Arduino Shield Includes Everything But The Kitchen Sink


The crew at Cooking Hacks in Zaragoza wrote in to share a new shield they developed for the Arduino platform. There are a hundred different shields out there that do this and that, but we think their 3G/GPRS shield looks pretty slick.

The base shield contains a WCDMA and HSPA compatible 3G modem as well as a GPS receiver. The modem can be used with an Arduino, or plugged directly into a computer via USB, allowing it to be used any way you like it. The more advanced kit offered by the Cooking Hacks crew features a VGA video camera, as well as an audio kit that can both play and record audio.

One neat feature they were quick to point out is that not all network communications need to be handled by the Arduino. Simple transactions (HTTP/FTP/POP3/SMTP) can all be carried out by sending standard AT commands to the modem.

Now, the kits don’t come cheap, but we can’t help but be interested in seeing what applications people dream up with this shield at the helm. Cooking Hacks is a division of Libelium Communcations, but as they are the company’s “Open Hardware Division” there are schematics available should you be interested in rolling your own 3G modem instead.

18 thoughts on “Arduino Shield Includes Everything But The Kitchen Sink

  1. I’ve been a computer & printer tech for many years now, and as I get into hacking more and more I can usually understand most things but this has me a bit perplexed.

    I have not come across the term “shield” in this context before.

    Would someone be kind enough to prvide a definition as the term applies to hacking?

    Budding Hacker

    1. It has an Arduino so people can say “look at my Arduino-powered [insert whatever here]”.

      I think at some point people should start realising when it is that they’ve left the realm of “Arduino-controlled-things” and have instead entered the realm of “Things-that-happen-to-have-an-Arduino-attached”

      Eventually someone’s going to make a shield that contains a small x86 computer on it, and call it an Arduino-controlled computer (I mean, the Arduino can send serial commands to the computer, right?)

  2. Relatedly, I’m doing a work project based on Sierra Wireless modules; these do GSM, GPRS etc, but are also themselves programmable. So you don’t need an external microcontroller. The programming environment is clunky, though, and you *have* to make everything event driven.

    1. Seriously. I designed a prototyped an out patient medical device that that was to log into a server and post data. Things started promisingly enough but became difficult quickly as I stayed up late at night learning the particulars of the AT command set and how to use the TCP/IP stack. Regardless of how “smart” a GSM/GPRS modem is you will not be spared the pain of learning every detail.

      Unless you wish to only send and receive SMS be prepared for some headaches. A far more flexible option is implementing your project with an Android smart phone. However the comment thread for the Spakfun cellular shield contains useful links to projects with helpful code.

      Lastly; you will probably need to figure out how to login to the network with a username and ID which isn’t always public information.

      – Robot

  3. A cheaper option for most people would be a $15 bluetooth module (twice that if you want a shield) and an old Android phone (most people would have one of these lying around, failing which there’s no reason they couldn’t use their current phone). After that it’s a fairly simple matter to simply route the calls over BT in software.

    Alternatively, you could always use a IOIO ($50) and do everything in the phone, which works out cheaper but requires a wired connection.

    People really need to look at using old phones for stuff like this more often. A cheap smartphone contains BT, Wifi, 3G, decent multimedia support, a touch screen and a fairly powerful processor for less than a tenth of the cost of all those components. Hell, you could buy a cheap Chinese one new for half the price of that shield. Android is easy enough to develop for, and even has an open kernel if you want to do more interesting things (though do note that almost none of the cheap Chinese ones are GPL compliant.)
    It’s the same deal with tablets – they’re much cheaper for certain projects than equivalent components.

    Stuff like this is nice if you want to lower the barrier to entry (which is admittedly the point of the Arduino platfom), but I think we could really benefit from fostering the hacking spirit a bit more.

  4. Finally a hackable WWAN device with 3G… Those kind of things never previously came with 3G compatibility, which was bad for me living in Japan. Can’t wait to see it passes the regulatory requirements in my country :)

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