There’s a brand new product on Kickstarter, designed to make it easy for anyone to create cellular-connected devices. A 2D/3D development kit, the Spark Electron is poised to bring machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to the masses.
At the moment, it’s difficult to develop M2M electronics at home because the market is set up big companies who already work with telcos and can navigate the industry. “If you want to get some M2M SIM cards, you’ve got to get on the phone with somebody. You need an account manager, you’ve got to sign a bunch of paperwork, and it’ll be months before you even see a price sheet,” reads the Spark Electron Kickstarter page. “M2M feels like it’s ripe for disruption; we want to make it a lot easier for people to create cellular-connected products.”
The Spark Electron works much like an Arduino, running a single program written in, for example, C/C++ or ARM assembly. The board features an ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller with 1MB Flash and 128K RAM, a cellular modem, NanoSIM card, and 36 pins (including 28 GPIOs, TX/RX, 2 GNDs, VIN, VBAT, WKP, 3V3, RST). The Electron is also backward compatible with all the other Spark shields.
The SIM card currently works in Canada, the US, and Europe using Spark.io’s own mobile network, which offers inexpensive data plans designed with M2M in mind. Just $2.99 per month will get you approximately 20,000 messages a month. That’s plenty for most M2M applications.
In the world of M2M, this could change everything.