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Friday, July 31, 2015

Internet of Things, sub 1GHz radio and more

If you follow my blog, you probably realized that I am a supporter of technology company that engage in quality education activities.

Texas Instruments is one of them, so I used some of their products to learn and to share my experiments in this blog.

Not long ago (July 16th 2015) TI, together with Element14, offered an interesting free webminar with the captivating title : "From Start to Finish: Creating a Multi-Node Cloud-Connected Sensor Network with Texas Instruments LaunchPad Development Kits"

I know, now you are expecting a "...but...".
Nope, no "but", it was simply great, I strongly suggest you check it :)

IoT is becoming easier and easier, both from software and hardware point of view.
Software is kind of my thing, so, that was never really a main issue for me, or better it was an issue I knew how to deal with, but hardware used to be either hard or expensive (or both).
Gone are those days and there are plenty of products (from various vendors) that really speed up your prototyping.

TI definitely supprots them with great learning resources, this webinar, presented by Adrian Fernandez , TI Microcontroller Development Experience Manager was one of them.

You can see his video here:

Now, the IoT part is cool, but combining it with sub1GHz radio is even better (and as Adrian shows, quite easy).

So, IoT means you have some device that can communicate with the internet, usually acting as a node connected to an ADSL router.
If you have 10 sensors spread around your house, you can definitely have 10 nodes, all connecting to your router and doing their stuff.
It works, possibly, but it's not the best solution.
Back in the days we used to add a RS485 interface, run a few cables here and there and generate a wired network of sensors to the "managing" node, the one that eventually communicates with the internet.
Also works.
Then the nRF24L01 radio came out, working at 2.4GHz.
That one is cool, low cost, not too difficult to use.

Can we do even better?
Turns out we can.
The TI CC110L chip allows Radio communication at 433MHz (and other sub 1GHz frequencies), for wireless connectivity in a low power package and low frequencies give you more "bang" for your milliAmps.
TI provided a boosterpack for the launchpads featuring this chip, that makes it easier to implement a prototype, particularly because being part of their standard ecosystem, it comes with software libraries.
This is the boosterpack FedEX delivered few minutes ago :

The Kit gives you two CC110 (@433MHz) nodes on a shield.
Now, why did I receive the boosterpack?

Well, in my personal opinion this story redefines the concept of "cool".
So, I joined this free webinar, which was extremely informative and fun, extremely "hands-on".
That, in my book, is "cool".
TI delivers free software tools and rather cheap hardware to play with and practice what you learnt, that's also cool, no?

But what goes behind the concept of cool is that I got the boosterpack, plus a MSP430FR5969 launchpad AND a CC3200 Wi-Fi launchpad FOR FREE, delivered from Texas to the old continent.

Apparently I got lucky (not sure how many winners were there), but simply answering a very short quiz after the webinar I won all those toys.
It's Christmas in July! :)

I am currently extremely busy with a couple of projects, but as soon as I can spare some time (hopefully really soon), I plan to test the new toys in an industrial automation project, collecting production data from machines and pushing them to the web.
I am currently using a BBB for that, but there is a case for a different architecture, possibly on top of the existing one.

Until then, well, thanks Adrian and TI!

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