Amber Pi Design Kit - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Amber Pi Design Kit

Author: tausiif

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?: Arduino Various Sensors boards RF communication modules

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Manual is bit old. Amber Pi software requires giving email (mini-signup process), which I do not like as spreading email like this causes lots of spams. Software was unreliable, so I could not proceed to the final step of the tests.

Detailed Review:

Overview

Raspberry Pi is a great single board computer (SBC) to perform tech projects, research and education. I was looking for development projects based on raspberry pi3/4 in which it is working as a remote sensing station. I have another side study project going on where SBCs are working as remote stations or gateways for the IoT devices. Amber Pi Design kit was a perfect match so I signed up for the project. I am really interested in its sub GHz communication band for data communication. Amber Pi Design kit has very development friendly I2C and SPI interfaces which can used to connect any types of devices (sensors). The kit comes with variety of sensors, including a humidity/temperature sensor, pressure sensor (barometer) and 3-axis linear accelerometer.

As a road tester, I have gone through following stages:

  1. First Impression
  2. Main Features
  3. Setup
  4. Application (Remote Sensing Station)
  5. Conclusion

 

1. First Impression

The Amber Pi Design Kit comes in a nice box where all the components are nicely packed in a shock proof material. The kit includes following devices:

  • Amber Pi Design Board with 868 MHz Radio.
  • Temperature/Humidity sensor (I2C)
  • Pressure Sensor (I2C)
  • 3-axis linear Accelerometer (SPI) or simply motion sensor
  • SPI prototyping board for development
  • Tarvos-III USB Radio Dongle
  • 2 Dipole Rubber Ducky Antenna
  • Quick Start Guide.

Optional Part:

  • Raspberry Pi 3B
  • Power Supply Unit for the Raspberry Pi 3B was not included. (Should have been included, as I have Raspberry pi 2 with me but no pi3)

 

2. Main Features

The Amber Pi Kit is an expansion board for the Raspberry Pi 3B that equips the Raspberry Pi with the sub-1-GHz RF interface (868 MHz). The on board sensors (temperature, humidity, pressure, motion) and the USB-dongle, which runs as remote station for the Amber Pi, allowing the development of various engineering, research and educational applications based on Raspberry Pi 3B. The sensors are connected with male pin connectors and can easily replaced with another types of sensors based on users' application requirements. There is an SPI prototyping board that can provide the connection to the custom sensors expanding the horizon of the board.

The board is very easy to understand as all units, pins and jumpers are clearly labeled. (It could have been my favorite sensor board kit). The detailed document can be found at the Amber Pi official page or at this link.

The devices that are part of the kit are:

  • Radio Modules 868 MHz (AMB8x26/AMB8836) and he Tarvos-III. The Tarvos-III is a low cost radio data transmission module for wireless half-duplex communication provided by Würth Elektronik.The documentation for the Tarvos-III USB dongle can be found at link and the manual can be found here.
  • HTS221TR is an ultra-compact sensor for relative humidity and temperature. The documentation can be found here.
  • LPS22HB, which is an ultra-compact piezoresistive absolute pressure sensor which functions as a digital output barometer. Its documentation can be found here.
  • LIS2DW12 which is an ultra-low-power high-performance 3-axis linear accelerometer (motion sensor). Its documentation can be found here.

 

3. Setup

The initial setup is detailed in the booklet that comes with the Amber Pi Kit. This process is also described in the manual, which can be found here, actually it is better explained in the online document. I am using a a class 4 8GB Micro SD Card with the latest Raspbian Operating Systems. The initial setup took quite a while as I am using an old card which has quite low data transfer rate. After the installation, and updation of the Raspbian, I started to work on the Amber Pi Specfic settings.
The process for installing the WiringPi in step 5 in the Guide is incorrect. Either the link is too old or some other problem, but it never worked for me. However, installing the WiringPi is as easy as typing the following on cli;

 

sudo apt-get install WiringPi

 

however, I highly recommend that before performing the above step, type on the cli;

 

gpio -v

 

if it is giving the version number then, it means WiringPi is correctly installed.
For me, the version number is 2.50. If the version is not shown or giving an error,  then it means there is some problem, perhaps the Raspbian is not updated properly.

The libwiringPi.so files can be confirmed by

 

ls /usr/lib/. | grep libwiringPi


The Amber Pi drivers can be downloaded from the following link (sign up is required).
Then continue toward the other steps. For me everything went quite well, until I connect the Amber Pi Kit. 
When I restarted the Raspberry Pi 3B, after connecting the kit, it started to give me errors. I tried to figure out through various ways but I could not go ahead of this step.
Codeblocks was giving error of missing one header file, "ftd2xx.h".

The error as seen in cli:

 

/home/pi/Projects/AMBER_PI/drivers/global/global_ftdi.c:32:10: fatal error: ftd2xx.h: No such file or directory

#include "ftd2xx.h"

          ^~~~~~~~~~

compilation terminated.

Process terminated with status 1 (0 minute(s), 2 second(s))

Process terminated with status 0 (0 minute(s), 4 second(s))

1 error(s), 0 warning(s) (0 minute(s), 4 second(s))

 

 

4. Application (Remote Sensing Station)

5. Conclusion

The Amber Pi Design is a very easy and user friendly board, only problem that the software was not so good. It gave me error and I could not proceed to complete the Application part which was my main objective to make an remote sensing application based on the given kit. If the software issues are resolved, then the Amber Pi kit is highly recommended board for projects and research studies.

Anonymous