At the end of the November 2018 Australian teleco Telstra announced they were partnering with open source hardware leader Arduino to bring next-generation networks and hardware to Australian developers and engineers. As part of the deal, Telstra will sell local developers the forthcoming MKR NB 1500 development board along with a M2M SIM card. The NB 1500 offers engineers the now-standard MKR form factor and access to the easy-to-use Arduino development environment powered by an ARM-based SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ 32-bit microcontroller. What separates the NB 1500 from the rest of the MKR family is the onboard Cat M1 and NB-IoT cellular technologies. From the press release announcing the joint venture:

“M1 & NB-IoT [are] designed for IoT sensors operating at very low data rates inside machines, vehicles, and inside buildings and are designed for a battery life of years rather than hours and days. Telstra has over three million square kilometers of Cat M1 coverage across Australia, and earlier this year we rolled out NB-IoT coverage in major Australian cities and many regional towns.”

The NB 1500 is intended for a global audience with support from AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Verizon, and Vodafone in addition to Telstra.

The announcement comes on the heels of the yet another commercially-focused product announcement by Arduino with the reveal of their Arduino Pro Gateway for LoRa. Initially, to be released in Europe, the LoRa Gateway is actually a Raspberry Pi 3B+ powered device. The LoRa gateway is intended to be paired with MKR WAN 1300 which is also a SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ powered development board. However, it swaps out the M1 and NB-IoT cellular hardware with a Murata CMWX1ZZABZ Lo-Ra module. Priced at €350 the product is aimed at product developers for inclusion in a variety of use cases such as automated meter reading, environmental monitoring, smart cities, building automation, industrial and agriculture to name a few. The LoRa gateway hardware is from Embit and based on the Semtech SX1301 baseband chipset. Listen Before Talk technology is enabled allowing the hardware to transmit at higher power and thus longer ranges are achievable. Installation, provisioning and remote management of the gateway will be performed through Arduino native online development environment known as Arduino Create. Lastly, Arduino announced that the network server and the packet forwarder running on Arduino Create will be powered by A2A SmartCity.

Both announcements follow the mass availability of two new industrial-focused shields for the MKR platform. The MKR 485 shield allows Arduino MKR dev boards to communicate to industrial equipment via the RS485 serial communication protocol. The MKR CAN shield allows MKR dev boards to talk to vehicles via the Controller Area Network (CAN) protocol. Put all together, these are signs that Arduino continues to set their sights beyond the hobbyist community with more professional grade hardware and services.

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Michael Parks, P.E. is the owner of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and technology consultancy located in Southern Maryland. He produces the Gears of Resistance podcast to help raise public awareness of technical and scientific matters. Michael is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland and holds a Master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University.