This past week, I received a DHL package in the mail from RAKwireless containing the new WisBlock Premium Developer Kit. I was lucky enough to get selected to be a part of their beta program, and I’ve got to say, I really think that this is going to be a game changer. I wish I had this years ago when I was initially starting LoRaWAN end-node development. It would have shaved a ton of time off of the development process.
Simply put, WisBlock is a modular system to build out IoT sensor nodes (but it is so much more than that).
It is built around a common base board (WisBase) that allows you to plug-in a processing board (WisCore), an interface board (WisIO), and up to four sensor boards (WisSensor). The base board handles all of your power (LiPo charging/Solar) and has an integrated USB programming interface.
All of the modules use industrial rated connectors to “snap” together and are secured using (very tiny) screws to eliminate loosening due to factors such as vibration.
There is a range of sensors already available for WisBlock:
They have also released their Autodesk Eagle files so that you can easily design your own custom sensors.
RAKwireless WisBlock is open source. Not only the software, but the hardware as well.
All of this alone is very cool, but this next part is the kicker:
Once your design is complete and your firmware tested, you can have RAK Wireless do a production run for you!
So, if you build out a new custom design for a client/company and they decide they need 1,000 of them, you can simply go to RAKwireless and they will spin them up for you! Easy as that! No waiting on all of your parts to come in from different manufacturers or dealing with the assembly process. One call, and you can scale a prototype out to large-scale production.
On last week’s Helium Hacks Happy Hour, we had the RAKwireless team with us as I did an unboxing (well, a re-unboxing, I suppose, as I had to put everything back into the box first), and the community reaction was astounding! Several individuals and companies on the call stated that this would have saved them months of development time (and a lot of headaches).
What about getting this thing up on The People’s Network?
Well, RAKwireless has extensive documentation, and their Quick Start Guide walks you through the assembly process of getting everything connected with a simple temperature and humidity sensor connecting to a LoRaWAN network. They also have a wealth of example code for other implementations.
So, after going through the kit and familiarizing myself with all of the components, I followed the guide and assembled the WisBlock. I would heavily suggest lighted magnification for those module screws, and you will need a soldering iron for a couple of things such as the battery and standoff-headers (if you want to break those out), but otherwise, it is pretty much plug-and-play. You don’t need any of that for getting up and running on The People’s Network, however, as you can just power the board over the USB interface that you use to program it.
I went into Helium Console, created a new device, copied my keys over to the provided code, and voila!
(note here that unlike lmic, all keys should be in MSB format)
That’s all it took to get the WisBlock up and running on The People’s Network!
I will be writing some more articles on the WisBlock in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!