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Arduino unveils tiny, battery powered MKR boards for LoRa and 3G

Sep 25, 2017 — by Eric Brown 4,963 views

Arduino launched two 67.6 x 25mm boards for wireless IoT nodes based on Atmel’s SAM D21 MCU: The MKR WAN 1300 offers LoRa, and the MKR GSM 1400 provides 3G.

At the Maker Faire in New York this weekend, Arduino unveiled two new “MKR” IoT boards with the same 32-bit, Cortex-M0+ based Microchip/Atmel ATSAMD21 MCU used by last December’s MKRZero. Available for pre-order, with shipment in November, both the LoRa enabled, $39 Arduino MKR WAN 1300 and the 2G/3G ready, $69 Arduino MKR GSM 1400 measure 67.6 x 25mm. That’s only slightly larger than the 65 x 25mm MKRZero and earlier, WiFi-enabled MKR1000.

MKR WAN 1300 (left) and MKR GSM 4300
(click images to enlarge)

The up to 48MHz SAM D21 chips provide both boards with 256KB flash and 32KB SRAM. The 32-gram boards can run on batteries, and offer 3.3V operating voltage. They each support automatic switching between power sources.

The MKR WAN 1300 and MKR GSM 1400 are each equipped with 8x DIO, 12x PWM, and single UART, SPI and I2C interfaces. Analog I/O includes a DAC, 7x ADCs up to 12-bit, and 8x interrupts.


You also get a micro-USB port, an RTC, and 6x LEDs, plus support for 433/868/915MHz carrier frequencies. Intended applications include environmental monitoring, tracking, agriculture, energy monitoring, and home automation.

Arduino MKR WAN 1300

Like Arduino’s 68.6 x 53.4mm LoRa Node Kit shield for the Arduino Primo — announced in May along with a LoRa Gateway Shield — the MKR WAN 1300 is a LoRa endpoint node that supports the LoRaWAN wireless protocol specification. LoRa and LoRaWAN enable ultra-long range spread spectrum communication of up to 10 kilometers, both indoors and outdoors.

MKR WAN 1300, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

While the LoRa Node Shield uses Semtech’s SX1276 LoRa module, the new MKR WAN 1300 integrates Murata’s STM32L-based CMWZ1ZZABZ module. The MKR WAN 1300 can be powered by dual 1.5V AA or AAA batteries, or by an external 5V input via micro-USB.

Murata CMWZ1ZZABZ LoRa module block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Arduino MKR GSM 1400

The Arduino MKR GSM 1400 provides 2G/3G GSM/EGPRS support via a U-Blox SARAU201 module. A slot is available for plugging in the SIM card of your choice, and there’s a micro-UFL connector for adding an antenna.

MKR GSM 1400, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The MKR GSM 1400 can draw power from a 3.7V LiPo battery or an external Vin power source delivering 5V to 12V, such as the 5V micro-USB port. The board “is able to run with or without the battery connected,” says Arduino, but a battery is recommended to handle peak-power GSM operations.

U-Blox SARAU201 3G module block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

Arduino stays focused on IoT nodes

This is the first major Arduino announcement since the early August ouster and buy-out of controversial CEO Federico Musto. The new boards continue the IoT focus of Massimo Banzi’s Arduino LLC ( wing. After the reunification with Musto’s rival Arduino Srl, the latter’s holdings were acquired this summer by an Arduino holding company called BCMI.

While Musto’s Srl faction had experimented with a number of Linux/Arduino hybrid boards, Banzi’s LLC ( group stuck primarily to Arduino-only products. This trend will likely continue, in part, due to improved wireless support in the Arduino ecosystem on both the hardware and software side. For wireless node devices like the latest MKR boards, there’s no longer any need for the relative complexity and overhead of Linux.

Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi showing off the MKR GSM 1400 and MKR WAN 1300
(click image to enlarge)

According to a Maker Faire report from Make, Banzi “stressed Arduino’s renewed commitment to open source, and their dedication to the community, especially to developers and educators.” Arduino will be hosting a monthly “hangout” with Arduino developers in preparation for a Feb. 2018 pow-wow to “discuss the open source Arduino Foundation and how to best move forward with it,” says Make.

In addition, Banzi announced a new “SECRET_” function to automatically “blank out” a sensitive section of code “so you can keep API keys and tokens to yourself,” says Make. He also announced that an Arduino Create Chromebook App and Classroom Kit were under development.

Further information

The Arduino MKR WAN 1300 ($39) and Arduino MKR GSM 1400 ($69) are available for pre-order, with shipments due in Nov. 15. More information may be found in the Arduino blog announcement and MKR WAN 1300 and MKR GSM 1400 shopping pages.

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