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Raspberry Pi shields offer 3G, 4G, GPRS, GPS, and XBee support

Nov 28, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 17481 views

Sixfab has launched an open source “Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family” of RPi communications shields, including GPS, XBee, GPRS, 3G, and 4G add-ons.

Sixfab, which is known for its Arduino-compatible Tinylab maker boards and kits, several of which integrate ESP8266 wireless SoCs, has now turned to the Raspberry Pi shield market with its Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family. The Turkish-born, Syracuse, N.Y.-based company has gone to Kickstarter to sell the GPS, XBee, GSM/GPRS, 3G, and 4G/LTE shields separately at up to half-off prices ranging from $19 to $99, with shipments due in March. Sixfab needs about $8,000 in the next 18 days to meet its $50,000 goal.

Top and angled views of the Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family: 3G and 4G on top; GPS, GPRS, and XBee on bottom
(click images to enlarge)

The shields can plug into Raspberry Pi A+, 2, 3, and Zero boards, and are open source in both software and hardware with sources available at Github. The shields can also be used in conjunction with Arduino boards, but cannot plug into their expansion headers. Application development is supported by means of a PC-based IDE and user interface that runs on Linux, MacOS, Windows, and Android. Tutorials and sample applications are also available.

Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family specs
(click images to enlarge; source: Sixfab)

When plugged into an RPi, the Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family devices work as standalone embedded boards, or in the case of the 3G and 4G shields as add-on wireless modems for a laptop.

3G or 4G shield on an RPi (left), and GPRS shield on an RPi Zero
(click image to enlarge)

The 3G and 4G shields match the Raspberry Pi’s 85 x 56mm dimensions, and the other three shields match the RPi Zero’s 65 x 30mm footprint. All the shields offer micro-USB ports and ship with “extra tall” 2×40 solderless headers.

3G Shield detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The 3G and 4G/LTE shields support up to 14.5Mbps and 100Mbps download speeds, respectively, and can act as WiFi access points as well as modems. They both include “push push” SIM holders, 3.5mm headset jacks, IPEX antenna connectors, and GPS/GNSS receivers.

4G/LTE Shield detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The 3G and 4G shields have 9V power jacks, and can also run on the Raspberry Pi’s 5V power. They support voice calls, SMS, and PPP connections, among other applications.

GSM/GPRS Shield detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The smaller, 85.6Kbps GSM/GPRS shield offers all of the above except for the advanced cellular speeds, the 9V jack, and GPS/GNSS. It does appear to have a cellular “Quelocator” location function. The GSM/GPRS shield also adds Bluetooth 3.0, audio recording/playback, and an onboard PCB antenna.

GPS Shield detail views
(click images to enlarge)

The GPS and XBee shields feature RPi/USB switches, a 1-wire sensor interface, and LEDs. The XBee shields supports Digi’s WiFi, RF, Pro, 802.15.4, and DigiMesh XBee modules, and can work with XCTU Config Prog for configuration. No XBee Explorer board is necessary.

XBee Shield detail views
(click images to enlarge)

Further information

The Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family is available now on Kickstarter through Dec. 17 at the following prices:

  • 3G Shield — $79
  • 4G/LTE Shield — $99
  • GSM/GPRS Shield — $29
  • GPS Shield — $25
  • XBee Shield — $19 (with XBee module $49)
  • Raspberry Pi Zero Pack — $66 (GPRS, GPS, and XBee Shields)

There is also a mix-and-match discount package starting at $950. More information may be found at the Raspberry Pi IoT Shield Family Kickstarter page and at Sixfab’s website.

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