Dev Kit Weekly: DigiKey Digi-International XBee 3 Cellular Smart Modem LTE-M/NB-IoT Development Kit

August 13, 2020 Perry Cohen

This week we’ll be giving away nine of the Digi-International XBee 3 Cellular Smart Modem LTE-M/NB-IoT Development Kit for free, thanks to our sponsor DigiKey.

Over the last couple of years, the 3GPP has been refining low-power, wide area networking technologies classified as LTE-M and NB-IoT. The specs are designed to connect low-power, resource-constrained IoT edge sensor nodes with varying network bandwidth, latency and quality of service requirements. For example, NB-IoT supports peak data rates of 250 Kbps, while the LTE-M specs start at 1 Mbps. LTE-M devices also support voice and mobility.

This week’s kit, the XBee 3 Cellular Smart Modem LTE-M/NB-IoT Development Kit, is designed around a wireless module that supports both. The XBee 3 Cellular LTE-M/NB-IoT modem is based on a u-blox SARA cellular chipset and AT&T Nano SIM, which are packed into a 24.38 mm x 32.94 mm form factor. And it supports a power-saving mode that reaches as low as 20 µA, with a deep sleep state that operates at just 10 µA.

The XBee 3 Cellular modem delivers uplink and downlink speeds of 62.5 kbps and 27.2 kbps, respectively, over NB-IoT networks and 375 kbps over LTE-M. They have a transmit power of 200 mW and transmit current of up to 500 mA. The modem supports cellular bands 1, 3, 5, 8, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, and 39. All of that multi-band support helped these little guys get certified for use by not just AT&T, but carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, Bell, and Telus in Europe and North America.

One thing that’s pretty interesting about the XBee 3 Cellular modems is that they support two antenna options. The first is U.FL cellular antennas, and the second is Bluetooth. Yes, the XBee 3 platforms include a dual-mode radio for easy configuration using the Digi XBee mobile app.

You could use the traditional “physical” means of accessing the module. It contains UART, SPI, I2C, and USB interfaces, which allow users to configure one of the module’s five supported operating modes – Transparent and API over serial, and PP over serial for LTE-M, and Transparent, API, and UDP for NB-IoT.

13 DIOs and four 10-bit ADC lines are also present on the board.

The XBee 3 cellular modules incorporate 512 Kilobytes of Flash and 64 Kilobytes of RAM, and speak the Micropython Programming Language which will be a relief to those who thought they would need serious C chops.

There are also a bunch of other tools from Digi that help users get up and running quickly, including the XCTU RF configuration application that includes a graphical network view and API frame builder; the Digi Remote Manager OTA that allows you to remotely update firmware running on the device; and Digi Trustfence, a device security framework that helps implement secure boot processes, protects hardware ports, establishes secure connections, and facilitates the authentication and identity management of devices running on a network.

You also get 6 free months of AT&T cellular service when you pick up one of these kits.

As far as the interface board that’s included with the kit - the XBIB-U-DEV. It’s a through-hole socket connecting board that has programming headers, an additional 20-pin header, a 6-20 V DC barrel plug, LED and RSSI indicators, USB port, user and reset buttons, and the like.

This is a great way to get acquainted with next-gen cellular, especially if you’re working on an industrial or commercial IoT application with nowhere to go after the 2G network shut-downs. Digi keeps coming out with new and improved XBee cellular products, so why not start here? What’s there to lose?

If you want one of these kits for yourself, you can buy one directly from DigiKey for $149.00, or, thanks to DigiKey, you can enter this week’s raffle and try to win one of nine Digi XBee 3 Cellular Smart Modem LTE-M/NB-IoT Development Kits for free. Both links can be found below or on the screen.

Good luck in this week’s raffle…thanks for watching…we’ll see you next week on Dev Kit Weekly. 

https://www.digikey.com/en/product-highlight/d/digi-intl/xbee3-cellular-embedded-modems

 

About the Author

Perry Cohen

Perry Cohen, associate editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content editing and creation in addition to podcast production. He also assists with the publication’s social media efforts which include strategic posting, follower engagement, and social media analysis. Before joining the ECD editorial team, Perry has been published on both local and national news platforms including KTAR.com (Phoenix), ArizonaSports.com (Phoenix), AZFamily.com, Cronkite News, and MLB/MiLB among others. Perry received a BA in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State university. He can be reached by email at perry.cohen@opensysmedia.com. Follow Perry’s work and ECD content on his twitter account @pcohen21.

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