Better late than never, here’s a few gift suggestions for the RF/microwave engineer for this holiday season. Most people would probably scoff at the idea of giving someone a gift that’s kind of, you know, like work. But as we know, RF/microwave engineers are a special breed. They’re highly dedicated to their craft, endlessly curious about technology, and, let’s face it, geeky science-fair kids at heart. So if the engineer on your gift list hasn’t had a chance to play with any of these IoT-related technologies, here’s an opportunity to give them a glimpse of what’s possible as well as another shot at perhaps burning themselves with a soldering iron.
First, Seeed Technology has a mini PCIe LoRa gateway module that’s easy to integrate with existing routers and other network equipment with LoRa gateway functionality. You can use it in any embedded platform that offers mini-PCIe slots with an SPI connection. The module offers up to 10 programmable parallel demodulation paths and can be used in IoT applications like smart metering and smart agriculture. Maybe it’d be useful in a yard project like automated sprinklers? In any case, it’s just $95, but you better hurry; there’s only eight left in stock as of this writing.
If your engineer has interest in Analog Devices’ SmartMesh IP network technology, ADI offers its DC9021B Starter Kit as a way to get his or her feet wet (see the promo image at top). Within the kit are five “motes,” or nodes, to quickly set up a multi-hop mesh network in your preferred RF environment. By default, the kit operates in the 2.4000 GHz to 2.4835 GHz unlicensed band. There’s other accessories included, like the five evaluation/development motes, a USB network manager and access-point mote, and other assorted goodies. The linked website has tons of documentation, user guides, and more. At $3000, it’s a bit pricey but I know you really value the engineer on your shopping list.
Here’s an item that might have been put to use in Operation Warp Speed: Laird Connectivity’s Sentrius IG60-BL654 + BT510 Starter Kit (see figure). Within, the recipient will find everything he/she needs to get going with a wireless IoT proof-of-concept project, and in no time flat to boot. I mention Operation Warp Speed because the kit is especially useful for prototyping IoT applications like cold-chain transportation monitoring and refrigeration monitoring. There’s Bluetooth 5 sensors for temperature, open/closed doors, proximity, and acceleration. The kit goes for $499 from most of the big-name distributors.
Maybe Z-Wave is more your engineer’s thing, and if so, Silicon Labs has its SLWSTK6050A Z-Wave 700 Starter Kit available. It includes the Z-Wave software stack, sample code, and an integrated debug adapter. Whether it’s an end device or a gateway with multiple system-in-package (SiP) radio boards, the kit provides an easy means of cobbling up a mesh network with the Z-Wave 700 module. It comes with the Simplicity Studio suite of tools to get the project up and running quickly. This kit sells for $379 direct from SiLabs.
Lastly, on the Zigbee front, there’s Digi-Key’s XKB2-Z7T-WZM XBee Zigbee Mesh Kit. This mesh network kit includes an XBee transceiver for use with XBee modules. It offers a great entry into the world of Digi-Key’s XBee RF modules. There’s a bunch of goodies in the kit, including three development boards, three Zigbee modules, cables, and even a couple of XBee stickers. Just $89!
So, there’s a few ideas for that RF-crazed person near and dear to your heart. Happy holidays to everyone, please stay safe, and let’s look forward to a great 2021!