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This project is an entry in the Build a Smarter World MKR Fest.

The challenge is to build a practical and useful system based on an arduino  MKR 1300.

My plan is to build the MKR 1300 into a platform with a set of useful interfaces that allow it to be adapted to many applications.

The core interfaces will be:

  • a LoRa radio to enable low cost long range communications
  • a GPS receiver (with UART interface) to track the location of the system and provide an accurate time
  • a low-power SPI LCD to display graphics and text
  • an I2C Grove interface to connect any serial Grove module
  • 2 analog Grove interfaces to connect any analog Grove sensors
  • a digital Grove interface to connect any digital grove module

These interfaces and connectors will be implemented on a custom PCB that results in a clean compact system platform.

Application systems will be packaged in 3D printed cases tailored to accommodate the necessary features.

The first application, which is the subject of this project, will be a geo-locator system that can send GPS location data to a LoRa gateway.

This system will initially be used to explore the reach of the LoRa radio.

Some of the applications where I might use this geo-location capability include:

  • I generally don't have my cell phone turned on, so this may be used to show where I am or where my car is.
  • It could be used to show when I am getting close to arriving at home.
  • It can show how far away my ride is when someone is coming to pick me up after work, so I don't have to hover around the door.
  • It could be used to tell me to turn my cell phone on - take it out of airplane mode.

The range of the radio will dictate which applications can be useful or how useful they will be.

Part of this initial project will be to explore ways to maximize range of the radio.

Here is an unboxing video showing the kit supplied by element14. It also shows the design of the custom interconnect PCB designed for the platform:


Update 1

The interconnect PCB came back from the printer in 9 days so I put some connectors on it, connected an SPI LCD and wrote a little program to check out that it works properly. It is always fun when a PCB works properly


Update 2

This update adds GPS to the MKR platform. Right now I am just displaying latitude, longitude and altitude to test the GPS and display. The digits after the decimal point on latitude and longitude have been zeroed just for the video. In the final system both displays will show the distance between the modules, the elevation of both modules and the received signal strength of both modules. The information being transmitted bidirectionally via LoRa will be latitude, longitude, altitude, and received signal strength. This information will allow me to explore the range capabilities of LoRa and the factors that affect it.

The project is proceeding well. All add-on electronics are working under software control. Now it just a matter of getting the radios communicating and then packaging the modules prior to running some field tests.


Related links:

Join the Challengers: Build a Smarter World: Build an Arduino MKR WAN 1300 Project for an Arduino Engineering Kit!