THP Semifinalist: Level, The Ultrawideband Radio Module

LEVEL

When you start looking into the Internet of Things, the first thing you realize is that despite there being grand ideas for Internet connected everything, nobody knows how these things will actually connect to the Internet. There are hundreds of different radio protocols being pushed, and dozens of networking schemes currently in development. The solution to this is a radio module that can do them all, talking to all these modules and serving them up to the Internet. This is the idea of [Hunter Scott]’s Level, a radio module with a frequency range of 30 MHz to 4.4 GHz. That’ll cover just about everything, including some interesting applications in the TV whitespace.

[Hunter]’s module is based around TI’s CC430, basically an MSP430 microcontroller and a CC1101 transceiver smooshed together into a single piece of silicon. There’s bit of filtering that makes this usable in the now sorta-empty TV whitespace spectrum, something that a lot of IoT and wireless networking protocols are looking at.

If the form factor of the device looks familiar, that’s because it is; the board itself is Arduino compatible, but not with Arduinos themselves; it will accept shields, though, meaning building a bridge to Ethernet or WiFi to whatever radios this board is talking to is really just a change in firmware.

This board is excellent for experimenting with different radio modules, yes, but it’s also great for experimenting with different radio protocols. [Hunter] has been looking around at different mesh networking protocols.

You can check out [Hunter]’s two minute video overview, along with a more detailed overview of the schematic below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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New Chip Alert: The ESP8266 WiFi Module (It’s $5)

Every so often we run across something in the Hackaday tip line that sends us scurrying to Google, trying to source a component, part, or assembly. The ESP8266 WiFi module is the latest, made interesting because it pretty much doesn’t exist outside China.

Why is it cool? It’s a WiFi module with an SOC, making it somewhat similar to TI’s CC300 in conception (A.K.A. the thing that makes the Spark Core so appealing), in that a microcontroller on the module takes care of all the WiFi, TCP/IP stack, and the overhead found in an 802.11 network. It’s addressable over SPI and UART, making this an exceptionally easy choice for anyone wanting to build an Internet of Things thing; you can simply connect any microcontroller to this module and start pushing data up to the Internet. Oh, it’s also being sold for $5 in quantity one. Yes, for five dollars you can blink a LED from the Internet. That’s about half the price as the CC3000 itself, and a quarter of the price if you were to build a CC3000 breakout board.

There’s a catch, right, there’s always a catch. Yep. About two hours after this post is published it will be the number one English language Google result for “ESP8266.” As far as the English-speaking world is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to be found anywhere on the Internet on this module.

Seeed Studio recently sold a few of these modules for $7 and has some documentation, including a full datasheet and an AT command set. All the documentation is in Chinese. There’s also an “ESP8266 IoT SDK”, but from a quick glance at the code, this appears to be an SDK for the SOC on the module, not a simple way to connect the module to a microcontroller.

Anyone wanting to grab one of these modules can do so on Ali Express. Anyone wanting to do something with one of these modules will have a much more difficult time, most likely poking and prodding bits randomly with the help of Google translate. Should someone, or even a group of people, want to take up the task of creating a translation of the datasheet and possibly a library, we have a pretty collaborative project hosting site where you can do that. You may organize in the comments below; we’ll also be taking bets as to when a product using the ESP8266 will be found on Kickstarter. My guess is under a month.

EDIT: Here’s a translation of the datasheet and AT command set.

Edit two: [bafeigum] is writing a library go help him out.

Thanks [Liam] for the tip.

EVE radio breakout board for the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is an excellent tool to build the ‘Internet of things’ we’ve been hearing about, but there’s still the issue of connecting the Raspi to other devices. The EVE Alpha – a breakout board for several wireless radio modules for the Raspberry Pi – hopes to change that with their Kickstarter campaign.

The idea behind the EVE is to provide a link between low-power radio modules found in a few of the microcontroller projects we’ve seen and the Raspberry Pi. It does this by simply serving as a breakout board, taking the GPIO pins on the Raspi and connecting them to solder pads for a few of the many radio modules currently available.

Already the EVE supports the RFM12B wireless tranciever, a Z-Wave module, 868-915Mhz SRF modules, and has a breakout for an XBee module, allowing the EVE to communicate using one of the many different XBee boards. There’s also a battery-backed real-time clock and temperature sensor thrown in for good measure making this board the perfect building block for an outdoor weather station or solar array.

It’s an awesome idea, and if you already have a few radio modules, incredibly cheap; just the PCB is only £6, and a board with all the SMD components is only £20.