EmbedINN's iotSDR Aims to Be a One-Stop IoT Development Board for All Things Radio

A Xilinx FPGA and two Microchip transceivers at its heart, the ioTSDR is certainly feature-packed.

The iotSDR is designed as an all-in-one radio development platform. (📷: EmbedINN)

UPDATE (8/4/2020): The crowdfunding campaign for the iotSDR is now live, with hardware testing complete and orders expected to begin shipping towards the end of January 2021.

"In February, when we completed the hardware testing of our production prototype, we thought we were only weeks away from launching this campaign," explains embedINN's Abdul Malik Khan. "Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed us down to a snail’s pace. While lockdowns and social distancing may have interfered with our progress on the hardware front, they actually accelerated the pace at which we were able to develop and test software. As a result, our team has already ported Google’s Remote Procedural Call (gRPC) APIs, which we had planned as a post-launch milestone."

"We are extremely excited to be launching this crowdfunding campaign for iotSDR, our first IoT-focused software-defined radio (SDR) board. Our passion for RF technology and our commitment to open hardware brought us here, and we can’t think of anywhere we’d rather be!"

The campaign can be backed on Crowd Supply now, with rewards starting at $399 for an iotSDR with a Zynq XC7Z010 FPGA and rising to $599 for a model with the larger XC7Z020.

Original article continues below.

Pakistani IoT specialist embedINN is turning to crowdfunding to produce a development board aimed at communications projects, powered by a Xilinx Zynq FPGA and Microchip RF transceivers: the iotSDR.

"IotSDR provides a platform that allows SDR developers and enthusiasts to develop cutting-edge solutions in the IoT radio and network domains," embedINN claims of its design. "It has two Microchip AT86RF215 frontends, capable of providing I/Q streams and modem functionality for the Xilinx ZYNQ SoC, as well as a MAX2769 GNSS chip for custom GPS, Galileo, BieDou, and Glonass development. It is also compatible with the popular GNURadio SDR software.

"If you want to design and develop a physical layer protocol for IoT – a protocol like LoRa, Sigfox, WightLess, Bluetooth, BLE, 802.15.4, ZigBee, or something of your own — this board is for you. It is also a great place to start if you want to build a custom IoT gateway along the lines of The Things Network, LPWAN, or Google Thread."

The twin Microchip AT86RF215 transceivers support operation in a range of radio frequencies — 389.5-510 MHz, 779-1020 MHz, and 2400-2483.5 MHz — while the Maxim MAX2769B provides connectivity to global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) for position or timing without tying up either. The Xilinx Zynq XC7Z010-1CLG400C FPGA, meanwhile, offers two Arm Cortex-A9 MPCore processor cores, 256kB of on-chip memory and 256MB of external DDR3, 128Mb of external QSPI flash, and offers 28,000 logic cells, 17.6k look-up tables (LUTs), 2.1MB of block RAM, 80 digital signal processing (DSP) slices), along with 2x UART, 2x CAN 2.0B, 2x I2C, 2x SPI, and 4x 32-bit GPIO connectivity options.

The board itself measures 76.2mm x 101.6mm and includes a gigabit Ethernet port, USB 2.0 High Speed and Full Speed connectivity, two SMA connectors for low frequency bands and another two for the 2.4 GHz band, and a JTAG connector for programming and debugging.

More information, and a link to be informed when the campaign launches, is available on the iotSDR Crowd Supply page. Pricing has not yet been confirmed, however, and the only product imagery yet supplied is a board render rather than a photograph of a prototype.

UPDATE (12/31/19): The iotSDR Crowd Supply campaign is inching closer to launch, with embedINN reaching out with a shot of a physical prototype — proving that the project exists beyond design files and pre-rendered imagery.

EmbedINN has indicated that the prototype is performing as expected, and has successfully booted a Linux-based operating system.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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