u-blox Module Release, STMicro, and Arduino: IoT Communications News Brief Roundup

May 17, 2018 by Chantelle Dubois

Check out today’s IoT communications roundup to see what’s new on the horizon.

From u-blox's ever-shrinking LTE Cat-1 modules to STMicro's most recent low-powered offering to Arduino's announcement on Arduino Day, there's always something new going on in IoT developments. Catch up on some recent IoT hardware news in this news brief roundup.

Connectivity and communications in IoT applications represent major challenges in the design and implementation of IoT-based systems. Fortunately, it seems that a wide array of solutions are on the horizons the meet cost, range, and power consumption requirements. Check out today’s IoT communications roundup to see what’s currently out there.


u-blox Focuses on Global Coverage

The SARA‑R410M‑02B, from u-blox, was recently announced to be available for commercial release. It is an LTE module designed to work globally with only one piece of hardware and firmware that can manage all configurations. The module can connect to 16 bands via LTE Cat M1, EGPRS, and LTE Cat NB1, which u-blox added to the SARA family in July of last year.

Rules can be implemented on the module to restrict which modes it can connect with. It’s a low-powered device, can receive updates for its firmware through LWM2M and uFOTA, and is capable of connecting in challenging environments such as inside buildings, in basements, and underground (in NB1 mode).

u-blox envisions their module being used in smart cities, agriculture, building health monitoring, and health applications.


Image courtesy of u-blox.


Last year, the SARA-410M supplanted the SARA-R404M as their smallest module. But u-blox and competitors push onwards to create ever-smaller versions of their modules.

As competition grows (and module sizes shrink), the claims seem to get more specific. In January, u-blox announced the SARA-R412M, "the world's smallest LTE Cat M1 and NB-IoT multi-mode module with quad-band 2G fallback". NB-IoT is a cellular network based communication protocol. The press release on the SARA-R412M stated, "Measuring just 16 x 26 mm, the module is the world’s smallest to provide both LTE and quad‑band EGPRS support in a single design." 

Murata, for their part, made a claim in February for the "world's smallest and lowest power LTE-M1/NB1 IoT solution" in February with their announcement of their Type 1SC module, developed in partnership with Altair's ALT1250 chipset and STMicroelectronics STM32 and ST33 Secure MCUs. The 1SC is reportedly 11.1x11.4x1.4 mm. It will be interesting to see the continuing trend of shrinking module sizes as their functionalities continue to become more specialized. 


Image courtesy of Murata.


The list of Verizon's approved LTE Cat-M1 modules has been growing—presently over 100 modules from over 15 manufacturers (including Telit, LG, Huawei, and Gemalto) qualify.


STMicroelectronics and Jorjin Technologies Partner Up

A new Sigfox IoT module has been made possible through a partnership between STMicroelectronics and Jorjin Technologies. 

To the device, Jorjin Technologies brings their WS211x Sigfox/BLE module which features the STMicroelectronics BlueNRG-1 BLE SoC, and the S2-LP sub-1GHz RF transceiver. 

The WS211x Sigfox/BLE module’s USA version (the WS2119-A0) features a Cortex-M0 32-bit microcontroller, 24kb RAM, a low power range between 2.0-3.6 V, built-in DC-DC converter, +8dBm BLE and +27dBm sub-1GHz RF output power, and receiver sensitivity from -88dBm BLE and -130dBm sub-1GHz. 

The module targets low-powered IoT devices powered by coin-cell batteries or through energy-harvesting (such as solar).


Image courtesy of STMicroelectronics. 


Arduino Releases Two New Connectivity Boards on Arduino Day

Arduino Day is held every year on May 12th in celebration of the popular maker board—however, their most recent most recent announcement on this celebratory day of two connectivity boards was delivered with industrial applications in mind, too. The MKR WiFi 1010 and the MRK NB 1500 boards both address the challenges of connectivity on IoT devices.

The MKR Wi-Fi 1010 board is low powered Wi-Fi module that runs on an ESP32 SoC. The ESP32, produced by Expressif, is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable (2.4GHz), SPI/SDIO and I2C/UART interfacing, built-in antenna switches, power amplifier, low noise receive amplifier, RF balun, filters, and power management. It’s low powered, consuming 240 mA at maximum during transmission, and is suitable for temperature ranges between -40 F to 257 F.

Arduino has also added its own open-source Wi-Fi firmware so that the device is upgradable (particularly important for security updates), and also features an additional ARM chip along with the ESP32. Finally, the board also features a Microchip ECC508 authentication module to secure network communication. 



The MKR NB 1500 (top) and the MKR Wi-Fi 1010 (bottom). Images courtesy of Arduino.


The MKR NB 1500 takes a different approach, instead focusing on narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) communications using low power while still achieving high range and speed of communication. The MKR NB 1500 is also low-powered and envisioned by Arduino to be used in IoT applications requiring remote access and monitoring. It’s also compatible with cellular networks globally.

Both boards are compatible with the Arduino ecosystem including the Uno and Mega boards. This could open interesting new options for prototyping or deployment in industrial IoT.



What other IoT and communications developments, announcements, and products are catching your eye? Let us know in the comments below.