Getting Started with u-blox Thingstream and PointPerfect

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Contributors: bboyho
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Introduction

Interested in high precision GNSS without setting up a base station? Try the u-blox Thingstream and PointPerfect via Internet Protocol (IP)! This tutorial will go over how to use an ESP32 microcontroller to connect to u-blox Thingstream and PointPerfect over Internet to push correction data to a high precision GNSS.

Required Materials

To follow along with this tutorial, you will need the following materials at a minimum. You may not need everything though depending on what you have. Add it to your cart, read through the guide, and adjust the cart as necessary. Below is a wishlist of the parts that you need to get started.

Arduino Microcontroller

You will need a microcontroller capable of connecting to WiFi. We recommend the ESP32. The IoT RedBoard ESP32 is a good start. There is also the Thing Plus - ESP32 for users looking for a smaller development board. Both of built in Qwiic connectors to easily connect to breakout board. For users following the MicroMod route, you could use the MicroMod ESP32 Processor Board.

SparkFun Thing Plus - ESP32 WROOM (USB-C)

SparkFun Thing Plus - ESP32 WROOM (USB-C)

WRL-20168
$24.95
3
SparkFun IoT RedBoard - ESP32 Development Board

SparkFun IoT RedBoard - ESP32 Development Board

WRL-19177
$29.95
7
SparkFun MicroMod ESP32 Processor

SparkFun MicroMod ESP32 Processor

WRL-16781
$16.95
1

u-blox High Precision GNSS (HPG) Module

You will need a compatible u-blox High Precision GNSS (HPG) Module capable of using the service. The following have been tested to work with u-blox Thing Stream and PointPerfect.

SparkFun GPS-RTK-SMA Breakout - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK-SMA Breakout - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

GPS-16481
$274.95
18
SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

GPS-15136
$274.95
21
SparkFun MicroMod GNSS Carrier Board (ZED-F9P)

SparkFun MicroMod GNSS Carrier Board (ZED-F9P)

GPS-17722
$324.95
SparkFun MicroMod GNSS Function Board - ZED-F9P

SparkFun MicroMod GNSS Function Board - ZED-F9P

GPS-19663
$274.95 $184.22

Multi-band Antenna

We recommend using a GNSS multi-band magnetic mount antenna for the full RF reception. The length of the antenna cable was also useful in mounting it.

GNSS L1/L2 Multi-Band Magnetic Mount Antenna - 5m (SMA)

GNSS L1/L2 Multi-Band Magnetic Mount Antenna - 5m (SMA)

GPS-15192
$72.95
1
GNSS Multi-Band L1/L2 Surveying Antenna - TNC (TOP106)

GNSS Multi-Band L1/L2 Surveying Antenna - TNC (TOP106)

GPS-17751
$133.95
15

GNSS Multi-Band L1/L2 Helical Antenna (SMA) BT-560

GPS-17383
3 Retired
MagmaX2 Active Multiband GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - AA.200

MagmaX2 Active Multiband GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - AA.200

GPS-17108
$83.50

GPS Antenna Accessories

You can use the GPS antenna ground plate to improve your GPS antenna's performance. If you are using the GNSS Multi-Band L1/L2 Surveying Antenna (TNC) - TOP106, you'll need to grab the interface cable. You will also need an adapter depending on the connector that is populated on the GNSS board and the GNSS Antenna.

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL - 100mm

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL - 100mm

WRL-09145
$5.50
3
GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS-17519
$6.95

Interface Cable - SMA Male to TNC Male (300mm)

CAB-17833
Retired

Accessories

At a minimum, you will need a USB C cable to power and program the boards. Depending on your application, you may want to grab a Qwiic cable to connect to the breakout boards.

SparkFun Qwiic Cable Kit

SparkFun Qwiic Cable Kit

KIT-15081
$8.95
21
Qwiic Cable - 100mm

Qwiic Cable - 100mm

PRT-14427
$1.50
USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

CAB-14743
$5.50
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Tools

For users using MicroMod, you will need a screw driver to tighten the screw between the processor/function board and carrier board.

SparkFun Mini Screwdriver

SparkFun Mini Screwdriver

TOL-09146
$1.05
3

You Will Also Need

You will also need Internet access and to purchase a pricing plan with the ThingStream PointPerfect Location-as-a-Service over Internet Protocol (IP).

As stated on the coverage map from u-blox, the service includes homogeneous coverage in the contiguous USA and Europe This includes up to 12 nautical miles (roughly 22 kilometers) off coastlines. Make sure to check back on the u-blox's website to see if there is additional coverage in your region. There are additional regions under consideration for the future.

PointPerfect Coverage over IP

PointPerfect Service Coverage as of January 10, 2023. Map provided courtesy of u-blox. (Click to enlarge)

Suggested Reading

If you are using MicroMod, we recommend reading here for an overview. We recommend reading here for an overview if you decide to take advantage of the Qwiic connector.

MicroMod Logo Qwiic Connect System
MicroMod EcosystemQwiic Connect System

If you aren’t familiar with the following concepts, we recommend checking out these tutorials before continuing. We will be using the IoT RedBoard with the ESP32 to connect to the Internet in this tutorial. If you are using another ESP32 development board or WiFi module, make sure to check out its associated tutorial. You may need to install a board definition or a different driver.

I2C

An introduction to I2C, one of the main embedded communications protocols in use today.

Getting Started with U-Center for u-blox

Learn the tips and tricks to use the u-blox software tool to configure your GPS receiver.

IoT RedBoard ESP32 Development Board Hookup Guide

Delve into the functionality-rich world of the IoT RedBoard ESP32 Development Board!

Be sure to checkout our What is GPS RTK? tutorial. Also, make sure to check out your respective breakout boards for more information.

What is GPS RTK?

Learn about the latest generation of GPS and GNSS receivers to get 14mm positional accuracy!

GPS-RTK2 Hookup Guide

Get precision down to the diameter of a dime with the new ZED-F9P from u-blox.

MicroMod GNSS Carrier Board (ZED-F9P) Hookup Guide

Easily switch between Processor Boards using the MicroMod ecosystem and get precision down to the diameter of a dime with the ZED-F9P from u-blox using the MicroMod GNSS Carrier Board!

MicroMod GNSS Function Board - ZED-F9P Hookup Guide

Add millimeter precision location data to your MicroMod project with this guide for the SparkFun MicroMod GNSS Function Board - ZED-F9P.