Hologram.io Offers Developers Free Cell Data

If you’ve been thinking of adding cellular connectivity to a build, here’s a way to try out a new service for free. Hologram.io has just announced a Developer Plan that will give you 1 megabyte of cellular data per month. The company also offers hardware to use with the SIM, but they bill themselves as hardware agnostic. Hologram is about providing a SIM card and the API necessary to use it with the hardware of your choice: any 2G, 3G, 4G, or LTE devices will work with the service.

At 1 MB/month it’s obvious that this is aimed at the burgeoning ranks of Internet of Things developers. If you’re sipping data from a sensor and phoning it home, this will connect you in 200 countries over about 600 networks. We tried to nail them down on exactly which networks but they didn’t take the bait. Apparently any major network in the US should be available through the plan. And they’ve assured us that since this program is aimed at developers, they’re more than happy to field your questions as to which areas you will have service for your specific application.

The catch? The first taste is always free. For additional SIM cards, you’ll have to pay their normal rates. But it’s hard to argue with one free megabyte of cell data every month.

Hologram originally started with a successful Kickstarter campaign under the name Konekt Dash but has since been rebranded while sticking to their cellular-connectivity mission. We always like getting free stuff — like the developer program announced today — but it’s also interesting to see that Hologram is keeping up with the times and has LTE networks available in their service, for which you’ll need an LTE radio of course.

Particle Electron – The Solution To Cellular Things

Just over a year ago, Particle (formerly Spark), makers of the very popular Core and Particle Photon WiFi development kits, released the first juicy tidbits for a very interesting piece of hardware. It was the Electron, a cheap, all-in-one cellular development kit with an even more interesting data plan. Particle would offer their own cellular service, allowing their tiny board to send or receive 1 Megabyte for $3.00 a month, without any contracts.

Thousands of people found this an interesting proposition and the Electron crowdfunding campaign took off like a rocket. Now, after a year of development and manufacturing, these tiny cellular boards are finally shipping out to backers and today the Electron officially launches.

Particle was kind enough to provide Hackaday with an Electron kit for a review. The short version of this review is the Electron is a great development platform, but Particle pulled off a small revolution in cellular communications and the Internet of Things

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Raspberry Pi GSM Hat

The Spark Electron was released a few days ago, giving anyone with the Arduino IDE the ability to send data out over a GSM network. Of course, the Electron is just a GSM module tied to a microcontroller, and you can do the same thing with a Pi, some components, and a bit of wire.

The build is fairly basic – just an Adafruit Fona, a 2000 mah LiPo battery, a charge controller, and a fancy Hackaday Perma-Proto Hat, although a piece of perf board would work just as well in the case of the perma-proto board. Connections were as simple as power, ground, TX and RX. With a few libraries, you can access a Pi over the Internet anywhere that has cell service, or send data from the Pi without a WiFi connection.

If you decide to replicate this project, be aware you have an option of soldering the Fona module right side up or upside down. The former gives you pretty blinking LEDs, while the latter allows you to access the SIM. Tough choices, indeed.

Hackaday Links: December 14, 2014


The Progressive Snapshot is a small device that plugs into the ODB-II port on your car, figures out how terrible of a driver you are, and sends that data to Progressive servers so a discount (or increase) can be applied to your car insurance policy. [Jared] wondered what was inside this little device, so he did a teardown. There’s an Atmel ARM in there along with a SIM card. Anyone else want to have a go at reverse engineering this thing from a few pictures?

[Alex]’s dad received a special gift for his company’s 50th anniversary – a Zippo Ziplight. Basically, its a flashlight stuffed into the metal Zippo lighter we all know and love. The problem is, it’s battery-powered, and Zippo doesn’t make them any more. It also uses AAAA batteries. Yes, four As. No problem, because you can take apart a 9V and get six of them.

‘Tis the season to decorate things, I guess, and here’s a Hackaday snowflake. That’s from [Benjamin Gray], someone who really knows his way around a laser cutter.

HHaviing trouble wiith a debounce ciircut? HHer’s a calculator for just thhat problem. Put iin the logiic hhiigh voltage level, the bounce tiime, and the fiinal voltage, and you get the capaciitor value and resiistor value.

A harmonograph is a device that puts a pen on a pendulum, drawing out complex curves that even a spirograph would find impressive. [Matt] wanted to make some harmonographs, but a CNC and a printing press got in the way. He’s actually making some interesting prints that would be difficult if not impossible to make with a traditional harmonograph – [Matt] can control the depth and width of the cut, making for some interesting patterns.

The Mooltipass, the Developed On Hackaday offline password keeper, has had an interesting crowdfunding campaign and now it’s completely funded. The person who tipped it over was [Shad Van Den Hul]. Go him. There’s still two days left in the campaign, so now’s the time if you want one.

Adding a SIM card to the Photon Q 4G LTE

[Charles] is a big fan of phones that have physical keyboards. He thinks they are better suited for writing lengthy emails, but unfortunately his HTC Desire Z was getting old so he had to replace it. [Charles] therefore decided to import the Motorola Photon Q from the USA which exposed one major problem. The Verizon phone uses CDMA so there is nowhere to put a GSM SIM. But a bit of hacking allowed him to add a SIM card slot to it. Even though he’s not the one who originally found this hack (XDA thread here), his write-up is definitely an interesting read. To perform this modification, he needed a hot air reflow station, a soldering iron, a Dremel with the appropriate cutting wheel and several SIM card slot assemblies from the Galaxy S3 (as the first ones usually get burned during the disassembly process).

Obviously the first steps involved opening the phone, which may have taken a while. Using hot air, [Charles] removed the EMI shield covering the SIM card IC . He then extracted the latter using the same technique. Finally, he removed another EMI shield covering the contacts to which the SIM card slot should be connected. A few minutes/hours of delicate soldering and case modding later, [Charles] could use his SIM card on his brand new phone.

Viper flight simulator (a la Battlestar Galactica) finished

Here’s a story about some guys who set out to build a flight simulator for the Viper from Battlestar Galactica. The goal is to bring a grand project to the Maker Faire. This is a recurring challenge for the group, which has participated over the last several years. But this year they decided to go big and mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign to help with the cost.

The best place to get the build details is their progress updates page. Each week the cadre of teenagers tried to post some info about their progress, and we’ve got a big grin on our faces after reading through them. The simulator aims to provide you with as much of a space flight experience possible given the restraints which gravity imposes. The cockpit can roll and pitch a full 360 degrees in each direction. Of course safety is a concern and they were careful with their frame design and pilot restraint system. But so much more goes into this than just the physical build. There’s sound, lighting, and the virtual simulator, all of which have been complete at an impressive quality level. There’s a ton of video posted and we’ve embedded one short clip after the break showing off the cockpit’s dashboard.

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Hackaday links: June 20, 2010

Nixie Voltmeter Clock

[Gmglickman] built a clock out of an old digital voltmeter. The Fluke 8300A came out in 1969 and is featured in their 60 years of innovation slideshow. What makes it a cool clock? The Voltmeter’s display is made up of Nixie tubes.

Easy optical encoder wheel generator

If you need to print out encoder wheels for your project there is an online tool you can use. It has almost any setting you would want to make a rotary encoder wheel.The black wheel can be used with old mouse parts and the checkered wheel with an optical sensor. [Thanks Bluewraith]

New CD without the CD

1-bit Symphony is a newly released album. It come in a CD jewel case but there’s no CD included. That’s because they’ve built a circuit to playback their music via a headphone jack. We didn’t see any info on what microcontroller was used, but we love the cleanliness of the design. This apparently isn’t the first time the artist has released an album like this either.[Thanks Juan]

Making a standard SIM work with the iPad

[Tony Million] used a standard SIM to reduce the monthly cost of using broadband on the iPad. This is the exact opposite of using the iPad SIM in an iPhone and requires that you cut down your standard SIM quite a lot. [Tony] did this because he imported his iPad to the UK from the United States and using AT&T wasn’t an option for him. [Thanks David]

16TB NAS is a thing of beauty

The Black Dwarf is a sixteen terabyte network attached storage device that looks more like a display counter for high-end hard drives. We’d usually think of this as a closet or basement dweller, but an item this gorgeously crafted deserves a place of honor in your home or office. Documenting the entire process was as complex as the build itself. We like seeing the time-lapse version. [Thanks Howard via Engadget]