u-blox releases platform to test and validate IoT solutions

2 mins read

u-blox, a provider of positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, has announced the XPLR-IOT-1 IoT explorer kit.

This all-in-one package has been developed to test, evaluate and validate IoT applications and integrates all relevant u-blox technologies and services into a prototyping platform with a wide selection of sensors and interfaces as well as cloud connectivity.

The increasing complexity of IoT devices, which often require satellite-based positioning, Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi, and cellular connectivity via, for example, LTE-M has been raising the importance of prototyping and validation before bringing ideas to production. This trend is driving demand for multifunctional application boards like the u-blox XPLR-IOT-1 over evaluation kits (EVKs), intended to comprehensively test a product’s entire feature set.

The XPLR-IOT-1 gives users everything they need to prototype low-power IoT use cases such as logistics container trackers, industrial automation, sensor-to-cloud applications, and fleet management solutions. The board’s u-blox NORA-B106 Bluetooth LE 5.2 radio module doubles as its main MCU, hosting the application software and controlling the other modules. These include a u-blox SARA-R510S for LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular connectivity with built in cloud security, as well as a u-blox NINA-W156 for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi.

The board also hosts an ultra-low-power MAX-M10S positioning module capable of concurrently tracking four global navigation satellite system (GNSS) constellations, delivering highly reliable location data wherever GNSS coverage is available.

The hardware is complemented by a broad selection of sensors commonly used in IoT applications, including accelerometers and gyroscopes, a magnetometer, and temperature, humidity, pressure, and ambient light sensors. A power-on switch, LEDs, and user buttons make it easy for users to interact with the device.

The NORA-B106’s Arm Cortex M33 MCU is solely dedicated to running the application software. Clocked at 128 MHz, with 1 MB of embedded flash and 512 kB of RAM, and 8 MB of external flash memory, it offers what’s described as a ‘solid foundation’ for the development of highly capable solutions. Integrated antennas for all featured technologies, a USB interface and USB charging, a Sparkfun Qwiic I2C connector, and a debug interface all contribute to a smooth product development experience.

Included with the kit is a trial of MQTT Anywhere, which delivers ultra-low power by communicating data between the device and the enterprise using the MQTT-SN (MQTT for sensor networks) protocol.

Tracking applications with the most stringent power requirements such as freight container trackers can realize four times longer battery life with u-blox’s positioning in cloud service, CloudLocate, while the CellLocate mobile-network-based location service extends tracking beyond the reach of GNSS signals.

Developers working with XPLR-IOT-1 can use code from u-blox’s ubxlib GitHub repository, a library of software examples for key use cases, to speed up the prototyping of solutions, which can range from wireless sensor networks to indoor and outdoor tracking solutions to industrial or smart building gateways. Because all hardware design files, software, smartphone app, and online dashboard source code are shared, the XPLR-IOT-1 can also serve as a starting point for commercial end-product design.

Once launched in June 2022, the XPLR-IOT-1 will initially be sold via Digi-Key.