Dev Kit Weekly: u-blox's XPLR-IoT-1 Application Platform

September 16, 2022




Wireless networks are everywhere these days, so why not use them to connect from edge to cloud and also figure out where you are in the process? Whether you’re exploring short-range edge connectivity like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, cellular backhaul options, or both, you can now blend them with GNSS satellite positioning on a single evaluation kit – the u-blox XPLR-IoT-1 kit.

The u-blox XPLR-IoT-1 is an 8 cm x 14 cm x 3 cm fully integrated kit inside this plastic casing that houses four on-board modules to support each of the connectivity options I just mentioned: the NINA-W156 for 2.4GHz Wi-Fi; the NORA-B106 for Bluetooth Low Energy, Bluetooth Mesh, Bluetooth Direction Finding, Thread, ZigBee, and NFC, the SARA-R510S for LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular connectivity; and the MAX-M10S, which supports positioning via the GPS, BeiDou, Galileo, and GLONASS satellite navigation systems.

And each module of course includes a corresponding internal antenna.

Getting right to point, the MAX-M10S module’s broad GNSS constellation support provides location accuracy within 1.5 m even in difficult non-line-of-sight environments like urban canyons, which is possible thanks to u-blox’s Super Signal technology that improves signal reception quality and dynamic accuracy by combining high RF sensitivity and weak signal compensation techniques that deliver significantly more precise speed and positioning data than conventional GNSS.

You might think that level of accuracy requires battery-killing performance. If you thought that, you’ll be surprised to learn that the MAX-M10S inside the XPLR-IoT-1 kit consumes just 25 mW of power in continuous tracking mode to maximizing battery life in devices like asset trackers or the XPLR-IoT-1 itself, which, it so happens, is powered by a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery and can run for hours between charges even when transmitting every 10 seconds.

Now, depending on your application you may want to get that positioning data – or information from sensors like the XPLR-IoT-1’s integrated accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope or humidity, ambient light, temperature, or pressure sensors – connected to your device back to the cloud.

So IoT device developers can pipe edge data directly back to the data center, the XPLR-IoT-1 kit has a nano SIM slot and even includes an embedded SIM pre-configured to work with cellular networks in several countries around the world. This SIM also comes with 3-month trial accounts for u-blox’s MQTT Anywhere and MQTT Now services, which allows developers to connect directly to the company’s Thingstream cloud-based IoT service delivery platform using the MQTT-SN protocol.

The XPLR-IOT-1 kit’s pre-flashed application software, also available as source code, collects environmental data and positioning data from the aforementioned sensors and publishes it to the Thingstream platform, where a Data Flow Manager receives and processes the data. A Node-RED dashboard example – available on GitHub – serves as the default dataflow when you start your XPLR-IoT-1 kit to give you quick and simple data visualization.

Beyond that, an XPLR-IoT-1 Quick Start guide contains step-by-step instructions on how to configure the Thingstream platform based on your connectivity of choice, and a future update will also support provisioning through a mobile app and integration of the error correction services CellLocate and CloudLocate within the Thingstream platform.

And if you are looking to add your own application code to the kit, which we know you are, you can take advantage of the Nordic nRF Connect SDK, which is supported by the Nordic Semiconductor nRF5340 wireless SoC on the kit’s NORA-B1 module. The nRF Connect SDK provides drivers, libraries, and the Zephyr RTOS into a single environment that simplifies getting projects off the ground. In fact, everything you need to develop cellular applications is hosted on the nRF Connect SDK GitHub with the exception of LTE modem firmware, but you can access that from the nRF9160 SiP webpage.

Now that you know how to locate your devices and get them connected, the only thing left to do is get your hands on one of these kits. If you’d like to purchase your own, the XPLR-IoT-1 kit is available on Digi-Key for $349.00. But as always, you can enter the raffle below to win this kit for absolutely free, and we’ll even pay the shipping.

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Well, that’s it for this week. And we hope this kit gives you a better sense of where you are in your development. Thanks for watching, good luck in the raffle, and we’ll see you on the next episode of Dev Kit Weekly.