Wireless:
    • 802.11b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz/5GHz dual-band
    • Bluetooth 4.1 dual mode
    • Dual antennas
    • IR receiver
  • Networking — Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 3.0 host port
    • USB 3.0 Type-C port (can be used for DP)
    • 2x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Serial debug UART
    • 3x ADC (1.8V)
    • 12V cooling fan interface with PWM
  • Expansion:
    • 40-pin RPi compatible expansion header
    • M.2 M-Key slot with PCIe 2.1, dual operation mode, and M3 PCB nut for mounting M.2 2280
  • Other features — RTC; power, reset, recovery, boot buttons; LEDs; heatsink; acrylic case
  • Power — 12V/2A DC input jack and adapter; PMIC
  • Operating temperature — 0 to 80℃
  • Weight — 63 gm
  • Dimensions — 100 x 64mm; 10-layer PCB
  • Operating system — Android 7.1.2; Lubuntu Desktop 16.04

One major taking point for the NanoPC-T4 is the availability of two MIPI-CSI x2 making it a dual camera interface platform. This simultaneous dual camera data support is going to make the device ideal for VR and AR applications. The NanoPC-T4 has four high-performance display interfaces (DP 1.2 @60fps, HDMI 2.0,  MIPI-DSI @60fps, and eDP 1.3) on a small board and supports dual display output.

Despite the fact that the board does not have an HDMI input port or even built-in sensors, the Nano PC – T4 has a wide range of applications, some of them are advertisement machines, game machines, video conferencing, clusters, surveillance and many more. It also supports certain advanced features such as native GbE and a dual purpose USB Type C port serves as the display port.

The NanoPC-T4 is available for purchase online at a discounted price of $129 and can be bought on the product page here. The board purchase comes in a complete package. Below are some of the items present in the item package:

  • NanoPC-T4
  • Customized Heat Sink (With Screws)
  • 2x Dual-Band antenna
  • 12V 2A Universal Power Adapter
  • Acrylic case For NanoPC-T3 Plus/T4 (with Screws)

Envision a New Future for Factory Automation with AAEON’s NanoCOM-APL

(Taipei, Taiwan – June 12, 2018) – AAEON, a world-leading developer of embedded controllers and industrial solutions, launches the NanoCOM-APL, a machine vision and factory automation-focused Type 10 COM express module with onboard support for dual MIPI CSI interfaces.

The NanoCOM-APL is built around a 6th Generation Intel® Atom™, Celeron®, or Pentium® processor and features onboard LPDDR4 memory with a capacity of up to 8GB. The 7W module’s low power-consumption architecture means it can be used at the heart of hand-held, battery-powered devices and fully enclosed IP67 applications.

“Combined with an FPGA controller and an AI chip, the NanoCOM-APL is being used as the centerpiece of advanced machine vision systems that scan products to create 3D images that can be checked for faults,” noted David Hung, AAEON embedded computing division product specialist. “Because of its size and industrial operating temperature range, these systems can be used on a production line or even on a robotic arm.”

The module also features 1GbE LAN connections, optional onboard eMMC storage of up to 64Gb, a PCIe [x4] expansion slot, an LVDS, DDI, or eDP connections, and support for up to eight USB3.0 and two USB2.0 ports.

PCBWay Low Cost Prototype PCBA Services starts at just $88 for 10 units

After making your PCB prototype the significant next step is placing your components on the printed circuit board. Depending on the sophistication of the prototype being developed, the number of parts to be used, and the parts layout; one might want to solder the components to the PCB board manually.

Soldering components to a PCB might be a good idea, but might not be that efficient or even cheaper in the long run. Not only this will be an avenue to waste precious time especially when dealing with more than five boards, but it is too prone to errors. A single mistake on the board might render the whole board useless. Just like we have seen PCB making services, there is also PCBA (Printed Circuit Board Assembly) services available that can solve this.

One of the primary reason people go the route of assembling their printed circuit boards by hand is that of the cost associated with it doing PCBA. PCBA services have been traditionally known to be expensive for people making prototypes because they tend to order only small units. I remember my first PCBA job for about two units that costs me over $500 to finish. PCBA is usually ideal when one wants to embark on medium to large scale manufacturing but not small batch. PCBWay is hoping to bring change to this space, by offering PCB Assembly wholly tailored for prototypes and small batch quantities, and also comes with some exciting incentives as well.

PCBWay.com is a China Shenzhen-based manufacturer specializing in PCB prototyping, low-volume production, and PCB Assembly services under one roof. PCBWay has been one of the go-to destinations for boards fabrication and assembly, and they have over 71K active customers worldwide using their services. PCBWay offers PCBA services that specialize in the prototyping and small batch printed circuit board assembly at a relatively low cost as compared to others.

PCBWay is offering unbelievable pricing for their Prototype PCBA services. Their prototype PCBA rates are starting from $88 for 10 pcs in total and $0.1 – $0.3 per component cost. Not only are this prices low, but they are also going to bring down the barriers to making prototypes and reduce the time to market.

Mounting BGA, Micro-BGA, QFN and leadless package parts are some challenging tasks for PCBA, and where some manufacturers have somewhat abstained from. PCBWay is fully able to handle any of those parts without issues and they can handle BGA of 0.25mm pitch with X-ray testing. The following are some of the PCBWay Printed Circuit Board Assembly capabilities:

  • SMT Assembly
  • BGA Assembly
  • Through Hole Assembly
  • Mixed Assembly
  • Rigid Flex PCB Assembly

Aside from the Printed Circuit board assembly, PCBWay also provides options for outsourcing your PCB parts called Turn-Key options. For the PCB Assembly, the following are the board requirements:

  • Min Board Size: 50mm x 100mm (Boards smaller than this size need to be panelized)
  • Max Board Size: 250mm x 500mm

In addition to the low cost of the PCBA services, PCBWay is also providing options for free shipping all around the world, free stencil, quality check & guarantee, and many others. To get started with the PCBWay you can visit their website here.

Google Reveals Four New ARM-based production Boards For Android Things 1.0

Earlier this month, Google released Android Things 1.0 and announced many consumer products that will ship in the coming months based on the stripped-down, IoT-oriented Android variant. Google uncovered four ARM-based production boards for Android Things 1.0: Innocomm’s i.MX8M based on WB10-ATIntrinsyc’s Open-Q 212A and Open-Q 624A, based on the Snapdragon 212 and 634, respectively, and the MediaTek MT8516.

The most important news with the first market-ready release of Android Things is that Google is offering free OTA security and patch updates for three years to all targeted devices. However, Google needs a licensing deal to deploy more than 100 commercial systems using the OTA updated long-term version of Android Things, and the OS itself is “managed” and tightly controlled by Google.

The modules share the same small footprints of about a 50 x 50mm. They also focus on audio features that might support integration with the Google Assistant voice agent. The first round of consumer devices using Android Things are smart speakers and automation hubs that integrate Google Assistant.

WB10-AT

InnoComm Google WB10AT COM
InnoComm Google WB10AT COM

InnoComm’s 50 x 50mm WB10-AT COM is almost identical to the WB10 module announced in March. The only difference except for the OS is that the AT version ships with 1GB LPDDR4 instead of 2GB. The WB10-AT includes a 1.5GHzCortex-A53 based NXP i.MX8M Quad SoC with a 266MHz Cortex-M4 core. It extends 8GB eMMC, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, and a GbE controller.

The WB10-AT allows HDMI 2.0 with 4K HDR support, as well as extensive audio I/O enabled by the audio-savvy i.MX8M. Audio specs include 4x SAI, DSD512, and S/PDIF.

Open-Q 212A Development Kit

Open-Q 212A board and module
Open-Q 212A board and module

Intrinsyc’s Open-Q 212A is a sandwich-style SBC designed for next-gen smart speaker and voice-controlled home hub products. There is a new 50 x 46.5mm Open-Q 212A Android Things SOM with a quad-core, Cortex-A7 Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 (SDA212) — the lowest-end SoC available for Android Things mounted on a 170 x 115mm carrier board.

The new module provides 1GB LPDDR3, 4GB eMMC, WiFi-ac, and BT 4.2. The 12V carrier board adds 2x USB host ports, a micro-USB client port, and a micro-USB debug port. It also includes a MIPI-CSI and MIPI-DSI interfaces, with the latter capable of up to 720p LCD displays. PCB antennas are also available.

Open-Q 624A Development Kit

Open-Q 624A
Open-Q 624A

This new sandwich-style kit is Google’s high-end Android Things platform. It connects a new Open-Q 624A Android Things SOM and carrier board, each of which is the same size as their Open-Q 212A counterparts.

The module extends 2GB RAM4GB eMMCWiFi-ac, BT 4.2, and a new, undocumented octa-core Snapdragon 624 SoC based on the existing Snapdragon 625. Like the Snapdragon 625, the 624 provides 8x Cortex-A53 cores at up to 1.8GHz along with an Adreno 506 GPU with support for 4K @ 30fps video. Google calls the Snapdragon 624 the SDA624, and in one place Intrinsyc refers to it as the APQ8053, which is also the name of the Snapdragon 825.

The Open-Q 624A carrier board has a feature set that is very similar to that of the similarly sized Open-Q 212A board. However, it adds a USB 3.0 Type-C port, sensor expansion and haptic output, and an optional GPS receiver, which like the module’s WiFi and Bluetooth, is available with an antenna.

MediaTek MT8516

MediaTek MT8516
MediaTek MT8516

Google refers to the MT8516 as a virtual SoM, as opposed to the other physical modules, and suggests that the module’s capabilities are directly integrated into a reference board designed for high volume applications.

Whatever the form factor, the MT8516 provides a quad-core, 1.3GHz Cortex-A35 processor with 4GB eMMC, WiFi, BT, and RF. The platform is intended for voice assistance and other audio applications and provides 4-channel I2S x2, 8-channel TDM, and 2-channel PDM input for voice input control and connected audio.

The Cortex-A35 cores draw about 33 percent less power per core and occupy 25 percent less silicon area than Cortex-A53. The -A35 design lies at the heart of NXP’s i.MX8X SoC, which is also available in two dual-core models. The i.MX8X is found on Phytec’s phyCore-i.MX 8 module.

More information may be found on this Google Android Things Supported Platforms page, as well as at these four product pages:

New Wireless VAR-SOM-MX6 Adds Supports For i.MX6 QuadPlus SoC

Variscite a leading SOC manufacturer from Israel, has released a new version of its wireless-enabled “VAR-SOM-MX6” module. It adds support for the i.MX6 QuadPlus SoC. Variscite is renovating the old COM once again with a model that adds support for NXP’s QuadPlus. It is going to be a new addition to the i.MX6 Solo, DualLite, Dual, and Quad versions. The module runs Linux 4.9.11 and Android 8.0 (Oreo).

VAR-SOM-MX6 module with QuadPlus support
VAR-SOM-MX6 module with QuadPlus support

The i.MX6 QuadPlus, which is also available on the Wandboard Reload SBCs, iWave’s i.MX6 COMs, and other boards. It has the same, 1.2GHz quad-core CPU as the Quad, but offers an enhanced Vivante GC2000+ GPU with 50 percent elevated graphics performance. The SoC also provides HD-resolution H.264 decode and encode.

The 2018 version of the VAR-SOM-MX6 is identical with the pin configuration as the earlier models. It has up to 4GB DDR3 RAM and data storage of 4GB to 64GB via eMMC and 128MB to 1GB NAND flash. There’s a GbE controller, although with the usual i.MX6 bandwidth limits. The 802.11n WiFi, which is accompanied by Bluetooth 4.1 with BLE, is available with optional 2×2 MIMO.

The 67.8 x 51.7mm module houses dual 24-bit LVDS interfaces with resistive touch, as well as an HDMI and DSI interfaces. The long list of peripherals includes dual CAN, SATA, PCIe, MIPI-CSI, and much more support. The module has a range of -40 to 85°C working temperatures.

VAR-SOM-MX6 eval kits

VAR-SOM-MX6 Development Kit
VAR-SOM-MX6 Development Kit

The $399 VAR-SOM-MX6 Starter Kit includes the carrier board with the VAR-SOM-MX6 module, an antenna, a debug cable, a microSD card, and a carrier board design package. The $499 Development Kit version adds a 12V power supply, an Ethernet cable, and a 7-inch resistive touch panel. The $549 Development Kit Pro advances to a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen.

The VAR-SOM-MX6 module with QuadPlus support is available now starting at $52 per unit in volume. The development kits start at $399. More information may be found in Variscite’s VAR-SOM-MX6 with the QuadPlus announcement and product page.

A flexible Arduino Prototype

A lot of makers have started venturing into the wearable world in which everything is portable, invisible, light, flexible and functional. Many have found that using Arduino compromised two of those characteristics. Arduino is not flexible, and it is not invisible which is why it is hard to incorporate into this kind of projects.

NextFlex in Silicon Valley has created a prototype of a flexible Arduino, based on the Arduino mini. The prototype is printed on a polymer and then the standard components are bonded. This means that the device is not yet completely flexible since it includes some rigid components, but the company hopes that in the future components such as resistors and capacitors would be printable too.

The process for making the flexible Arduino involves automated screen printers and industrial inkjet printers for printing the circuit on a 1mm thick flexible plastic board. Then, the microcontroller silicon die is connected directly into the surface with high precision.

The conductive ink used is an advanced formulation of silver ink with bending and flexing capabilities, and with strong adhesion to the surface. The ink is not new in the market, but the company is working toward making more reliable and resilient materials.

This device could bring wearables to a whole new level of comfort and could also be used in a lot of situations such as when space is an important variable, or when weight could affect the correct functioning of the device. As a result, the device would not only be useful for makers, but also for students, product designers etc.

On June 26 of the current year, NextFlex will be taking about the project at the Sensors Expo & conference in San Jose, California.

Manufacturers think that prices in this kind of technology would drop rapidly, making it accessible for everyone to use on their projects. NextFlex wants to make this kind of technology the new mainstream for all kind of projects. Flexible microcontrollers could also be used in IoT and medical applications.

In conclusion, Arduino is already a beloved microcontroller because of its open source hardware and software, its ability to be easily programmed, and its low cost, but now it could also be known because of its practical presentation, and ability to be blended. This device is just a prototype and we should expect improvements in the future, but the future is looking bright for makers.