Olimex Unveils Open Source Low-Power NB-IoT LPWAN Development Board

Bulgarian open hardware specialist Olimex has announced a new development board for those looking to experiment with Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) connectivity: the NB-IoT-DevKit, priced at just €18 (around $20) per board.

Unveiled by the company during a presentation at the RuseConf conference, the NB-IoT-DevKit is an open hardware design based on the Quectel BC66 NB-IoT module. The board, in Olimex's signature red finish, measures 25mm by 40mm and includes an Arm Cortex-M4 processor, 200kB of Flash memory, and 100kB of RAM with UART, SPI, I²C, and five general-purpose IO pins available to the user, along with a UEXT connector for external hardware modules.

The BC66 NB-IoT module itself connects to the outside world via a Hirose U.FL connector to an external antenna, using existing GSM Long Term Evolution (LTE) base stations to offer 25.5kbps upstream and downstream bandwidth and supporting up to 100,000 nodes per base station. The total range is a claimed 1km in urban environments and 10km for a less congested rural environment - but Olimex claims the module it's using boasts additional sensitivity to boost the range, though calls the manufacturer's upper limit of 100km a "marketing claim.

Another interesting claim, this time from Olimex itself, comes in the board's lifespan on battery power: The company claim the board can run for ten years on a single charge, based on network traffic not exceeding a somewhat limited 200 bytes per day. A Li-Po battery, meanwhile, can be charged directly from the board itself.

The NB-IoT-DevKit boards are due to land on the Olimex webshop later this month, with more details available on the official website. Those interested in the presentation made at RuseConf can view the slides in English and Bulgarian on Slideshare.

internet of thingsopen source hardwarewireless communicationdevelopment board
Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin.
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