We love hardware, but I think we all know that there is a certain additional allure when hardware is wireless!
While we aren't short of various cheap modules over on the usual suppliers — such as this A9 / ESP8266 mash-up module, seen above — there is almost too much choice to pick from when it comes to these little blocks that enable you to quickly and easily add GPS or GPRS to your breadboard.
What we often lesser seen is an all-in-one solution, that supports a myriad of network protocols, and even gives you built-in GNSS capability — for figuring out where you are currently at!
IOT-BOTS.COM have been turning out neat bits of kit for easing your journey into all things IoT for a little while now.
Their latest release looks set to ease all your worries when it comes to wrangling the world of embedded cellular wireless woes!
Based around a Quectel BG96 modem module, this Feather-compatible form factor shield makes getting online as simple as it can be — no matter what the network type.
Packing everything needed for a modern day cellular IoT application, networks supported include LTE Cat M1, LTE Cat NB1 and also EGPRS — meaning it can operate using LTE-TDD/LTE-FDD/GPRS and EDGE network transmissions.
More than just a module breakout board — this FeatherWing provides everything needed to integrate the BG96 into your embedded application!
While there isn't a huge BoM count to this board, there are the essentials needed to make sure the modem plays well with your hardware.
We note the thoughtful inclusion of a Texas Instruments TPS63020buck/boost converter, to ensure that the power requirements of the BG96 module are aptly met by whatever power scheme you choose to implement!
More than bringing out nearly all of the model control and data signals to the Feather headers, the shield also features yet another connector standard — the qJam system — visible as item 12 in the "what's what" view above.
Akin to the SparkFun Qwiic, or Adafruit Stemma QT connection systems — but really much more rather resembling the SAO v1.69 connector standard, this simple six-pin interface is designed to allow the end user to quickly and easily incorporate a whole range of add-on daughterboards, interfaced using I2C.
While details are a little scarce, I'd not be surprised to see this pinout replicated here — there is a striking resemblance between the large range of proposed qJam add on boards, and all the SAOs that already exist!
We're happy to see that we won't have to deal with bulky SMA (yes, they are bulky when we're used to 0603/0805 sized resistors!) — and instead are treated to two μ.FL ports at the base end of the board.
The keen eyed in the audience will be quick to point out that the board, shown as stacked on top of an existing feather, is a little — just a touch — larger than the Feather standard.
That's somewhat inescapable when the module you are trying to land is as wide as the feather format itself!
Not to worry, the shield is still very much compatible with the form factor, but might need a slight adjustment to any cases you are printing up to go around it!
Props to IOT-BOTS for being quite upfront about this, there's little chance to claim surprise with this level of openness in the design!
Normally, we've seen brand-name modem modules command brand name price tags.
IOT-BOTS is looking to deliver this module to you through a GroupGets crowdfunding campaign, which means that they are able to offer a competitive price, owing in part to help provided by the GroupGets team!
If you want to get your latest creation cranking it out over cellular, you can cop your own Quectel shield for $49.99, over at GroupGets as part of our Hackster Launch program!