About this project
Our Kickstarter campaign has ended, but you can still order your own Electron at https://store.spark.io/
The Electron is a tiny development kit for creating cellular-connected electronics projects and products. It comes with a SIM card and an affordable data plan for low-bandwidth things. Plus it's available for more than 100 countries worldwide!
Imagine a cellular-connected Arduino, but with a more powerful processor and a SIM card. It also comes with Spark's development tools and cloud platform for managing and interacting with your new connected hardware.
Stretch Goals: Free Months of Data!
Cellular and free don’t usually go together, but we’re making an exception for our backers. We've passed $400K, so we'll give you 2 free months of our 1MB data plan for every Electron purchased during the Kickstarter campaign!
Cellular is hard.
You've probably heard of the Internet of Things. In the cellular world, it's called M2M (Machine to Machine).
The M2M world was set up for the types of companies that make industrial products like shipping containers, vending machines, and ATMs. These old-school industries still have old-school practices. If you want to get some M2M SIM cards, you've got to get on the phone with somebody. You need an account manager, you've got to sign a bunch of paperwork, and it'll be months before you even see a price sheet. The industry is set up for big, established companies that already know how to navigate telcos, not for individuals. And if you're not in the club already, it's hard to gain entrance.
M2M feels like it's ripe for disruption; we want to make it a lot easier for people to create cellular-connected products.
The Hardware: a tiny 2G/3G dev kit
The Electron is a tiny cellular development kit. It's a circuit board about the size of your thumb* that fits in a breadboard and consists of a microcontroller, a cellular modem, and a bunch of other useful stuff**.
It works like an Arduino. It runs a single application, which you can write using Wiring (Arduino's programming language) or C/C++, or ARM assembly, or whatever. It's open source, it's easy, and it's fun.
Plus, the Electron plays well with the rest of the Spark family. It'll be a bit longer than the Photon or Core due to the size of the cellular module, but we've designed it in a way that allows it to be backwards compatible with our existing shields.
Like specs? Here are some:
- STM32F205 ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller
- 1MB Flash, 128K RAM
- Cellular modem: U-Blox SARA U-series (3G) or G-series (2G)
- 36 pins total: 28 GPIOs (D0-D13, A0-A13), plus TX/RX, 2 GNDs, VIN, VBAT, WKP, 3V3, RST
- Board dimensions: 2.0" x 0.8" x 0.3" (0.5" including headers)
* Unless you have crazy weird huge thumbs.
** Voltage regulator, buttons, LED, antenna, SIM card slot, crystal, resistors, capacitors, inductors.
Our SIM card: Worldwide!
Included with the Electron will be a SIM card. Whose logo is on the SIM? Ours.
We’re becoming a carrier. We'll provide SIM cards and manage the cellular connectivity completely via your Spark account, giving you the power to control your account with no contracts.
We’re working with Telefonica, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, to support our global mobile network for cellular-connected hardware. Our network will provide coverage in more than 100 countries through carriers like Telefonica, AT&T, T-Mobile, O2, Movistar, Vivo, Telenor, Rogers, and many more.
For a full list of the countries we'll support during this initial run please check out the massive list at the end of the campaign.
A note about 2G and 3G: Some U.S. carriers are planning to sunset their 2G networks beginning in 2017. Therefore we recommend the Electron 3G for our backers in the U.S., while the rest of the world can expect 2G to keep working for the foreseeable future. If you're having trouble deciding between 2G and 3G check out our FAQs for more information.
The data plan: Cheap. And no contracts.
You don't need 4GB of data for a connected product, and you also don't need to spend $40/mo. We've negotiated global low-cost data plans for low-bandwidth products.
Here's the story for most of you (U.S., Canada, Europe, most of Latin America, a few others):
- $2.99/month for 1MB (approx. 20,000 messages per month)
- $0.99/each additional MB
- No Contracts
Now, pricing varies a bit by country. Here's a rough outline:
1 MB doesn't sound like a lot, but our messages tend to be 50 bytes or less, so you should be able to send and receive 20,000 messages per month (a bit less than once every two minutes) under our basic 1MB plan.
Also, our data plan has no contract; deactivate your devices at any time from our website.
Awesome developer tools
We make developer tools. We built some great software around the Spark Core and Photon, our first two development kits, and all of that same software is available with the Electron. Here's some of what you'll get:
- Arduino-like development: Ever played with an Arduino? You'll feel right at home. Spark uses Wiring, the same code framework as Arduino.
- Tinker: Prototyping without code: Not a code ninja? Use Tinker to control your Electron from a smartphone. No code required!
- Over-the-air firmware updates: Reprogram your Electron wirelessly, and never worry about cables again.
- Web IDE and Spark Dev: Write code in our Web IDE, or download Spark Dev, our professional IDE based on Github's open source Atom project.
- Open source software and hardware: Spark's developer tools are open source, hackable, and extensible. We use open standards like HTTP, AES, RSA, and CoAP.
Backwards compatibility: The Electron is just like the Spark Core and the Photon, except it’s got a cellular module instead of a Wi-Fi module. That means we've designed it to be user-friendly and easy to jump into whether you're an experienced embedded programmer, web designer or just a weekend hacker. The Electron runs the same code as our other boards and uses the same development tools and cloud back-end. It’s a tad bigger, but it’ll still fit on a mini-breadboard. If you’ve ever used an Arduino or heard of a REST API, you’ll feel right at home.
Cool stuff you can (and should) build
Access to easy to use but powerful tools means you can create all sorts of things with the Electron:
An Amazing Community
We pride ourselves in having one of the best communities out there. Visit our forums to get help from some of the most talented (and patient) folks out there, or check out our projects page for some project inspiration.
We are endlessly proud of our community of users, and we wouldn't be where we are today without them. Being an open source project and active community means we're always listening and open to input and ideas. There is a strong (and growing!) community of more than 25,000 users to help you through your project.
Hold up. Weren't you on Kickstarter already?
Excellent question friend. We were. And we're back for a good reason. What we're trying to do with cellular is going to be disruptive to a rather large, well-funded and established industry. We want to demonstrate that there is a community desire and need for a better solution for creating cellular-connected things. The best way to disrupt an industry is to raise a rumpus, and we think that Kickstarter is the perfect venue to do just that.
Help us spread the word via social media:
Details: The Rewards
A few more details about the Sensor Kit, Solar Kit and Asset Tracker:
Sensor Kit: The Sensor Kit will fulfill your dreams! Crush your enemies! Revive the dead! It's also a collection of our favorite sensors for remote applications like temperature, motion, distance, sound, and air quality.
Asset Tracker: Use this combination of shield and Electron to monitor the location of anything! Cars, boxes, pets, livestock... whatever you dream up. The Asset Tracker will come with a GPS module, a battery for power and a project enclosure.
Solar Kit: Power from the heavens! This shiny new kit will keep your projects alive way off the grid. It includes a 6-watt monocrystalline solar panel, LiPo battery, a shield to handle charging with a prototyping area, and an enclosure to hold the electronics. Oh, and an Electron of course.
Meet the Team
Since the Core campaign we've gone from 4 people to 24. We have an incredible global team made up of engineers and people who love engineers. Time to list all of us in a row:
- Zach "Salt and Pepper" Supalla
- Zachary "The Doctor" Crockett
- Stephanie "All the things" Rich
- Will "Gandalf" Hart
- Satish "Rainmaker" Nair
- David "Cloudcloudcloud" Middlecamp
- Mohit "Mo'heat" Bhoite
- Faye "Sunshine" Liu
- Joe "F'in" Goggins
- Richard "and Morty" Whitney
- Christine "Yaas" Sunu
- Wilton "The Fixer" Chang
- Tavares "App Store" Ford
- Brett "BDub!" Walach
- Mat "Brewmaster" McGowan
- Dan "Clovis" Jamieson
- Jeff "Bilbo" Eiden
- Vivek "Sponge" Gupta
- Emily "Puntastic" Rose
- Ido "Zoltan" Kleinman
- Wojtek "Voytech" Siudzinski
- JT "Justin Timberlake" Zemp
- Kevin "Cakemaker" Monk
- Harrison "Submarine" Jones
Thanks to the people who have supported us through the trials and tribulations of starting our own company. There are too many to list, but here's a start: Paul Detjen of PCD Productions (Video), Joel Vaughan (design), Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours, our investors (Avidan, Mark, Cyril, Sean, Kanyi, Betsy, Justin, Jordan, David, John, Alex), our advisors (Jordan, Andy, bunnie), HAXLR8R, everyone on our forums (especially bko, david_s5, hypnopompia, jerrytron, kennethlimcp, moors7, peekay123, wgbartley!), our Spark Core Kickstarter backers, and our families, who we love quite a bit (and we're sorry for working all the time).
Global Pricing List by Country
Risks and challenges
Cellular is hard. Creating a cellular-connected product requires a combination of expertise in hardware, software, managing complex regulatory environments and negotiating telco contracts.
The world of cellular is complicated and we'll be releasing this amidst an evolving industry where bands may be added or phased out over time. We've done our research on the industry and believe we've made the choices that will ensure a wonderful experience for our backers, however there are factors over which we don't have control. That said, we've built a strong network within the industry and believe we are well placed to respond to changes as they arrive.
While we will soon be in a position to announce partnerships with mobile operators, we do believe there are risks to the timeline as we formalize these relationships. We will keep you informed of our progress and update you on any unforeseen challenges that arise.
Supply Chain Risk
We have an established supply chain and so we are confident that we will be able deliver on our rewards. However, you never know what may cause delays with manufacturing (component shortages, national holidays, etc), so while we may not be able to promise 100% accuracy on delivery dates, we promise complete transparency. We are confident that we'll be able to keep our backers informed and up-to-date on our progress.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Because these are low-bandwidth products, the speed of 3G won’t make much of a difference. The biggest issue to keep in mind is that the 2G network is going to be retired in the U.S. in 2017. Therefore if you have a project that you want to work for more than a year we recommend the Electron 3G in the U.S., whereas the Electron 2G is probably fine in Europe (for the foreseeable future at least).
We will ship you one of three versions of the Electron: the Electron 2G is quad-band and will work worldwide (where data coverage is available). The Electron 3G comes in two variants: N. America and the rest of the world. Each variant will work in the 3G band and fall back to 2G (when 3G is unavailable) on its respective continent. The 3G variants will only work in their respective market.
No! It will change in a positive way. And we want your feedback! Help us make it better!
We want to ship Electrons everywhere we can, but shipping’s expensive! Most Kickstarter campaigns try to get around this by classifying products as “gifts” and using unreliable shippers, which is cheap but leads to lost packages, customs issues, and unhappy customers. We’re using reliable shippers like USPS and DHL to make sure everybody gets their rewards, and we’re also pre-paying Value-Added Taxes (VAT) so you won’t have to pay anything extra to receive your rewards.
Sure! Just take out our SIM card and replace it with your own. Keep in mind that you will need to activate and manage your alternative SIM on your own.
The Electron will be FCC/CE/IC certified. We will also be pursuing PTCRB certification to reduce or eliminate the need for any further certification of your final products using the Electron. We are still researching PTCRB so our certification plans are not yet finalized, but our goal is to make it easy to build a product with the Electron at the lowest cost possible.
While the hardware will technically support both voice and text messages, the Electron will not be PTCRB certified for voice, and our SIM cards won’t support either voice or text messages. If you want to send text messages, we recommend using a web service like Twilio.
Great question, tricky answer! Battery life will depend primarily on how often you use the radio to transmit or receive information, as well as the capacity of the battery connected to the Electron. These transmit events use energy much more rapidly than when the Electron is configured into non-transmit or sleep modes, so battery life can vary dramatically. In general, though, the *estimated* current consumption of the Electron may be as low as 60-100uA in sleep-mode, and as high as 2A during burst 2G transmit events (~0.5ms) at maximum power, or 800mA continuous during 3G transmit/receive events at maximum power.