$3.6 GPRS GSM Module from Ai Thinker

ShenZhen Ai-thinker CO.,a leading enterprise in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry and the maker of the ESP-12E module, had launched a new killer module: $3.60 GSM GPRS A6 Module!

Providing a chip cheaper than the popular ESP8266 seems to be promising and opens doors for future IoT inventions. This module seems to be a big competitor for SIM900 series module.

This chip is considered the cheapest platform that connects to the internet via GSM/GPRS and at the same time works as a traditional GSM module.


a6-gsm-gprs-ai-thinker-breakout-board-with-antenaThis module is coming in market as a SMT package, like ESP12E, but there are many vendors already making breakout board with antenna out and SIM card slot, for an extra dollar.

Technical Specifications
  • Dimensions 22.8 × 16.8 × 2.5mm;
  • Working temperature -30 Celsius to + 80 Celsius;
  • Working voltage 3.3V-4.2V;
  • Power voltage> 3.4V;
  • Standby average current 3ma less;
  • Support GSM / GPRS four bands, including 850,900,1800,1900MHZ;
  • Support China Mobile and China Unicom’s 2G GSM network worldwide;
  • GPRS Class 10;
  • Sensitivity <-105;
  • SMT 42PIN
  • Support voice calls;
  • Support SMS text messaging; can use SMS to config module
  • Support GPRS data traffic, the maximum data rate, download 85.6Kbps, upload 42.8Kbps;
  • Supports standard GSM07.07,07.05 AT commands and extended commands;
  • Supports two serial ports, one serial port to download an AT command port;
  • AT command supports the standard AT and TCP / IP command interface;
  • Support digital audio and analog audio support HR, FR, EFR, AMR speech coding;
  • Support ROHS, FCC, CE, CTA certification;
  • Support up to 8 channels network connections
  • Low power consumption: standby least is 3mA
  • A6 semi-hole technology, enabling rapid production modules through standard SMT equipment, providing customers with highly reliable connection, especially for automation, large-scale, low-cost modernization of production methods.

It can be used with AT Commands like the commands for other GPRS/GSM modules SIM800/SIM900. Thus, it is possible to use the same libraries

How to use A6 GSM GPRS module:
  1. Connect UART_TXD to RX of the FTDI
  2. Connect UART_RXD to TX of the FTDI
  3. Connect GND to the GND of the FTDI
  4. Connect VCC5.0 To the PWR_KEY pin
  5. Connect a Micro Usb for the power(with any smartphone charger)
  6. After 4-5 second you can remove the connection between VCC5.0 and PWR_Key
A6 GSM GPRS Module Pinout
A6 GSM GPRS Module Pinout

You can use it with the Arduino software, just choose a port and open the serial monitor with 115200 baud. To set up the connection send ”AT”, and if you see “OK” then everything works.

A project using the module, download the software, documents, and codes from here. Also watch a test demo.

The module is said to be the smallest available industrial grade quad-band GSM / GPRS module. You can order A6 module for $3.20 from ElectroDragon store.

Datasheet is only available in Chinese. More details about the A6 – A6c – A7 family can be reached at this document and at the A6 module documentation.

Embedded orientation detection using the MMA8450Q


NXP’s accelerometer chip MMA8450Q, provides orientation detection on handheld devices:

This application note targets the portrait/landscape orientation detection feature which has become standard in many hand-held electronic devices. Additionally, this application note aims to explain uses as well as highlight some of the challenges of designing an embedded algorithm into the sensor. Included in content, the embedded settings of the MMA8450Q are explained and detailed for implementation.

Embedded orientation detection using the MMA8450Q – [Link]

FPGA-Based Arduino Shield

Inspired by an interest in spreading the concepts of FPGA, and because its ability to overcome most of other platforms limitations such as IO, memory, and peripherals, technolomaniac had worked on developing the first Arduino FPGA shield.


A Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by a customer or a designer after manufacturing. FPGAs contain an array of programmable logic blocks which include memory elements, and a hierarchy of reconfigurable interconnects that allow the blocks to be “wired together” to perform complex combinational functions, or merely simple logic gates like AND and XOR.

The FPGA shield includes additional I/O and memory resources, and it can be programmed either by SPI flash or via Arduino Due. Programming by the SPI flash from Arduino is done via the ICSP header which is carried on the shield board. The shield also include a second chip select (GPIO) to enable the ICSP to connect to the FPGA via SPI.


The PCB board contains these components:

The flash memory is large enough to be used by an FPGA processor, and also can hold multiple images of the FPGA configuration.

How-to video

The project is open source and all design files are available on Github.

For more details, build instructions, and project updates you can follow the project’s page on hackaday.

The SilentSwitcher, A Quiet Mains-free Power Supply

Audio projects become smaller over time with the rapid advancement of technology. A traditional power supply is still considered large compared to audio projects size constraints and it may not fit such delicate applications that need to deliver a good sound with zero noise.

Jan Didden, audio specialist who is known for his own publications Linear Audio, has came up with a new idea that can help in perfecting audio projects. The SilentSwitcher is a 55 x 31 mm special power supply module designed to supply clean power to high-end analog and digital audio circuits.


“One goal of this power supply that it doesn’t need to connect to the mains, you can use it with a USB charger or with a power bank… All problems with ground loops and mains born noise are not existing”- Jan Didden, the designer of The SilentSwitcher

The SilentSwitcher uses a combination of switching and linear regulators to generate a stable and noise-free supply voltage. The module can be powered from a 5V USB adapter, or from a 5V power bank for complete isolation. It delivers ±150 mA and a choice of 6V, 5V or 3.3V at 0.5 A to benefit most of your applications. The absolute maximum input voltage is 12VDC but in normal operation it is preferable to limit it to 10VDC.

Output specifications:

  • Outputs (analog): +15 and -15 VDC at 150mA* each;
  • Output (6/5/3.3V): selectable 6, 5 or 3.3 VDC at 0.5A*;
  • Output noise (6/5/3.3V): less than 1mV broadband
  • Output impedance (analog): less than 10mΩ (+15V) and 80mΩ (-15V) at 20kHz
  • Output impedance (6/5/3.3V): less than 3mV drop with 100mA current step.

15V output at 150mA are provided thanks to the very low noise linear regulators of Texas Instruments TPS7A47, TPS7A33 that suppress all the noise from the switching regulator by a factor of one thousand even at 1 Megahertz. Such chips have driven zero noise to switcher technology and have shown incredible quiet and low noise performance.

Jan Didden talking about his product

The well designed board will help in keeping all elements quiet and avoiding excess radiation. There are 2- and 3-pin headers on the PCB to connect the load, and a 2-pin header for an On/Off switch. The connection to the 5V source is through a B-type USB connector or a standard 2-pin screw-type connector block. You can mount the PCB on the back of your enclosure with a hole cut out for the USB-B – no further input wiring required.

The SilentSwitcher Connections
The SilentSwitcher Connections

This power supply will be a great companion for your project! No need to think about wiring or transformers, and you won’t face any issues like mains hum or mains earth loops.

The SilentSwitcher is live on a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and there are only few hours left to go! You can get your own SilentSwitcher for $59 and you will receive a fully assembled and tested board.

More details are provided at the campaign page and at Linear Audio website.

UsbSafe² – Programmable dongle for protecting USB devices from USB hosts and chargers


USB connections can transfer both information and power. UsbSafe² is a device for protecting USB-connected hardware from both excessive voltage, current and unauthorized data access. Unfortunately, the practice of “juice jacking” (accessing data from a device connected to a public charging station), has become all too common. UsbSafe² provides a unique combination of an anti-juice jacking mode with protection from faulty power sources. With UsbSafe² you’ll feel safer knowing that your valuable gadgets are protected and secured, wherever you go and whatever you plug into!

UsbSafe² – Programmable dongle for protecting USB devices from USB hosts and chargers – [Link]

iBreathe, A Breathalyzer Based on Hexiwear

Knowing the amount of alcohol you drunk is becoming easier using the iBreathe Breathalyzer project by Dave Clarke. You just have to blow in the alcohol sensor, then it pings the result to a smartphone app and to the cloud to document it as a table so you can see alcohol intake through time.

4b97aef17d4668b96ae71a9e031c8ba0_preview_featuredThis breathalyzer with a custom Beer mug casing will let you know where do you stand on the scale form “Sober as a judge” to “Hangover incoming”!
Below the (foamy) surface, it has substance too: along the 3D-printed casing, it features an Alcohol click sensor hacked to work with 3.3V, a customized Hexiwear interface, and a smartphone app.

Trailer Video, you can check the full demo here

iBreathe Breathalizer took place at Hackster.ioHexiwear: The Do-Anything Device!” contest in partnerships with NXP, AutoDesk, Mouser, MikroElektronika, and ARM mbed. Amazing prizes like Oculus Rift and JD humanoid robotic kit will be awarded to 6 winners.

Developed by MikroElektronika, Hexiwear platform combines the style and usability found in high-end consumer devices, with the functionality and expandability of sophisticated engineering development platforms, making Hexiwear the ideal form factor for the IoT edge node and wearable markets. It is completely open-source and developed in partnership with NXP.

This contest emphasizes the role of Hexiwear as the foundation for future IoT inventions. This powerful IoT development kit is a small and sleek, low-power device packed with sensors to quantify yourself and the world around you. Wirelessly enabled, it can connect both to devices nearby – or to cloud servers far away. With Hexiwear you can create your own smartwatch, remote sensor tag, or sophisticated home controller. Plus, it comes with preloaded apps to give you a fast start.


In order to build this project you will need:

For software development you need access to these platforms ( iOS compatible)

The Hexiwear Docking Station is an expansion board for Hexiwear, the wearable IoT development kit. It provides an interface for programming, debugging, and enhancing Hexiwear with additional functionalities by adding click boards.

Alcohol click carries an MQ-3 Semiconductor sensor for alcohol. The gas sensing layer on the sensor unit is made of Tin dioxide (SnO2), an inorganic compound which has lower conductivity in clean air. The conductivity increases as the levels of alcohol gas rise. Alcohol click has a high sensitivity to alcohol and it can be used to detect alcohol in concentrations from 0.04 to 4mg/l. To calibrate the sensor for the environment you’ll be using it in, Alcohol click has a small potentiometer that allows you to adjust the Load Resistance of the sensor circuit. Alcohol click communicates with the target board through AN (OUT) mikroBUS line. It’s designed to use a 5V power supply only. While Hexiwear’s analog input is 3.3V, this sensor was hacked by adding a voltage divider on the output pin of the Click Board.

Modified Alcohol Click Schematics with 3V3 output
Modified Alcohol Click Schematics with 3V3 output

A speaking version is an update to the original project. For more details and step-by-step tutorial go to the project page on hackster.io to get a complete walkthrough, including descriptions, 3D models, and code snippets.

The deadline for the contest has passed and winners will be announced on 21 Oct 2016. More information about other contestants are available here.

A Multi-Use Mini Sensor Platform

While developing a smart hardware project, such as control and automation systems, you will almost need to use different types of sensors for collecting and gathering necessary data. LastSamurai had designed a platform that aims to simplify the use of digital and analogue sensors.

img003The platform was developed based on MySensors Hardware, hardware components that ease up building of the DIY sensors. It tries to solve some issues that other platforms still have like housing. The developer wants to make it smaller than 5x5cm with SMD parts so it can fit in a small case along with a sensor and a battery.

This multi-sensor platform can be powered by a CR2032 battery, external batteries, or an external power brick. Its PCB contains these components:

  • Atmega328P, a high-performance Atmel 8-bit AVR microcontroller combines 32KB ISP flash memory, 1024B EEPROM, 2KB SRAM, and operates between 1.8-5.5 volts.
  • NRF24L01+, an ultra low power RF transceiver IC for 2.4GHz band and 2 Mbps data rate.
  • ATSHA204A, a crypto full turnkey security device with 4.5Kb EEPROM protected hardware-based key storage.
  • AMS1117,  an adjustable and fixed voltage regulator to reach the desired voltage level.
  • SDA/SCL pins for I2C sensors like the HTU21D and Si7021.
  • D2/D3 pins of the atmega which are the digital pins that controller the interrupts 0 and 1.
  • A1 and A2 to be able to connect analog sensors like a plant/soil humidity sensor.
  • Serial connection pins for debugging.
  • 6 pin ISP connection for programming.
OH Mini-Multi-use Sensor Platform
OH Mini-Multi-use Sensor Platform

The platform can be programed using Arduino pro mini settings, and can run either on 3.3V or 1.8V and 8MHz.

It is an open source project, so everyone can contribute on enhancing it  and adding more features. Anyone interested can build it himself by having access to all hardware and software resources at the project page and github repository.

ATtiny85 Light Sensor – I2C slave device


Paweł Spychalski build a photoresistor based daylight meter sensor connected via I2C bus using ATtiny85:

I love AVR ATtinyx5 series microcontrollers. They are cheap, easy to use, they can be programmed just like Arduinos and comparing to their size they offer great features. For example, they can be used as remote analog to digital converters connected to master device using I2C bus.

ATtiny85 Light Sensor – I2C slave device – [Link]

Regulator offers independent outputs


Susan Nordyk @ edn.com writes:

Housed in a 15×9×2.42-mm over-molded BGA package, the LTM8049 µModule dual-output DC/DC converter from Linear Technology is configurable for a combination of SEPIC and/or inverting operation by simply grounding the appropriate output rail. All that is needed to complete the design are input and output capacitors and a few resistors—a total of 7 components compared to approximately 30 components for a comparable discrete design.

Regulator offers independent outputs – [Link]

Program AVR Using Arduino the easy way


rik @ riktronics.wordpress.com show us how to program AVR microcontrollers using an Arduino board.

Advanced hobbyists like me (and you, of course 😉) love to play with microcontroller. And the most famous microcontrollers for beginners are AVR series from Atmel™.  Almost all beginners in microcontroller-world have their Arduino boards lying on work table. Because it is so much easy, so much fun, and so much famous. Here I explained How to Burn Programs In Your AVR Microcontroller Using An Arduino.

Program AVR Using Arduino the easy way – [Link]