NXP Rapid IoT Prototyping Kit - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: NXP Rapid IoT Prototyping Kit

Author: crisdeodates

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: The product NXP Rapid IOT Prototyping Kit is a unique marvel on its own. It packs a ton of features such as an ARM-based powerful processor, multiple wireless connectivity options including NFC, IC security, integrated motion, and environment sensors, cloud connectivity etc. to name a few. Currently, there are no products that boast all these features in such a compact form factor.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: A couple of noticeable problems/issues were faced during the testing: 1. NXP IOT android app issues 2. Storage issues 3. Battery issues These issues and any other further issues that were faced will be explained in detail in the Detailed review part.

Detailed Review:

First of all, I would like to thank Element14 and it's crew for selecting me as an official Roadtester of NXP Rapid IOT Prototyping Kit. I had planned to put up this review a lot earlier. But due to the constant travel as part of my research and studies, I had to wait for more period. Nevertheless, I was able to complete a general review of this product with great help from my brother and was able to complete the same before the deadline.

 

To know more about this official Roadtest, please refer here.

 

Introduction:

 

When we got the product, we were pretty excited to play with it. Initially, we planned to test by integrating NXP Rapid IOT Prototyping Kit into one of our ongoing projects because this packed a couple of sensors and the connectivity that was required for that project. But due to a lot of hurdles that occurred in setting up the Rapid IOT Prototyping Kit and the time constraints of the project, we had to re-evaluate that decision as not to include it in the current project. Still, almost all the features of the product except NFC and Smart Security are tested in this review. We will be interfacing the Rapid IOT kit in another upcoming project that involves Arduino interfacings, IMU sensor data acquisition, and cloud connectivity. At a later stage, we plan to include those testing and results too in addition to this review.

 

The product came in very neat and safe packaging. Upon opening the box, we will be greeted with a quickstart guide which gives only a very basic idea about the product. To get detailed information, I would suggest first go to this link here. The box contained the following components:

  1. Rapid IOT Device
  2. Sim eject tool
  3. USB connectivity wire
  4. Quick start guide

 

On first look, the IOT device seemed to be very compact and lightweight.

 

Hardware:

 

Rapid IoT integrates 11 NXP devices in small form-factor hardware design.

 

  1. Kinetis® K64 MCU based on Arm® Cortex®-M4 Core
  2. Low-power connectivity with KW41Z Wireless MCU (BLE, Thread, Zigbee)
  3. Multiple sensors (Gyroscope, Acc/Mag., Barometer/Temp., Air Quality, Ambient light, and capacitive touch)
  4. NFC using NT3H2211 NFC Forum Type 2 Tag
  5. A secure element using A1006 Secure Authentication & anti-counterfeit IC
  6. Power management
  7. interface with Four hardware buttons

 

Software:

 

  1. Drivers
  2. RTOS
  3. Middleware
  4. Cloud Connect using IoT Cloud connect platform
  5. Web IDE with GUI based programming using Rapid IoT Studio IDE

 

 

 

Pre-requisites:

 

Along with the device, we need a couple more items to make it work. They are:

  1. Rapid IOT mobile application
  2. Rapid IOT Studio web IDE

 

Tip: Its advisable to install the standard Atmosphere mobile app and use Atmosphere IOT studio IDE along with the above as we may experience issues while using the NXP counterparts,

 

Starting Up:

 

For connecting the device with our app and cloud, we need to register and provision the device. The device was not detected with the firmware that was pre-loaded. Also, the battery of your Rapid IoT probably depletes very fast. So its advisable to operate the device by powering it externally via USB.

 

 

The LEDs will blink for a few seconds to confirm if the pre-programmed Bootloaders had been loaded successfully. In our case, the program did not load. So we had to flash the firmware again manually using the Rapid IOT web IDE. Once successfully loaded, the device will greet us with a home screen having the NXP logo, time and battery percentage.

 

 

There are 4 touch sensitive pads around the device that are placed on the top, bottom, left and right of the screen.

 

 

By using the switches and touchpads, we are be able to cycle through various options and settings of the device.

 

The major screens are given below.

The factory application menu is divided into four main categories: Application, Settings, Info, and Sensors. The Application section, you can access mini-Apps that provide the data from various sensors onboard the device. Settings section takes care of various states of connectivity, buzzer, and backlight. The Info section gives various device information and links in the form of a QR code to do download the mobile applications. Sensors section is used to activate or deactivate a particular sensor to enable power saving.

 

Note: Our device failed to startup at first attempt which we suspect was due to a firmware issue. So we had to flash the firmware again.

 

Programming:

 

Note: Flashing the firmware can only be done using a .bin file which has to be download after compiling our programme in the web IDE or via the mobile app using BLE. So for that purpose, especially for people having trouble to boot up the device at the start, is highly recommended to follow this step first before flashing the firmware into the device.

 

The device flow has to be created and compiled in the RAPID IOT studio IDE. Follow the link here to create and compile the application. You can choose the Example project Out of the box demo to test all the sensor values. After compiling the application, download it as a .bin file by choosing appropriate options as described below.

 

 

The compile and download buttons are depicted in red in the above Rapid IOT IDE screen. The IDE will download a .bin file into your computer.

 

Flashing the firmware:

 

Once the .bin binary file has been downloaded, the IOT device has to be put into bootloader mode. For that follow these steps:

 

  1. Connect the Rapid IoT to the computer via USB.
  2. Simultaneously hold the top-left and bottom-right side buttons for five seconds until the screen goes black. Continue holding the buttons while the screen goes black.
  3. The green LED will turn on and start blinking, indicating the device is now in programming mode. The side buttons can be released. While in programming mode, the Rapid IoT displays as a mass storage USB device on your computer.
  4. Locate the downloaded file on your computer, and move it into the Rapid IoT mass storage device. This initiates programming of the Rapid IoT, which is represented by a series of blinking lights on the device.
  5. When the lights stop blinking, programming is complete and the Rapid IoT is programmed with the project’s embedded firmware. The Rapid IoT will reboot itself and no longer display as a mass storage device, and upon startup, the project is loaded on the device.

Note: The project file previously downloaded gets erased from mass storage memory each time we initiate the bootloader mode.

 

Registering the device:

 

Note: From our experience, we found that the device can be registered only if there is a working firmware flashed into the device. With firmware installed, the Rapid IoT can now be recognized and connected to Atmosphere IDE or NXP IDE.

  1. Navigate to the Devices page, and click theRegister Devicebutton in the top-right to display the Register Devices window. When the window opens it will automatically begin scanning for available devices within range.
  2. Ensure your Rapid IoT is within the range from the device you are attempting to register from, otherwise, it may not appear.
  3. The list of available devices appears. Select the Rapid IoT you have programmed above and click Register.
  4. Once the device is successfully registered to Atmosphere, it will be displayed on our Devices page.

 

Now we will be displayed with the Rapid IOT sensor information on both our web IDE and the mobile application. You can refer here to compile your own Rapid IOT projects.

 

Issues faced:

 

  1. Rapid IOT app issues: Whenever we tried to connect the app with the device, it crashed. We checked with other mobile phones and the problem still existed in a few cases. The device was not discoverable in the Bluetooth list. Sometimes, the app doesn't come back to the device information page after login. Due to these issues, we used the Atmosphere app in those mobile phones and it worked flawlessly.
  2. Storage Issues: Whenever we flash a new firmware, the older bin file will be erased from the storage. So once we flash the file, we won't be able to take a copy of it from the Rapid IOT device. So I would suggest having a file backup of the firmware always in your laptop in case if you wish to revert to an earlier compiled version.
  3. Battery issues: The device itself is not battery friendly. Its recommended to power the device using USB while working and running.

 

Final Conclusion:

 

Even though we faced a lot of difficulty in setting up the device initially due to the poor and confusing documentation, the device itself is a marvel that can show its features apart in any IOT oriented project involving close connectivity. The advanced feature like the secure element is not used in all the cases, which may be a bit overwhelming at this point. Overall the feedback would have been a lot better if the documentation and the programming were not so tedious for those who are new to this device. Still, I intend to use this device more extensively in one of my upcoming IOT projects.

 

Roadtester: Cris Thomas

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