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Low-cost WiFi and LoRa gateway add-on offers flexible configuration options

Apr 13, 2021 — by Eric Brown — 581 views

On Kickstarter: a $21-and-up “Axon” board with 4x DI that can act as a standalone ESP8266-based WiFi gateway with optional LoRa and/or connect via USB Type-C to a Pi or other system.

A Barcelona-based startup called Qortex is close to reaching its $1,189 Kickstarter goal for a flexible, ESP8266-based “Axon” WiFi and/or LoRa gateway. The device can double as a sensor add-on to a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or any other board that supports serial communications. A free Axon Cloud service with storage and an online serial monitor is also available, enabling you to set up a low-cost WiFi or LoRa based sensor network.



Axon

There are a few 13-Euro ($16) early bird models left as well as the standard 17-Euro ($21) package, which similarly includes a USB Type-C cable. A package with two Axons and two cables costs 34 Euros ($41).

A 53-Euro ($64) package combines an Axon with a pair of LoRa modules and a 66-Euro ($79) variant adds a second Axon. Higher volume deals are also available. The early bird goes out in June and everything else ships in August.

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In a typical non-standalone setup, the 30 x 25mm Axon module connects to the Raspberry Pi or another computer via the USB Type-C port. If you want to connect to a board without USB, you can connect directly via a UART interface via TX and RX pins.



Axon with optional Lora Module at left, and on right, Axon on Raspberry Pi HAT add-on
(click images to enlarge)

A Raspberry Pi HAT is shown under “add-ons,” but there is no explanation or listed pricing. The HAT appears to support three options: Axon, Axon with LoRa, or LoRa on its own (see image above).

There is also an unpriced “Dual Base” add-on option which offers separate interfaces for the Axon and LoRa boards. It is unclear if the HAT and Dual Board are stretch goals. Qortex instead lists an unpriced LTE & GNSS add-on under stretch goals.



Axon Dual Board with Axon and LoRa (left) and without

The Axon module runs on Espressif’s open source ESP8266 wireless SoC, which preceded the even more ubiquitous ESP32. The ESP8266, which has been integrated on various Arduino boards including the Arduino Uno WiFi , is equipped with a TCP/IP-ready Tensilica Xtensa LX3 core and a 2.4GHz WiFi radio with serial interface.

The Axon is equipped with 4x digital inputs for controlling sensor relays plus reset, 3.3V, ground, and LED pins. Other features include USB-to-TTL interface, LDO, fuse, data switch IC, data source switch, reset button, and LED. The ESD-protected boardlet supports battery power and offers reverse polarity protection.



Axon pinout (left) and available LoRa transmission modes
(click images to enlarge)

The optional LoRa module acts as a single-channel gateway that supports up to a 3-kilometer range for remote applications beyond WiFi. Available in either 433MHz or 868MHz models, the module provides four working modes: transmission, low-power WOR, power-saving, and deep sleep. There are also several transmission mode options, as shown in the chart above.

The Axon platform, which we saw on Geeky Gadgets, appears to be an open hardware and software project with community support. The product comes with sample Python scripts available on GitHub. Axon supports protocols and APIs such as MQTT, IFTTT, Node-RED, and Open Space, and enables the creation of social networks of IoT devices on the cloud platform.

Further information

The Axon is available through May 12 for 17 Euros ($21) — unless you manage to nab some of the last $16 early bird packages. The packages with dual LoRa modules start at 53 Euros ($64). Shipments are due in August. Other pricing is listed above or on the Kickstarter page. More information may be found on the Axon website.

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