There really seems to be a push for cellular IoT those days, with new hardware coming up every week. Following up on their NB-IoT shield for Arduino last year, SODAQ has now launched two versions of SARA boards based on u-blox SARA LTE-IoT modules, and u-blox M8Q GPS/GNSS module.
Both boards are Arduino compatible thanks to a Microchip SAMD21 MCU, and while u-blox SARA board follows the Arduino form factor, u-box SARA SFF is much more compact (50×25.4 mm) and potentially easier to integrate into a project or product. Another pretty unique feature (AFAICT) is that you can power the board directly with a solar panel.
- Wireless module (three options) with external antenna:
- Micro SIM card sholder
- Location Module – u-blox SAM-M8Q with support for GPS, Galileo, GLONASS
- MCU – Microchip SAMD21 Arm Cortex-M0+ CPU running at up to 48MHz
- Sensor – STMicro LSM303AGR accelerometer and magnetometer
- Expansion – 2x Grove connectors for external sensors, unpopulated Arduino headers
- Power Supply
- 5V via micro USB port
- LiPo battery connector
- Solar panel connector
- Dimensions – Arduino form factor
Somehow the company managed to pack most of the features of SODAQ SARA in their Small Form Factor (SFF) version, except they replaced the GNSS module with a smaller one (unnamed) and used an u.FL connector for an external GNSS antenna. At 50×25.4mm the board is said to be small enough to fit into a matchbox.
With three different LTE IoT module and two form factors, there are 6 different versions of the board:
- SARA-N211 NB-IoT (Band 8/20) for 90 Euros
- SARA-R410M NB-IoT + LTE Cat M for 100 Euros
- SARA-R412M NB-IoT + LTE Cat M + 2G fallback for 110 Euros with 1,200 mAh battery
- SFF N211 for 95 Euros
- SFF R410M for 105 Euros
- SFF R412M for 115 Euros with 800 mAh battery
To select the best board for your need, the map below showing NB-IoT / eMTC coverage may help.
The map above is good for reference only, as for example while NB-IoT has been deployed in Thailand (highlighted in blue), there are only a few base stations support NB-IoT at this stage, so the LTE-IoT network is not available countrywide. You may want to check GSMA website for more details info about eMTC/NB-IoT deployments including the name of providers in each country.
The company launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund mass production aiming to raise 25,000 Euros (about $30,700 US). Shipping adds 10 Euros to European countries, and 20 Euros to the rest of the world, and delivery is planned for March to June 2018 depending on reward.