Sparrow From Blues Wireless Is a Low-Cost Way to Add LoRa to Sensors and Connect Them to the Cloud

Quickly develop proof-of-concepts with the Sparrow Development Kit.

James Lewis
a month agoInternet of Things / Sensors

In an application where multiple IoT sensors are close, it does not always make sense to have a full Wi-Fi or cellular radio attached to each one. Instead, low-cost LoRa radios are ideal because there is no (or little) additional cost to transmit data. However, the challenge then becomes how to get data from the LoRa-based sensors to the cloud. Fortunately, Blues Wireless introduced the Sparrow module and development kit to address this gap.

The Sparrow Development Kit includes everything you need to get from collecting sensor data to displaying it on a web-based dashboard. First, you receive two Sparrow Reference nodes, each including a BME280 temperature/humidity sensor and a PIR motion sensor. Those communicate using LoRa to the Sparrow Essentials board.

There are three Essentials boards in the dev kit. You can use one to act as the LoRa gateway. The other two boards are free to serve as nodes for sensors you connect by either header pins or a Qwiic connector.

For Wi-Fi connectivity, the Essentials board connects to a Blues Wireless Wi-Fi Notecard, which connects to a Notecarrier-A. The Wi-Fi Notecard is the device you would include in an end-product or deployment. These cards have an M.2-style edge connector for easy connection into a final product.

Blues Wireless offers Notecards with either Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity. These share the same JSON-based style programming interface, so moving Sparrow development to a cellular solution is a small step.

The Notecarrier-A is a development-style board for the Notecard. It has connector (Qwiic and JST-PH) breakouts, a nano-SIM socket, power management circuits, antennas for Wi-Fi/cellular, and an active antenna for GPS.

In addition to the Sparrow hardware, the dev kit includes a Qwiic connector cable, an STLink-V3Mini programming cable (for programming the Essentials and Reference) nodes, and batteries!

The firmware running on Sparrow's hardware is available as open source. And Blues Wireless also offers the open sourced Web Reference App.

The web app is a dashboard for viewing Sparrow data and an easy way to configure the sensors on the LoRa network. There are also examples in the developer hub that show how to get data from Sparrow to Notehub.io to most cloud endpoints.

Blues Wireless does note that the Sparrow module's FCC certification is pending. So you can start development right away, but you should not plan for deployment until at least September 2022. Sparrow Dev Kits are available to order today for $199 plus shipping.

James Lewis
Fan of making things that blink, fly, or beep. Host on element14 Presents, baldengineer.com, AddOhms, and KN6FGY.
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