Monday, October 24, 2011

Latest Update on Nanode RF

Here at Nanode HQ, we have been busy working on some new prototype designs which will come to market in the next couple of months. We're very excided about these new products because they incorporate low power wireless connectivity - and more importantly are compatible with other open hardware devices - produced by some of our friends in the Open Hardware community. Soon we will have lots of low power wireless devices talking together - with a whole bunch of new applications. Here's an update on the first of our new offerings.

Nanode RF is the first of the new products in the Nanode series - and addresses the need for a bi-directional wireless link on the Nanode board. The London Olympics is not the only thing happening in 2012, Nanode RF hits the streets in the New Year.

Nanode RF retains the DIY kit construction technique, popularised in Nanode 5. This makes the project accessible to the likes of schools, colleges, makers and enthusiasts - in fact anyone who can do basic soldering. And being a kit, we continue our emphasis on learning through making, and make a product that can be modified, hacked or re-purposed - according to your needs.

Whilst other hardware suppliers are reducing costs by offering only surface mount products, we are sticking to our philosphy of having something you can build yourself - and repair yourself cheaply - if you happen to fry your microcontroller! That's not to say we refuse to work with surface mount parts - we just like to use them only where necessary - and leave the bulk of these first Nanode designs in traditional through hole components.

Nanode RF uses the RFM12B FSK transceiver module, which is readily available to the hobbyist market from companies such as Sparkfun, Maplin, Farnell etc - and used extensively by the open source design company JeeLabs. You can now incorporate Nanode into wireless sensor networks, and use it to convey your wireless sensor data up to the internet applications - such as Pachube. We are fully compatible with JeeNodes - so with Nanode RF you can incorporate internet connectivity into your existing JeeNode application.

Nanode RF has been developed together with Open Energy Monitor and Wicked Device. OEM have incorporated Nanode RF into their open source emonTx/emonCMS open Energy monitoring system.

When we first started using the RFM12B modules on Nanode 5 for the emonTx basestation, we were fitting them into an expansion connector - using the JeeLabs RFM12B breakout board. This was OK for a few dozen- but it soon became clear that we had to integrate the wireless transceiver module onto the Nanode board. Nanode RF integrates this RF transceiver functionality and adds greater functionality to sensor networks.

Nanode RF is going to be accompanied in a couple of weeks by it's own smart wireless node - Wi-Node. Nanode RF can act as the web connected basestation, commanding and monitoring a network of Wi-Nodes.

At the same time, we took the opportunity to add a few bells and whistles - not all of which need to be fitted for some applications. The idea is that the user can build the basic kit - which only has six more component parts than the standard Nanode, and then add the more complex parts - only if they are needed.

In this way we keep the cost of the basic kit down to below £30 - so you are not paying for functionality you might never use. The cost of the entry level Nanode RF is pitched to be the same as a regular Nanode, plus the cost of the wireless module - if you had to go out and source one yourself.

The extra functions also use up more I/O lines - so if you need the I/O you might have to skip some of the options.

The board has provision for the following options - and we are evaluating these over the next few weeks.

1. Real Time Clock, Alarm and Calendar - uses the Microchip MCP79410 series IC. Has 64 bytes of battery backer RAM and a unique MAC address (79411/12 only). As well as providing real time - this IC can be programmed to wake the Nanode from sleep at regular intervals or at given times. The MCP79410 plus 32kHz crysal can be found at Farnell for 94p plus VAT.

2. Micro SD card socket. Ideal for application where you want to permanently log a lot of data, or you want to serve web pages. You could use the micro SD with a datalogging application such as OpenLog. You can also use the micro SD to hold your Bitlash scripts. The socket is a little fiddly to solder - but a lot easier if you take its metal can off first - see below. Socket is available from Cool Components in the UK for £2.54 +VAT

3. 32K x 8 SRAM. This has now been given it's own 8 pin DIL socket. It's used for bootloading new sketches into the Nanode from the web. Find it at Farnell for £1.23 plus VAT.

4. We are also producing a new low cost programming cable for Nanode. Samples will soon be arriving from China - see photo below. It's likely that we will bundle this cable in with all new Nanode kits at a bargain price, where the customer requests it.

A Minimum Build - The Versatile PCB allows you to add just what you need - In this case just the ATmega328 plus the RFM12B module - for effectively a wireless connected Arduino.

If you just want a wireless sensor board or real-time wireless datalogger, with the familiar Arduino shield connectors - you might consider building up a Nanode RF - but without the ethernet controller and magjack. This combination will be available as an option for around £20.
Here we've added the NuElectronics Nokia 3310 LCD shield to a minimum build Nanode RF - effectively giving a wireless LCD.

Like the current Nanode product - we offer a discount for volume purchases - especially for schools and other educational establishments.

Here are some of the latest photos of Nanode RF.

The RFM12B wireless module and mini USB connector have been fitted.

Here's the microSD socket. This is not easy to solder - unless you take the metal can off carefully first, solder the contacts, then replace the can and solder it in place.
The general view of the underside - still have to add the MCP79410 Real Time Clock and 32.768KHz crystal.
Close-up of the RFM12 module in place - with the antenna soldered .

Here's the general topside view of Nanode RF.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing guys.

- PLEASE post a few easy sentences saying what exactly an RF aduino is (I cannot follow all that tech writing in an easy gulp)
I def want one even though I am not entirely sure wot it is. :)