Review: Anynet 2G click board

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Today I have yet another board to put to the test: the Anynet 2G click board is a cellular to AWS gateway device which uses a Quectel M95 GTM module and an embedded ES4623 SIM card made by Eseye, a leading global provider of M2M cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Unlike other GSM connectivity solutions, this combination is not linked to a specific GSM network. The Eseye SIM allows us to connect to 440 cellular networks globally, with the list of countries where you can use the Anynet 2G click available here. If you are concerned with phasing out of 2G connectivity,  you should know that you can still have 2G connectivity at least until 2020. It might not seem a long time, but considering the sheer number of 2G devices on the market today (just think of alarm systems and other legacy machine-to-machine applications), there is a chance this timeframe might be extended.

Regardless of the cellular network uses, the data is securely exchanged with the AWS account. Furthermore, the developers can use AWS cloud to remotely and securely activate, authenticate and certify their devices Over-the-Air. This approach can relieve the developer form the headache of securing IoT applications, offering an easy way to meet Cloud security rules, with the added benefit of scalability as projects grow.

Another benefit is that we are no longer bound to the physical location. I can manage an Anynet2G located in Africa without leaving the comfort of the air conditioning in my office in Bucharest.

Lost or stolen devices? They can be deactivated and rendered useless and from the AWS account.

The customer doesn’t pay? I can deactivate his device with a few mouse clicks. I can reactivate at any time, also from the AWS account.

And a nice incentive for those who wish to give a try to this click board: each Anynet 2G module comes with free activation, six months connectivity and 5,000 messages enabled with Eseye AnyNet Secure Cellular Connectivity (MQTT messaging buckets) through AWS Marketplace. More than enough to showcase a project,  or to make some demo applications.

The hardware

Let’s just take a quick look at this click board:

Anynet 2G click: front side

Anynet 2G click: front side

On the front side, we will see the Quectel M95 GSM module and a PIC18F67J11 microcontroller. The click board communicates with the target board using AT commands on serial communication. The AN, DTR, DSR lines are not used in the current firmware version of this click board.

Anynet 2G click: back side

Anynet 2G click: back side

On the back side, we notice the Eseye hardware SIM, one 8 Mbit (1M x 8) SPI Serial Flash and a TXB0106 6-Bit Bidirectional Level-Shifting and Voltage Translator. The click board can work with 3.3V and 5V voltage levels. No configuration is necessary.

The software

While the hardware side might seem pretty simple, the real fun lies with the software.

To use this click board one must first create and activate your AWS account, as described in the instructions.

Then you have to go to AWS Marketplace and look for AnyNet Secure Cellular Connectivity. Subscribe to the service. The username and password created on this step will also work for the Eseye SIAM portal, which provides optional SIM management functions on top of your AWS IoT Console.

Please note that in the process of subscribing to Eseye service you will receive two emails: one from AWS and the other from Eseye. Do not proceed any further until you have received the email from Eseye. Or else you will mess things up (such as I did) and you will end up having a long conversation with the Eseye support team (the support team is awesome, by the way, they have responded very fast, and I have received a lot of help from their side until I had my Anynet 2G click working). Also please allow for some time for propagation of services, or you might mess things up. Time for a coffee 🙂

The software fees are as follows:

  • $150 for the 100k message bundle
  • $1 for a single event, for sending the certificate over the air to a device
  • Additional taxes may apply.
One should notice that the message bundle applies to the whole fleet of Anynet 2G and Eseye devices.

Once the AnyNet Secure Cellular connectivity subscription is created, the next step is to create the CloudFormation stack. Eazy to do, just follow the instructions. Again, please allow enough time for the stack creation to complete and for the propagation of services. Time for another coffee 🙂

Now you have the stack, and it’s time to configure the Anynet 2G click. To associate an Eseye AnyNet Secure SIM card with your AWS IoT connected devices, you need to go to AWS IoT and create a new Thing, as described on the following page. You will need the SIM card ID (ICCID), which is printed on the package of the AnyNet 2G click board.

This is all the AWS configuration.

As I said at the beginning of this blog post, the Anynet 2G click comes bundled with 5000 messages. Once the Thing is created, we can check the number of messages remaining by examining the device shadow:

Applications

We have the click board; we have the AWS account configured, what about sending and receiving some data from AWS.

This is easier than you think, not only we have the AT command set, but we also have plenty examples on EseyeIoT GitHub. There are ready-made applications for Arduino, Raspberry 3, and the Clicker2 for PIC18FJ. I have tried the Arduino and Clicker 2 application, and they run right out of the box. Nice…

My verdict

In many ways, after using and abusing this click board, I tend to regard it as being fitted to use as an OEM module as opposed to being part of the average home-brewed project. The real strength of this click board lies in the ease of administration and OTA configuration, features that are essential in large-scale applications.

Also, it’s a possible solution to consider when developing applications that cover a large geographical area, as one is not limited to a specific cellular network.

It’s even more fitted for applications that will cover several countries, as one doesn’t have to deal with multiple invoices from each cellular services provider. Instead, all the management and invoicing are done through AWS.

The AnyNet 2G click uses simple AT commands, and we have examples provided for some of the most often used development boards. As such, development of applications is greatly simplified.

The 5000 message bundle is more than enough to showcase a proof-of-concept. Still, you may have some aditional costs for using the AWS services, depending on your application.

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