SimpleLink™ Sub-1 GHz Wireless Microcontroller - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: SimpleLink™ Sub-1 GHz Wireless Microcontroller

Author: vlasov01

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards

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?: N/A

What were the biggest problems encountered?: There are a lot of documentation on CC1310 (which is very good). But it is difficult to find a staring point for somebody not familiar with TI.SDKs. One of the key values of CC1310 is an excellent range with low power consumption. But it is difficult to perform range test with a built-in antenna.

Detailed Review:

RoadTest Review of Texas Instruments LAUNCHXL-CC1310 Evaluation Module

Thanks to element14 and Texas Instruments for selecting me as one of the RoadTesters for the LAUNCHXL-CC1310 Evaluation Module. I received two modules for the evaluation.This is my first RoadTest review.

 

Introduction

The module is addressing the key mobile challenges - long range and low power consumption, As result, it has significant potentials.

The module comes with extensive SDK. My main goal of the review is to assess a ramp-up effort for a software engineer with some experience with non-TI development boards to get started with CC1310.

 

Unboxing

The unit comes in a cardboard box.

There are some leaflets on the top.

Some information on packaging related to country of origin (China), production, HW and SW revisions.

  The EVM is fairly small and light and comes packed inside an ESD shielding bag. There is as well a USB cable.

The documentation is merely some disclaimers about the EVM and some generic links, not specific to EVM board.

The link https://dev.ti.com/launchxl-cc1310 needs to be entered in browser two times to get to the TI Resource Explorer page related to LAUNCHXL-CC1310 LaunchPad. It has a nice annotated image of the board.

This is a quite useful diagram.

The board itself feels of excellent build quality. It can be used with external antenna, but it is not included with the EVM.

USB connector and target MCU reset button. The XDS110 debugger is located in the upper part of the board. It can be used to debug other MCU as well in addition to CC1310.

Software install

The board itself is of good physical build quality, and the parts used seem reasonable.

I've followed TI Resource Explorer Tools page, then CC13xx software overview page. It has a lot of information. Following documentation I've started with SDK download from SIMPLELINK-CC13X0-SDK_1.00.00.13 | TI.com  . The size of the SDK download is more then 200MB. The installation process on SSD drive took around 5 minutes. I suspect it can be faster if antivirus gets disabled before the installation.

 

After exploring SDK folders I realized that SDK doesn't include IDE. So I've downloaded a Code Composer Studio (CCS) Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Wireless Connectivity from

Download CCS - Texas Instruments Wiki . The downloaded file was only 16MB.

I only selected components required for CC1310.

The download size now almost 500MB. CCS setup asked to disable antivirus.

The installation took around 10 minutes. At the end of installation it will launch CCS.

I've got some Windows Security Alerts. I've allowed requested access.

CCS is based on Eclipse. It was recommended to update it after install.

Project import and Build

Then I followed Quick Start Guide (QSG) - TI 15.4-Stack CC13x0 SimpleLink™ Embedded Example Applications , which I downloaded from http://www.ti.com/lit/ug/swru488b/swru488b.pdf It was easy for me to follow this guide.

First, I've imported an example projects from SDK installation. I've used a default setings and my folder was C:\ti\simplelink_cc13x0_sdk_1_00_00_13\examples\rtos\CC1310_LAUNCHXL\ti154stack .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After import I've got two projects: collector_cc1310lp and sensor_cc1310lp .

I verified settings as per QSG. No changes were required.

 

The first build took a couple of minutes and completed without errors.

Flashing Firmware

The next step was to start flash the app. I've connected the board to my PC and launched the debugger.

And got an error.

I tried to update firmware as per pop-up message.

The update failed too. I've got the following message and rebooted PC.

This time all worked well for the collector project.

Then I've build the sensor project.

I've disconnected the collector board and connected the sensor board. But the flashing of the firmware failed too. After connecting-disconnecting the board from USB connector it worked.

 

Testing Communication

Now I have two ready to communicate boards. I've disconnected the sensor board and connected collector board. I've looked for COM ports used by the board in Device Manager.

I've configured putty and connected to the board without any issues from two sessions (User UART and Data Port). I've used Button 2 (on right side) to switch on/off connection modes. Only UART port (COM5) sent some output.

Then I connected the sensor board and lookup its COM ports.

And opened connections to the sensor board both COM ports. After switching to permission mode on the collector, the sensor board was able to join the network.

The sensor board generated some output as well.

Then it started sending sensor data.

Communication Distance Test

The next step was to discover the working range. It is easy to know when communication get lost. The terminal on the collector will report that board is not responding by printing !Responding: 0x1

In addition, the sensor board will stop sending data and the green led will stop periodically flashing.

The first test was just from my backyard. I walked with the sensor board connected to a USB power pack till the end of the backyard, while collector was stationary connected to PC. It worked well. No disconnects were detected. The maximum range was close to 100 meters.

On the second test I drove ~1km from the collector board in a suburb environment. At this range the connection was lost. Once I got back, they automatically reconnected.

General Impressions

The board itself is of good physical build quality, and the parts used seem reasonable.

There are enormous amount of documentation for this board. But it may take some time to get familiar with it.

The software and examples are generally easy to use. The SDK will require C language knowledge.

Conclusions

The Texas Instruments LAUNCHXL-CC1310 Evaluation Module is a very promising from capabilities perspective.

It requires a deeper dive into the documentation to understand how to extend working range. Most likely the addition of an external antenna and configuring power settings will allow to reach promised 20km range. I wish an external antenna came with EVM.

 

it has the quality documentation for a firmware engineers. As a software engineer, this type of documentation is a bit different from what I used too.

 

I think that this, among other TI chips, is definitely one worth considering for your IoT projects, where a communication range and power consumption are important.

 

I thank element14 and Texas Instruments again for choosing me to perform this RoadTest review, and thank them for supporting the community.

 

Happy new year!

Anonymous
Parents Comment Children
  • Very nice reviews! Have you tried to extend the range with PCB antenna beyond 250m?

  • Sergey Vlasov wrote:

     

    ... Have you tried to extend the range with PCB antenna beyond 250m?

    I haven't yet. I'd like to test it together with sigfox network integration.

    I've applied for the accounts and codes with sigfox (  pinged me the process ) and ti. Let's see how that works out...

     

    , the power pins are on these positions as per LaunchPad layout standard. For the pcb antenna ones this is a little unfortunate.

  • How did you have to orientate the board in order to get the best range? Was the folded element pointing straight up? [I'm trying to guess based on my limited knowledge of rf.]

  • There are quite a complete TI note on PCB antenna with performance measurements at for 868 MHz / 2440 MHz.

    But visually it looks very similar to one on CC1310. And CC1310 PCB antenna has the same dimensions as described on page 4..

  • And in vertical position the range should be more then ~2 km vs. ~1 km in horizontal position with Tx conducted output power 14 dBm with no interference power level (at antenna port) and datarate (sensitivity level) set to Long Range - CC13xx  2.5 kbps (LRM) as per Excel sheet to estimate range for Indoor and Outdoor

    But if datarate (sensitivity level) set to 4Mbps with all other parameters without any change then range gets reduced to ~100m.

  • Sergey Vlasov wrote:

     

    And in vertical position the range should be more then ~2 km vs. ~1 km in horizontal position with Tx conducted output power 14 dBm with no interference power level (at antenna port) and datarate (sensitivity level) set to Long Range - CC13xx 2.5 kbps (LRM) as per Excel sheet to estimate range for Indoor and Outdoor

    But if datarate (sensitivity level) set to 4Mbps with all other parameters without any change then range gets reduced to ~100m.

    I did my test on 6xx bps LR, 14 dBM, antenna vertical. But in an environment with lots of heavy interference.

    It was intended as a real world test. And the results weren't very different from those of in a similar urban environment.

     

    I bet that if you do the measurements in ideal situations you get the same range as the datasheets. There are a few videos on youtube of people that beat those ranges. But they do that in nature (Norway and South-Africa's coastline), from hilltop to hilltop. That's a different setting than in a capital, with the most powerful antennas of the country in line of sight and the airport in hearing distance...

  • Hey, , thanks for the link to that spreadsheet!

    I have 2 of the antennas that are used in that spreadsheet at home:

     

    DN024 - 863-928 MHz (CC_Antenna_DK2_#9)

     

    I can give it a try...

  • Jon Clift wrote:

     

    How did you have to orientate the board in order to get the best range? Was the folded element pointing straight up? [I'm trying to guess based on my limited knowledge of rf.]

    Both vertical, with the PCBs parallel (is the right term planar?) to each other as I was walking.

    As soon as I took the corner at spot #2, the signal had to go trough a number of houses.

    At the corner there's a big antenna of the public transport organisation. They operate their private communication network in the city.

     

     

     

    In the signal strength post  you can see a map with many of the other influences (radio/tv communication tower, airport, nato all in direct vincity). It's a rough area for radio signals.

  • Having the LCD ahead of the antenna, like you show in the photograph in the comments to that post, is an awful placement. Your hand isn't placed very well, either. What's the interface to the LCD? If it's only a few wires (SPI or I2C), you could easily move it out of the antenna's near field. As to your hand, just hold the board at the usb end with the folded element pointing up rather than down - the radiation pattern will invert, so you'll still have the same power coming out in the horizontal plane.

     

    The street test is a tough one. As well as ground effects and the absorbtion through the buildings when you turn the corner, you've also got multi-path reflections to contend with [I can remember reading that when they first developed the cellular networks, on frequencies similar to what you're using here, they had to do a lot of work to contend with multi-path interference from the buildings in city centres]. The most obvious immediate thing you can try is to get the base station higher up - maybe a separate antenna on a pole at the top of the building [or, even better, a tethered drone a few hundred metres up - would that be legal where you are?].

     

    As far as the mobile station is concerned, perhaps you could get a hat (maybe like the one Shabaz is seen wearing) and fasten the antenna to the top of that (that's a joke - I just like the idea of you wandering around with an antenna on your head).

  • Jon Clift wrote:

     

    Having the LCD ahead of the antenna, like you show in the photograph in the comments to that post, is an awful placement. Your hand isn't placed very well, either.

    That wasn't how I tested it on the street. I made a carton gizmo where the battery and the display were not in front or at the back of the antenna: