RoadTest: TI Multi-Node IoT Bundle Roadtest
Evaluation Type: Independent Products
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?: null
What were the biggest problems encountered?: null
This TI Multi-Node IoT Bundle Roadtest had 3 main components :-
All 3 came well packaged from Element 14 in Chicago across the Atlantic to France in about 9 days after the dispatch email.
The individual packaging was simple, but well put together.
CC110L RF BoosterPack
I started by looking at the CC110L RF BoosterPack, as I'd hoped to use this as a RF link in a project. It became clear very quickly that whilst the modules were pin compatible with either of the LaunchPads, the getting started guide needed a totally different LaunchPad. Not wanting to fall at the first hurdle, I put it to one side and picked up the MSP-EXP430FR5969 LaunchPad.
Following the out-of-box Demo, I got the drivers from the TI site, having first registered, and being non-US based, filled in an on-line form to get me authorised, then a link to the download. The launchpad fired right up, and the demo worked.
I tinkered with the live temperature device for a bit, then followed the instructions for running the logger. The board has FRAM memory embedded into the microcontroller, giving it really low power use. The board has an 0.1mF capacitor on board, which you charge and leave it logging. I ran for 8.5 hours. I did this a few times. The microcontroller stopped logging when the battery got to 2.12V (started at 3.57V)
Next I got the CCS package installed and updated. There's a really nice feature called 'EnergyTrace' that allows you to see the how the energy is being used.
Now CCS is installed it's time to look at the CC3200 LaunchPad
Compared to the MSP-EXP430FR5969 LaunchPad, this is a really busy board. The top half is a PC programmer/debugger using a FTDI usb UART, plus accelerometer and temperature sensor. The bottom half a CC3200 and pcb antenna. A dizzying array of jumpers separate the two halves.
Following the getting started guide, the board is set up and software loaded and updated. There were a lot of steps to follow, jumpers to set, and it went well. I edited the requisite .h file to enter my wifi parameters, compiled, entered debug and voila, all working. The web pages served painfully slowly, which I put down to the debugger, so I disconnected it and rebooted. Dead. I then spent a frustrating, but informative, afternoon downloading code, etc, and understanding how code is built and loaded. That done, the original standalone demo loaded, and the pages served up as quickly as I expected. There are demos for the tempetature and accelerometer sensors using different types of display, using control from the board to web page and vice versa. The provisioning feature whereby you can setup the device as an access point which the user can connect to, then enter router settings etc, means this is ideally suited for consumer applications. The range of the AP was a good 40m, or about 10m more than my router - not bad for a pcb antenna.
The CC3200 user guide is equally well laid out with clear pictures and explanations.
Coming back to the RF BoosterPack, I set up the modules as stand-alone, as per the user guide. This involved soldering the provided chips in place, a LED, a switch & a couple of resistors and capacitors. Then I took the MSP-EXP430FR5969 launchpad, and removed the links for the programming and serial ports. I connected the on-board debugger serial and TST/RST lines between the lauchpad and the BoosterPack. This allowed the debugger to annunciate the serial and debug ports. A bit more tinkering and the Anaren GUI was working. A final bit of tinkering and pairing was achieved. I connected the untethered device to a battery and went off around the garden. Using the default ETSI (868MHz) & full power of 10dBm, a range of 20m was readily achieved from the PC, through a few walls to the garden. Given the tiny antenna and the adhoc connections this is pretty good.
The GUI was really tricky to get working sometimes. The manual does say you might need to reboot the PC because of com ports assignments. I've put this down to either Windows 10 driver issues, or more probably, my use of the wrong launchpad to access the M430G2553.
My intention is to use the RF link for a weather station. I'll need to re-program one end of the RF link to give me some ADC ports, and the other end I will plug directly into the CC3200 LaunchPad. Using the provided drivers, I should be able to get the data onto a web page. Watch this space!
It won't stop there. I've got a few things on my 'To do' list :-
I marked the roadtest down in 2 areas; 'demo was easy to use' & 'support materials were available'. I felt that whilst the demos were easy to use, I was left scratching my head a few times. Equally support materials were just fiddly to download with US authorisation required for each file. In all the other areas I felt the equipment and tools were very good. The launchpads seem very good value.
I've never used TI chips, having been very happy with an another manufacturer for over 15 years; it's a fear of the unknown, or a familiarity with the known. One of my reasons in applying for this roadtest was to force me to move my horizons and I'm really glad I did. My previous experienced did help to get through issues, as you tend to think 'well, I can do this on another platform, so where is that on TI gear?' The CC3200 in particular is a very integrated chip with tons of useful features; CCS is probably the easiest programming environment I've ever used. I think it's been put together in a really intuitive way, with features to make life easier for the user so they can really concentrate on getting the job done. A very powerful debugger built in too. Well done TI! And thank you to element14 for picking me to do the review.