Funded! This project was successfully funded on September 19, 2013.

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A tiny Cellular development board that gives you Wireless Worldwide. That means internet to anything anywhere!


Ending Notes:

Thanks to everyone who believed in this project and helped in it's success!  In the future, check out our website to get details on this and other projects:

Also, a BIG thanks to all those in the media who helped us get where we are today!

And a few pieces of media in other languages (I hope they say good things)

Important Facts:

  • The CELLv1.0 uses a 2G+3G chipset, which means it will use 3G primarily worldwide and only fall back to 2G if 3G is unavailable.
  • Question: Why are 2G (GSM/GPRS) devices less expensive?  Answer: some 2G only systems are less, BUT, here's the backstory: We chose to provide both 2G and 3G because AT&T is dropping their 2G service in 2017 (TMobile coverage is much more limited than AT&T and the CDMA technology Verizon and Sprint use isn't prevalent elsewhere in the world).  With the CELLv1.0 you get the best of both worlds - 2G, which is the most prevalent worldwide technology, while still providing full cellular coverage in the US using 3G. So if you want a device that works across the world for decades to come, go with the CELLv1.0!
  • The CELLv1.0 is the smallest module on the market, the least expensive 2/3G device out there, and the easiest to use!

WHAT IS IT?

The CELLv1.0 is an easy-to-use cellular development kit.  Add it to your Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or any other project you have to instantly add wireless communications capable of operating anywhere in the world!

SUPER EASY TO USE!

Check out the Arduino and Raspberry Pi Shields to see just how easy it is to connect the CELLv1.0 to your Arduino and Raspberry Pi!

If you're not using a shield, all you need are 4 connections - RX, TX, GND, and Vref so you can use your 3.3V or 5V system.  Use the USB cable we supply for power and voilà!

THE ECOSYSTEM:

SparqEE helps you every step of the way with the CELLv1.0 to easily get your data from Your Device, through The Cloud, and back out to Your Smartphone or Computer!

Open Forum and Website for help, details, code, everything!

  • Easy, Open Source Hardware: Schematics, Layouts,
  • Easy, Open Source Software: Device, Server, Smartphone
  • Easy RESTful commands

SIM CARD:

In order to communicate over a cellular network, you'll also need a SIM card.  SIM cards aren't as painful as they used to be.  With the CELLv1.0 you can use any SIM, here are some suggestions:

  • Straight from your phone: For development, just take it out of your phone and pop it in

  • Pre-paid: You can purchase a prepaid SIM from any retailer - like Target and Wal-Mart

  • SparqEE: We've contracted with a worldwide SIM provider for this project, so SIMs from us are not only the lowest cost you'll find, but they work anywhere in the world (ex. the SIM we're using for our Keychain Tracker costs $3.62/month... not bad right?).  They'll be available through our website.

WHY THE CELLv1.0?

  • In the beginning... as we were working on one of our projects we realized we needed to add cellular

  • We looked for a dev board... turns out they're all really expensive, complicated, and not usable in final products because of their large size

  • We saw HUGE costs and difficulties... finding reasonably priced chips, choosing a company, picking a module, finding the right SIM, setting up a contracts, validating coverage, dealing with certifications, etc

In the end, we realized that we could minimize the pain for everybody and make cellular as ubiquitous in the development community as Bluetooth and WiFi, eliminating all difficulties!  We are providing a free server to communicate with and even open sourcing everything - the schematics, Eagle files, designs, software, breakouts, etc.

THE 2 PIECE DESIGN

The Cellular and Jumper parts snap together with a standard connector. The header pins on the jumper are used in your development and fit in a breadboard or using jumper wires.  The Cellular portion can be used alone on your final product too - all you need is the standard connectors (which we'll give you the specs, Eagle files, and part numbers for).

CELLULAR BOARD:

The Cellular Board is certified and has everything you need to pop it into your projects as a standalone module - a Cellular chip, power supply, and SIM holder

JUMPER BOARD: 

The Jumper Board makes everything a breeze for development - it includes level shifters for whatever voltage levels you're using (ex. 3.3V, 5V, or other)

REWARD LEVELS

In addition to getting the CELLv1.0 kit (Cellular and Jumper boards, antenna, USB cable), some reward levels allow you to pick your favorite breakout boards.  Simply pick any combination or quantity of your favorite boards and add up the "DEV POINTS" - the sum being indicated in the reward levels.

DEV POINT BREAKDOWN

Rather than designing breakout boards that stack, we decided to get you reusable boards for any future project, even when you're not using the CELLv1.0.

  • Breakout Board and Jumpers: 1st buy for an engineer, if you don't have them, here you go! - 830pt board + 80 wires (40m/m + 40f/f)

  • Power: 2nd buy for an engineer, you always need the standard voltage lines! - 3.3V and 5V lines, rated 3A each, Vin max 25V, power via jumper or the battery terminals

  • Relay: This little guy can switch pretty much anything you can throw at it - set up for 3.3V and 5V, rated 2A, 220VDC/250VAC

  • Accelerometer: This is my go-to accel with interrupts, low power, and everything - ADXL345, 0.1uA, setup for 3.3V and 5V

  • GPS: Standalone GPS with integrated antenna, a one stop shop!

  • Arduino Shield: Easily hook up your CELLv1.0 to an Arduino!

  • Raspberry Pi Shield: Easily hook up your CELLv1.0 to a Raspberry Pi!

FUN PROJECTS

ARDUINO ENABLED VEHICLE TRACKER to know exactly where your car is right from your smartphone.

RASPBERRY PI POWERED COMPANION device to interact with your dog while he's at the kennel.

SOME PROJECT IDEAS FOR YOU

Have you thought of what you're going to be doing with the CELLv1.0? Here's a couple of awesome project ideas you could crank out:

  • See the Country: A small, solar powered, RC helicopter that could fly across the US from the comfort of your desk. This one is my favorite!
  • Filming for Movies: How do you think Hollywood gets those awesome above-the-city shots - take this, an RC helicopter, a camera and bang! You're Hollywood!
  • Early Warning Systems: A lot of research these days is in remote sensor networks - use this to monitor bridge harmonics looking for evidence of issues, heat signatures in a forest looking for fires, or sea levels off the coast looking for floods/tsunamis
  • Car tracker and kill switch: Got a sweet car, or just a car? How about adding a tracker to it that could kill the engine on your command?
  • Remote help: Do you have a remote office, cabin, car, or storage container? How about remotely controlling the doors, power, A/C, etc... easy to do now.

We'd love to know what you're going to do with it - let us know in the comments, email (info@SparqEE.com), or on the community page at forum.sparqee.com!

THE TEAM

Here's the SparqEE team working on the CELLv1.0 and the community surrounding it!

  • Chris Higgins:  The CEO of SparqEE, LLC and came up with the idea for the CELLv1.0.  An engineer through and through... from welding up his first go-kart, through a career in the defense industry, and now SparqEE! Chris has run over a dozen projects through to completion and will also be taking care of the CELLv1.0.

  • Joe Silva:  Our CTO and general tech guru.  Want anything tech explained to you, ask Joe.  Pro SW/HW/FW/any-ware.  He likes tech, A LOT, maybe more than Chris... do you do anything else, Joe?

  • Ryan Loyd:  Can you guess, another engineer! Ryan helps us out with our 3D modeling for boards and housings and will also be helping with hardware and coding... when he's not playing with his kids or his cars at least.

  • Miguel Calles:  Our resident MIT grad with an MBA too. He's our business guy and figures out our financials.  He's doing a great job keeping us in the black!  Otherwise, he and his wife can be seen adopting lots and lots of animals.

  • Lyndell Higgins:  I think you can guess, Lyndell is our artist and designer.  She takes care of our themes, colors, layouts, and all things art not to mention our community.  She's about 1 inch away from that haircut again and is really excited (I guess you need 10 inches for "Locks of Love").

SPECS

GENERAL

  • Data (TCP/UDP)

  • SMS ready

  • Serial interface

  • USB 2.0 interface

  • Coverage: AT&T in US, 3G and GSM/GPRS Worldwide

TECHNICAL

  • Input Voltage: 3.7-5V (Jumper powered from included USB cable or header pins)

  • Current Required: <5mA standby, <75mA average working (w/o services), <500mA average working, max 2.3A

  • WCDMA/HSDPA 2100/1900/900MHz

  • 384Kbps, DL3.6Mbps HSDPA

  • GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz

  • Serial (UART, From Cellular Board is 1.8V, From Jumper board is any voltage (ex. 3.3V, 5V))

  • USB 2.0 interface (power, USART, and modem)

  • Windows, Linux, Android drivers available from ZTE

  • Weight: 

Both boards: 0.80oz, 22.68g
Bottom "jumper board": 0.30oz, 8.50g
Top "cellular board" w/ SIM: 0.50oz, 14.17g
Top "cellular board" w/o SIM: 0.40oz, 11.34oz

  • Size: 34x40x7mm

A GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE

WHAT SPARQEE IS DOING

Remember when I said you could integrate the top "cellular board" into a product?  I was serious.  Our next project is going to be an ultra small "Keychain Tracker" that is going to help working parents keep an eye on their kids.  We're going to have a main board and snap in the CELLv1.0. We made a quick 3-D printed mockup of the housing (using a 3-D printer from Kickstarter)!

2013 TIMELINE

We're right on schedule and will keep you up-to-date throughout!

  • MARCH: Cellular investigation started... yes it takes this long!

Working for the defense industry in our past jobs, we know quality.  We're very familiar with going through the R&D process and doing it right the first time!  In fact, Chris has run over a dozen R&D projects over the years, and delivered on every one.

  • APRIL: Investigation continues, deciding on modules and SIMs

After losing some sleep and a bit of hair, we landed on our cellular chip.  Here's the dev kit we used to get us going with the ZTE module!  Notice the UART to voltage shifter to RS232 converter - check!

  • MAY: Coding server side, Laying out boards, Testing

You can do wonders with Eagle PCB and 4PCB's fab deals! Here's our first run of the prototype boards combined together to save a bit on cost... just take a dremel to separate and you have 8 boards for the price of 1!

  • JUNE: Prototypes built, Servers running... Testing completed!

You'd be surprised what a tube of solder flux, some tweezers, and a hot plate can do!  All the boards up to this point were built with those three simple tools and work flawlessly!

  • AUGUST: Kickstarter campaign start!

It's finally here!

  • SEPTEMBER: Order boards, parts, T-Shirts, and other Kickstarter treats

Our boards and parts are top quality and always lead free!  We've ordered several batches from our fab house and are always impressed, and for the best parts there's DigiKey!

  • OCTOBER: Assembly Begins!

There is nothing more fulfilling than holding your baby for the first time... We're talking about our fully assembled boards of course.

No matter what the quantity, we work with awesome assembly houses that can execute any quantity we throw at them even tens of thousands of boards and within our time-frame!

  • NOVEMBER: Software, Website, and Community construction!

Forum: forum.SparqEE.com

Website: www.SparqEE.com/Projects/CELLv1-0

Although we've built websites from the ground up, now that standard MVC (like Codeigniter) and CMS (like Drupal) platforms are available, it's easy and straightforward to build beautiful and secure websites.  Check out SparqEE.com:

  • DECEMBER: Website up, Kits mailed, (You == happy) evaluates true. You give a SparqEE CELLv1.0 kit to your favorite relative for (in order of appearance) Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa... we don't discriminate ;)

Video music track provided by www.SoundJay.com

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

If we run into problems, we do what engineers do - we fix them.
---

Cellular is one of the most difficult technologies we've ever tackled, and we've faced some complicated situations. However, we've already thoroughly tested out all the rough spots.

Here's a little background on what we've done so far:

HARDWARE: On the HW side consider dealing with cellular manufacturers and modules, licensing, SIM cards, contracts, worldwide standards, and certifications. Here's what we did:
***Picked the best cost-effective module out there
***Secured a contract direct with the manufacturer
***Found the least expensive, worldwide SIM cards (if you need them)
***Working with the best PTCRB certification lab
***Comply with worldwide standards - you can use it everywhere, literally

SERVER SIDE: What about communication with the Cellular network?
***Free databases for you to use
***RESTful implementation you can use for free
***You don't need a hosting account or to code anything!

CLIENT SIDE: How do you get your data?
***Thorough examples for everything - Hardware to Server to Client!
***Client can be a smartphone, computer, server, tablet, or ANY internet enabled device

SUPPLY CHAIN: We've got everything set up from trusted sources we've used before (mfg, parts, boards, assembly, printing, shipping), all we need is your help to make this product a reality!

Overall, we're seasoned engineers who have vast experience across all aspects of this project and we're trying to break out on our own. Rest assured that you'll be getting your kits before the Holiday season!!!

So let's build something!

FAQ

  • I've been getting a lot of "why should I get the CELLv1.0" or "don't other devices already do this?" questions, so I thought I'd address them here too:

    1. AT&T is dropping 2G support by 2017. That's the main reason why we went with a 2/3G chipset. We support worldwide operations at 3G and fallback to 2G when necessary as 2G is the most universal technology.

    2. Ecosystem: Open-sourcing the code and hardware is great, but that's only the first step. We're opening up servers and open-sourcing their code too so you can easily have a complete solution with either ours or your own servers.

    3. Price: Our board is the least expensive on the market. 3G does cost a little more than 2G for the chipset, but if you want your product to work in the future, this is direction to go. Also, for production, you'll only need the "cellular board" and not the "jumper board," so that'll drop pricing even further.

    4. Size: The CELLv1.0 is tiny, the smallest 2/3G I've seen on the market and we did that on purpose. We want to create smaller products and thus needed a small cellular board!

    5. SIM: Another really important aspect are SIMs, but through this project we're working to make that just another simple checkbox. We're setting up a SIM offering for this project you can check out to see how you can now get a SIM for $3.62/month that works anywhere in the world (SparqEE.com/products/SparqSIM).

    This board might not be for everyone in every situation, but we put a lot of effort into making it something that most people will find really useful - any power level, worldwide operation, low cost, a complete ecosystem, SIM card support, a community, and so on - we hope you see the benefits too!

    Last updated:
  • On the Keychain Tracker project we're including a CMOS switch so that there is 0 power when you don't want to use the CELLv1.0 so it doesn't eat power. Even in sleep it sucks a bit of juice and for battery powered applications you need all the capacity you can get.

    Peak: < 2.3A
    Ave working current: < 500mA
    Average working current (w/o services): < 75mA
    Standby: < 5mA

    If anyone is interested in the CMOS switch let me know and I'll post up the specs and design files.

    Updates will be posted here too: http://www.forum.sparqee.com/viewtopic.php…

    Last updated:
  • This is the current information and things may move around on the final implementation, but should be relatively constant. The functionality will remain. We'll add pinouts but for now here's a quick list with more details explanations to come:

    ADC (input)
    GPS Ant (input)
    UART CTS
    UART RTS
    UART VREF
    UART RX
    UARD TX
    USB DP
    USB DM
    AP Ready
    Power On
    Pon Rst N
    Module Ready
    AP Wakeup Module
    Module Wakeup AP
    Module Poweron
    LED Green -status of modem/cell connection
    LED Blue - status of modem/cell connection
    LED Red - status of modem/cell connection
    Vin 3.7-5V
    Vout 3.5V
    Vout 1.8V
    GND

    Updates will be posted here too: http://www.forum.sparqee.com/viewtopic.php…

    Last updated:
  • So, Massimo, the godfather of Arduino politely let me know that the Arduino I own is a fake... FAIL!

    Always go to Digikey, Mouser, or other reputable shops - NOT EBAY! to buy your Arduino and RaspberryPi boards.

    If you think about it, if you buy fakes, people like Massimo, or myself, wont be able to produce things like the Arduino or the CELLv1.0 in the first place.

    I just went and bought a REAL Arduino. Thanks for the note Massimo!

    -Chris Higgins

    Last updated:
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