Avnet Silica launches NB-IoT Arduino shield for low power WAN connectivity

Avnet Silica has released a development board that delivers low‑power wide area (LPWA) connectivity that targets use in machine to machine (M2M) and IoT applications.

The Avnet Silica NB-IoT sensor shield is compatible with the Arduino UNO R3 connector layout and is a multi-mode connectivity board that supports both the LTE Cat M1 and NarrowBand-IoT (LTE Cat.NB) air interfaces.

The Avnet Silica NB-IoT Sensor Shield is based on the Quectel BG96 M1/NB-IoT modem, which is a low-power module that supports Cat M1 and Cat.NB1 with fall-back to E-GPRS (850/900/1800/1900MHz). The board also offers an embedded SIM connector and support for voice-over LTE (VoLTE) – in Cat M1 mode – which can be useful for specific health or security applications. It also provides an option for Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) based location services with support for signals from the GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou/Compass, Galileo and QZSS systems. Other features of the board include very low consumption of approximately 10A in power saving mode.

The LPWA LTE cellular-based standards can be used to connect IoT and M2M devices that have low-to-medium data rate requirements while keeping in mind the need to securely and reliably transfer small amounts of data on an infrequent basis.

The data transfer rate for Cat M1 is up to 1Mbit per second (full-duplex), while NB-IoT provides up to 100kbit per second. The technologies also enable significantly longer battery lifetimes – up to 10 years for many applications – when compared to standard cellular technologies such as 2G, 3G or 4G, says Avnet Silica. These IoT connectivity technologies can be deployed when used with devices in a range of applications, such as gas detectors or environmental sensors in the industrial or agricultural sectors, or in utility applications such as water or gas metering or in smart parking systems.

The board comes with an Arduino UNO R3 connector. Leveraging the ecosystem of compatible boards, Arduino connector compatibility provides a high level of flexibility for developers. It enables users to choose the microcontroller board that best fits their application, such as mixing the board with sensors and other peripheral boards, or building a project around the STM32 Nucleo-64 and X-Nucleo-IKS01A2 (X-Nucleo sensor boards) from STMicroelectronics, for example. The NB-IoT board also offers Pmod connectors for extended compatibility with a large range of additional boards.

The board supports all major operating systems including Android, Linux and Windows.

For embedded development, the board can be programmed through AT commands and it provides its own network stack, including SSL stack. Additional examples are provided for ARM mbed operating system for fast and easy integrated embedded development providing additional free network stacks like COAP and MQTT.


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