RAK8211-NB iTracker – An All Weather IoT Board designed for Asset Tracking with Bluetooth 5.0

In the last few years, we have seen a lot of love poured towards the hardware ecosystem especially hardware related to the Internet of Things applications (hardly would you find any board that doesn’t have one or two IoT offerings). Some boards give basic IoT functionality like providing you with a basic IoT connectivity interface with no extra add-ons while some boards goes the extra mile by providing more, RAK8211-NB iTracker is one of those boards.

RAK8211-NB iTracker

Rak Wireless, the Chinese based hardware company has recently launched a new IoT focused board called the RAK8211-NB iTracker based on the Quectel BC95-G NB-IoT Module, Nordic Semi nRF52832 Bluetooth 5 chip, and Quectel L70-R GNSS module. The Quectel BC95-G is a high-performance NB-IoT module which supports multiple frequency bands of B1/B3/B8/B5/B20/B28* with extremely low power consumption. The ultra-compact 23.6mm × 19.9mm × 2.2mm profile makes it a perfect choice for size-sensitive applications like the RAK8211-NB iTracker. The Quectel provides a flexible and scalable platform for migrating from GSM/GPRS to NB-IoT networks.

The RAK8211-NB is a module geared towards asset tracking and management due to its arrays of features, and it’s one of those board that supports the new Bluetooth 5.0. The board includes a vast array of connectivity options (NB-IoT, BLE 5.0 and GPS). The asset tracker module comes with five different sensors to monitor motion and environmental data, and can optionally be powered directly by a solar panel. It comes with accompanying sensors like an accelerometer, a light sensor and a barometric sensor. At the heart of the RAK8211-NB is the Nordic NRF52832 SoC. The nRF52832 SoC is built around a 32-bit ARM® Cortex™-M4F CPU with 512kB + 64kB RAM. The embedded 2.4GHz transceiver supports Bluetooth Low Energy, ANT, and proprietary 2.4 GHz protocol stack.

The RAK8211-NB module is Arduino friendly and can be programmed using the IDE. The board also provides SWD interface for programming the NRF52832 core. The combination of BLE and NB-IoT offers flexible low power consumption development along with a myriad of application option ranging from telemetry to live tracking and environment sensing. The RAK8211-NB iTracker provides applications in the following areas:

  • Vehicle location/fleet transportation management.
  • Safety monitoring of old/young children.
  • Animal protection and animal husbandry management.
  • Asset tracking and management.
  • Prototyping for NB-IoT Applications.

The below are some of the specifications of the module:

  • Connectivity
    • NB-IoT via Quectel BC95-G (Global) wireless communication module + SIM card socket
    • Bluetooth 5 via Nordic Semi nRF52832 Arm Cortex-M4F micro-controller (Arduino compatible)
    • GPS/GLONASS via Quectel L70 GNSS module
  • Sensors
    • LIS3DH ultra-low-power, high-performance 3-axes “nano” accelerometer
    • LIS2MDL ultra-low-power, high-performance 3-axis digital magnetic sensor.
    • Tilt sensor
    • BME280 pressure, humidity and temperature sensor
    • The OPT3001 intensity of light sensor
  • Expansion – 3x headers with SWD, 2x sensor out + tilt out (also usable as GPIO and analog inputs), 3.3V, GND, and reset
  • Power Supply – 3.5V to 18V via solar panel (P2) or battery (P3)
  • Dimensions – 43mm x 38mm x 18mm
  • Temperature Range – 40°C to +85°CBLE Features

The company provides instructions to use the module with the Arduino IDE, Espruino (JavaScript) and Arm Keil tools. The RAK8211-NB iTracker kit is available and sells for $98.40 + shipping on Aliexpress. Rak Wireless also offers another variant of RAK8211 with RAK8211-G based on the most of the same features, except GPRS is used instead of NB-IoT. It is sold for $87.40 + shipping.

BlkBox BB-E01P – The World’s Smallest ESP8285-Based WiFi Module

Back in March 2016, Espressif Announced the ESP8285 Wi-Fi Chip, a supposed killer of the favorite ESP8266 chip. The new chip is an ESP8266, but with the flash memory onboard –  1MB flash memory. Espressif’s ESP8285 delivers highly integrated Wi-Fi SoC solution to meet users’ constant demands for efficient power usage, compact design and reliable performance in the Internet of Things industry. With the complete and self-contained Wi-Fi networking capabilities, ESP8285 can perform either as a standalone application or as the slave to a host MCU. When ESP8285 hosts the application, it promptly boots up from the flash. The Chip is also ultra-small as compared to the ESP8266 making it suitable for applications like in wearables.

Taiwan based Blkbox may have designed the world’s smallest WiFi IoT module with their Espressif Systems ESP8285 based BB-E01P module which is pin-compatible with the ESP-01 module, and measuring just 10×14 mm. Several ESP8285 modules have been released, but the Blkbox version is probably the smallest ever. Itead Studio’s PSF-A85, an ESP8285 Wireless Module measures just 14mm*135mm, and even the Electrodragon ESP8285 WiFi module measures 15.5mm x 17.8mm. With this, the Blkbox module might be the smallest we currently have. The BB-E01P is the equivalent of the Blkbox predecessor BB-E01 with reduced dimensions.

BB-E01P ESP8285 Pinout

The following are the specification of the Blkbox BB-E01P ESP8285 WiFi module:

  • WiFi SoC – Espressif ESP8285 WiFi SoC with 1MB internal flash
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with chip antenna
  • Expansion – 8-pin (2.54mm pitch) with Tx/Rx, CP, RS, GPIO0, GPIO2, 3V, GND (Same layout as ESP-01)
  • Interface – UART
  • Misc – Jumper supports Deep Sleep Mode (AT+GSLP)
  • Firmware Version: AT v1.6 / SDK v2.2
  • Power Supply – 3V -3.6V
  • Dimensions – 10 x 14 mm
  • Pin Pitch – 2.54mm

The Blkbox board is preloaded with the firmware version AT v1.5/SDK v2.2. Just like every other Blkbox boards, the module can be purchased on Tindie for $6.80 + shipping.

The third revision of the Raspberry Pi can best be summed up by the old adage of more of the same.

A Raspberry Pi SBC

The third revision of the Raspberry Pi can best be summed up by the old adage of more of the same. A faster processor and Power over Ethernet capability were advertised – OEMsecrets tells you what you need to know.

Raspberry Pi’s are always sold via the ecosystem. This is a promise which the foundation, by and large, manages to keep: if you use a sufficiently recent version of RaspBian so that the new SOC is supported, the same memory card can also be used in older versions of the process computer. When looking at the thing from the top, not many differences can be seen. The most important change is the addition of the four pin header for the Power over Ethernet hat: it might cause problems with some cases. Other than that, the physical dimensions remain the same.

The third revision of the Raspberry Pi can best be summed up by the old adage of more of the same – [Link]

RaptorLoc Pro – A versatile modular third hand system

The most capable and expandable third hand system for holding your projects is getting a major upgrade! Jotham McMillan writes:

Dear fellow Kickstarter Patrons, at various points in my life, I’ve built RC cars, messed with Arduino projects, built custom computers, assembled models, added LEDs to my snowboard and so on. A common thread in these projects was the need to hold pieces in place while I soldered, glued or painted my parts.

The usual solution is some type of third hand tool…and there are some good ones out there but none of them have the functionality that I was looking for and they often had compromises with the parts they use. My wife can tell you that I don’t like to compromise thus…

DSO-1000E/F Series – Four-channel oscilloscopes with bandwidth up to 250MHz

Conrad Business Supplies, a household name for the distribution of electronics items has added to its ever-expanding products a new set of Oscilloscopes made by Voltcraft. The oscilloscopes are four-channel, they are very well equipped and are particularly suitable for measurements in research and development departments, in laboratories and schools as well as for maintenance, repair and service tasks.

DSO1000E/F Series of oscilloscopes cover the bandwidths from 80MHz to 200MHz and provide the real-time up to 1GSa/s. Also, they have 7-inch color TFT LCD with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels as well as Windows-style interface and menus for smooth operation. What’s more, the plenty menu information and the easy-to-operate buttons allow you to gain information as much as possible while measuring; the multifunctional knobs and the powerful shortcut keys help you save a lot of time in operation; the Auto Scale function lets you detect sine and square waves automatically. By using the three methods the oscilloscope provides (context-sensitive, hyperlinks, and an index), you may master all operations on the device in quite a short time so as to greatly improve your efficiency in production and development.

The digital oscilloscope is intended to be used for visualizing electrical magnitudes and signals. There are four independent input channels available for measurement. The measuring lead is connected to the oscilloscope via two BNC sockets. Integrated help system can be called upon the display. The signals measured can be displayed on display as well as on a PC when a USB cable is used. The oscilloscopes also have a USB interface for connecting an additional data memory, for example, a USB stick.

The Oscilloscopes can perform some of the following: FFT (Fast Fourier Transform), extensive trigger options, standard Oscilloscopes functionality, firmware loading from a USB stick, and many more. The available models of the oscilloscopes are listed below:

  • Model DA0-1084E :
    • 4 Channels
    • Bandwidth – 80MHz
    • Sample Rate – 1GS/s
  • Model DA0-1104E :
    • 4 Channels
    • Bandwidth – 100MHz
    • Sample Rate – 1GS/s
  • Model DA0-1204E :
    • 4 Channels
    • Bandwidth – 200MHz
    • Sample Rate – 1GS/s
  • Model DA0-1254E :
    • 4 Channels
    • Bandwidth – 250MHz
    • Sample Rate – 1GS/s

The oscilloscopes are available for purchase on Conrad with ranging price depending on the model.

Google Launches New DIY Artificial Intelligent Kit Powered by The Raspberry Pi Zero WH

The Google AIY (Artifical Intelligent Yourself) Project Team is no new and has been in existence for a while now. Their job is to deal with two significant parts of the AI community namely; voice and image recognition. Although they launched the first generation of AIY Vision and Voice kits that comes equipped with a Raspberry Pi last year, they have now modified the kits and this lead to the creation of a new generation of AIY Vision and Voice kits. Unlike the previous kits which made use of Raspberry Pi 3, the new kits which are smarter and cost-effective are based on the smaller Raspberry Pi Zero WH.

AN INTELLIGENT CAMERA

Due to the “continued demand” for the Voice and Vision kits mostly from parents and teachers in the STEM environment, Google decided to “help educators integrate AIY into STEM lesson plans and challenges of the future by launching a new version of our AIY Kits.” The new vision kit has a Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 which can be easily assembled to create a do-it-yourself intelligent camera which cannot only capture images but also recognize faces and objects.

The Vision Kit comes with USB cable and a pre-provisioned micro SD card. Raspberry Pi Zero WH which the new kit was based on, has the same features as the Raspberry Pi Zero W. However, the Pi Zero WH comes with a soldered 40 – pin GPIO. It is also more flexible and less expensive than Raspberry Pi 3. The Vision kit is less costly as compared to the previous version because Pi Zero WH was used and can be bought for just $90. Other parts of the Vision Kit include; the cardboard case, a speaker, wide lens kit, standoffs and many more.

A SMART SPEAKER

 

The Voice Kit has most of the features found in Vision Kit but there are few differences such as the absence of a camera module and the presence of a Voice Bonnet Hat and Voice Hat stereo Microphone boards. If you argued that cardboard cannot talk, then you were wrong as the AIY Voice Kit has accomplished that already. The kit comes enclosed in cardboard and costs $50. It also has a speaker, wires, and even an arcade button.

The Voice Kit is linked with Google Cloud Speech API & Google Assistant SDK , can answer questions and perform certain tasks that has been programmed to do.

The new AIY Kits are available for purchase at US retailer Target:

The kit is expected to be available in the UK this summer.

The Google team is introducing a new way to interact with the Kits alongside the traditional use of “monitor, keyboard, and mouse” using a companion app for Android devices. The app aims to make wireless setup and configuration a snap. The app will be available alongside the launch of the new kits from the Google Play store. Google is also working on iOS and Chrome companion apps, which should be coming along soon.

More information about this development can be found on the Google AIY website

CH551 is a $1.80 USB Mini Development board based on the 8-bit C51 micro-controller

WCH (Nanjing QinHeng Corp.) has recently launched a CH55x family of microcontrollers based on an 8-bit C51 core with a USB interface, and I/Os. The boards all come with different I/Os configuration depending on the selected part number.

Electro dragon, the popular online store that offers a range of electronic components is now listing one of the development boards – a tiny USB development board based on the CH551 for about $1.80.

This tiny, low-cost USB development board has 1x USB type-A port, onboard power led, LED (P3.0). One advantage peculiar to the board is that its microcontroller unit (MCU) supports USB to TTL conversion of the shell without the aid of an external converter as compared to some other development boards. For example, the official Arduino Uno doesn’t support USB to TTL conversion of the shell; it features the Atmega16U2 (Atmega8U2 up to version R2) which is programmed as a USB-to-serial converter. This feature not only makes the board smaller but also cheaper since no extra cost is spent on adding a USB to Serial driver chip.

The board can be programmed without external hardware tool using either WCHISP windows tools or open source flasher LibreCH551 plus SDK which works with both Linux and Windows. However, its own compiler has no libraries, so a suitable substitute is the SDDC compiler. The only glitch with using an SDDC compiler is that the libraries for most devices have not yet been built. Another important factor to be taken into consideration when programming with the flashing tool is that flashing or programming is limited to 200 cycles due to a bug put by the creators.

Below are some of the specifications of the board:

  • MCU – WCH CH551 8-bit C51 micro-controller
  • Speed – 24 Mhz
  • Memory – 10Kb of ROM and 512b of xRAM
  • USB – 1x USB type-A port (USB 2.0 + 1.0)
  • GPIO – 18 through holes exposing all I/Os from the MCU including GPIOs, USB, 3.3V, 5V GND
  • Others –
    • On-board power led
    • 3x Timer
    • 2x PWM
    • 1x SPI M/S
    • 6x Touch
    • 1x HS UART
  • Power – 5V through USB or I/O pin

Electro dragon will also release other versions of the family boards based on the CH552, CH554, CH558, and the CH559. The CH551 board is obviously going to be the cheapest of the product line, and the CH559 board is expected to be the most powerful board which comes with more advanced features.

The CH551 tiny development board is available for purchase on the Electrodragon site, and the CH511 chip is also being sold for 25 cents on Taobao.

NanoPi K1 Plus – A New Open-spec SBC By FriendlyElec Powered By Allwinner H5 SoC

FriendlyElec has launched a $35 open-spec “NanoPi K1 Plus” SBC. The new NanoPi K1 Plus is a media-rich board, that switches from the Amlogic S905 SoC (found on the Odroid-C2) to an Allwinner H5 SoC, which is used in several other NanoPi boards. Both the SoCs have 4x Cortex-A53 cores and a Mali-450 GPU, but the H5 has a lower clock speed of 1.4GHz instead of 1.5GHz.

NanoPi K1 Plus front side
NanoPi K1 Plus front side

The new board has almost similar footprint to NanoPi K2, 85 x 56mm. It has an identical feature set and layout as the RPi 3 and Odroid-C2. FriendlyElec has swapped out the K2’s WiFi/Bluetooth module for a 2.4GHz WiFi-only chip and has reduced its HDMI 2.0 port to an HDMI 1.4 that has its 4K support only at 30fps max. The K1 Plus has also decreased one of the USB 2.0 host ports, leaving 3x USB 2.0 ports total along with a micro-USB OTG port with power input support. The previous DC-in jack has been removed.

On the better side, the K1 Plus add some multimedia features. There’s a new DVP camera interface, an onboard mic, and a 3.5mm audio jack that also outputs the CVBS signals. CVBS was previously available only via the continuing, Raspberry Pi-compatible 40-pin expansion connector.

There are 2GB RAM, a microSD slot, eMMC socket, and GbE port. Once again, you get an IR receiver, a heatsink, and a debug header, among other details. The open-spec board is available with schematics and other documentation, as well as images for Armbian and the Ubuntu Core based OS, FriendlyCore.

Spec list for the NanoPi K1 Plus:

  • Processor: Allwinner H5 (4x 64-bit Cortex-A53 cores @ 400MHz to 1.4GHz) with Mali-450 GPU
  • Memory/storage: 2GB DDR3 RAMMicroSD slot for up to 128GB (bootable)eMMC socket
  • Wireless: 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n; PCB antenna
  • Networking: Gigabit Ethernet port (Realtek RTL8211E)
  • Media I/O:
    • HDMI 1.4 port (4K@30fps video and audio)
    • DVP camera 24-pin header
    • 3.5mm audio jack with CVBS output
    • Onboard Mic
    • I2S/PCM via 7-pin header
  • Other I/O:
    • 3x USB 2.0 host ports
    • Micro-USB 2.0 device/OTG port with power cable
    • Serial debug 4-pin header
    • 40-pin RPi 3 compatible expansion connector (I2C, GPIO, UART, PWM, SPDIF, SPI)
  • Other features: LEDs; IR receiver; GPIO button; heatsink; optional acrylic case
  • Power: 5V2A DC input via micro-USB; PMIC
  • Operating system: Images for Armbian and FriendlyCore (based on Ubuntu Core) with Linux 4.x

The NanoPi K1 Plus is available now for only $35. More information may be found on FriendlyElec’s NanoPi K1 Plus shopping and wiki pages.

Understanding Relay Coil Voltage Specifications

by Robert_Fay @ digikey.com:

When learning about relays there are a couple coil voltage specifications that can be a little tricky to understand. There are typically 4 specification for coil voltage listed in the datasheet. For this example we will be looking at relay part Z2352-ND 14. This is a SPST non-latching relay with 1 Form A (normally open) set of contacts.

Understanding Relay Coil Voltage Specifications – [Link]

Tektronix Launches Two New 6½-digit DMM and DAQ systems : DMM6500 And DAQ6510

Tektronix, a US-based company, has introduced two new Keithley 6½-digit models to its line of Digital Multimeters (DMMs) and data-acquisition systems: The new DMM6500 DMM and also the new DAQ6510 data-acquisition system. The company has also upgraded their Kickstart measurement software to version 2.0.

Keithley has long been a dominant provider in the 6½-digit DMM market. With the DMM6500 and DAQ6510, the company looks forward to strengthening its position further. Both of these new instruments use the same touchscreen UI (with pinch gesture) first unveiled with the company’s 7½-digit DMM7510.

DMM6500:

Model DMM6500
Model DMM6500

With a base price of $1140 (same as previous models), the DMM6500 hits a sweet spot for bench and production measurements. In addition to its 6½ inch display, the DMM6500 also features a 16-bit, 1 Msample/s digitizer and can display voltage and current waveforms over time. It can store up to 7 million readings in internal memory.

Like its previous models, the DMM6500 is also expandable to ten channels. It uses the same expansion cards as models in the 2000 series DMMs. The DMM also maintains software compatibility with Keithley’s 2000 series models, minimizing software changes. It also emulates software commands for the now obsolete but still in use HP/Agilent/Keysight 34401A.

Measurement ranges:

  • DCV and ACV: 100 nV to 1000 V (750 VAC) with 0.0025% 1-year DCV accuracy
  • Resistance: 1 µΩ to 100 MΩ
  • DC Current: 10 pA to 10 A, AC Current: 100 pA to 10A
  • Temperature: -200°C to 1820°C
  • Capacitance: 0.1 pF to 100 µF
  • Digitize Voltage: 10 µV to 1000 V
  • Digitize Current: 10 nA to 10 A
  • Maximum measurement reading rate: 20,600 readings/s

Communications and channel expansion:

  • Interfaces: LAN LXI and USB-TMC standard. GPIB with digital I/O ($225), RS-232 with digital I/O ($200), or TSP-Link with digital I/O ($200).
  • Multichannel measurement capacity: 10 channels with two card options (10 channels voltage/current ($628) or 9 channel temperature/general-purpose inputs ($700)

DAQ6510:

Model DAQ6510 virtual front panel
Model DAQ6510 virtual front panel

Based on the DMM6500, the DAQ6510 ($1750 system only, $2230 with 20-channel scanner card) support up to 80 channels using two 40-channel cards. Keithley offers twelve switch modules, which are the same as used in the 2700-series data-acquisition DMMs. Scanning speed is 800 channels/s across multiple systems connected through Keithley’s TSK Link. The GPIB and RS-232 interface modules are also supported.

More information can be found at Tektronix/Keithley website, DMM6500 product pageand DAQ6510 product page.