There are a lot of radio modules out there, but few of them allow you to customize the firmware inside. We started this project so we could have a radio module to use with our Arduino and other projects, but with the ability for anyone to customize the firmware for their own projects.
We added a RF power amplifier (PA) and low-noise amplifier (LNA) to extend the range of the radio module, much like the higher power versions of these closed-source modules, and adopted a popular module footprint and pinout so it can be made drop-in compatible (with further software development).
The prototypes currently both send and receive radio packets with each other and we've also tested them with an XBee-PRO, but it should work with any device that adheres to the 802.15.4 standard. There are lots of software features we want to add, and you can participate in firmware development as well. In the picture below you can see the module receiving packets -- the yellow LED on the left is the data receive signal.
Check out our updates for the latest range tests and other progress.
We have designed long-range wireless devices for a living, and have been doing so since 1995, and now work as independent consultants.
So far we have basic firmware running that can transmit and receive, but as an open-source project and with your help, we want to add an AT command set for configuration, an Arduino-compatible bootloader so anyone can make an application that runs on the module, and much more. The focus of this project, though, is getting FCC modular certification so we can all use the module. Follow our progress on Twitter @extrabee.
It will cost about $10,000 to get the FCC modular certification done, about $2,000 to get an IEEE address block registered and some other FCC fees, and a few thousand dollars to build test fixtures. The rest goes to building the rewards themselves for our backers (and covering the Kickstarter and Amazon fees). In small quantities, the modules will cost about $18 each to build and the interface boards about $12 each.
We're going to use a contract manufacturer to assemble the parts. We've used several different manufacturers on other projects, so this is familiar territory for us.
Zigbee is a registered trademark and this project and it's creators are not associated nor connected with the Zigbee alliance. XBee-PRO is a registered trademark and this project and it's creators are not associated nor connected with Digi International nor MaxStream. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Risks and challenges
There's a risk that the module won't pass the FCC modular certification test the first time and we'll have to make a new circuit board. This could delay the process and push back our delivery of the modules to you. We've designed radio modules before, including some very popular commercially available ones, so we have a very clear understanding of the process.
One of the restrictions that the FCC puts on FCC approvals is that the end user isn't allowed to change the firmware in the device. We plan to have the radio routines in a pre-built library to get this concept through, but we can't guarantee what the FCC will require, so we may have to adjust our strategy.
When building electronics, there is always a lead time when ordering components. Delays in parts delivery could slow us down, but wouldn't stop the project.
Assembled pair of radio modules with development interface boards. The interface boards will probably look different than the ones we used for testing in the video. Compare this to the cost of commercial high-powered modules with interface boards and you'll see it's a good deal.
Early Access Kit: 2 modules with interface boards before FCC approval is obtained so you can work on firmware with us sooner. Please only choose this option if you are serious about helping with firmware development.