SparkFun expLoRaBLE Hookup Guide

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Introduction

The SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus – expLoRaBLE is a feather form-factor development board with the NM180100 system in package (SiP), from Northern Mechatronics. The NM180100 SiP includes a Semtex SX1262 LoRa module paired with the Apollo3 MCU, which is used in the SparkFun Artemis module. This provides the board with compatibility in the Arduino IDE, through our Apollo3 Arduino core. The Semtex SX1262 is a long range, low power RF tranceiver introduces LoRaWAN capabilities to the board. Additionally, both the BLE and LoRa capabilities of the expLoRaBLE allow it to operate as a Bluetooth enabled LoRa node.

SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus - expLoRaBLE

SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus - expLoRaBLE

WRL-17506
$49.95

Required Materials

To get started, users will need a few items. Now some users may have a few of these items, feel free to modify your cart accordingly.

SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus - expLoRaBLE

SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus - expLoRaBLE

WRL-17506
$49.95
Wide Band 4G LTE Internal LoRa Antenna

Wide Band 4G LTE Internal LoRa Antenna

WRL-17841
$1.95
USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

CAB-14743
$4.95
2

Click the buttons above to toggle the additional materials based on the options you
wish to use. Feel free to modify the items in your cart to fit your needs.


Li-Po Battery

For mobile applications, users will want to pick up a single-cell LiPo battery from our catalog. Below, are a few available options:

Lithium Ion Battery - 400mAh

Lithium Ion Battery - 400mAh

PRT-13851
$4.95
9
Lithium Ion Battery - 2Ah

Lithium Ion Battery - 2Ah

PRT-13855
$12.95
7
Lithium Ion Battery - 1Ah

Lithium Ion Battery - 1Ah

PRT-13813
$9.95
7
Lithium Ion Battery - 110mAh

Lithium Ion Battery - 110mAh

PRT-13853
$4.95
2

Jumper Modification

To modify the jumpers, users will need soldering equipment and/or a knife.

Solder Lead Free - 100-gram Spool

Solder Lead Free - 100-gram Spool

TOL-09325
$8.95
7
Chip Quik No-Clean Flux Pen  - 10mL

Chip Quik No-Clean Flux Pen - 10mL

TOL-14579
$7.95
3
Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

TOL-14228
$44.95
1
Hobby Knife

Hobby Knife

TOL-09200
$2.95
2

Qwiic Example

If you would like to follow along with the examples below to interact with the physical world, you will also need the following items:

Qwiic Cable - 100mm

Qwiic Cable - 100mm

PRT-14427
$1.50
SparkFun Qwiic 12 Bit ADC - 4 Channel (ADS1015)

SparkFun Qwiic 12 Bit ADC - 4 Channel (ADS1015)

DEV-15334
$10.50
Magnetic Screwdriver Set (20 Piece)

Magnetic Screwdriver Set (20 Piece)

TOL-15003
$6.95
1

Headers & Accessories

Headers are great for development purposes, letting users swap parts with just a set of jumper wires. If you would like to add headers to your board, check out some of the options for the Thing Plus or Feather form factor boards:

Break Away Headers - Straight

Break Away Headers - Straight

PRT-00116
$1.50
20
SparkFun Beginner Tool Kit

SparkFun Beginner Tool Kit

TOL-14681
$57.95
Photon Header - 12 Pin Female

Photon Header - 12 Pin Female

PRT-14321
$0.50
Feather Stackable Header Kit

Feather Stackable Header Kit

PRT-15187
$1.50
Header - 8-pin Female (PTH, 0.1")

Header - 8-pin Female (PTH, 0.1")

PRT-11895
$0.50

Below is a sample selection of our other headers and soldering tools in our catalog. For a full selection of our available Headers or Soldering Tools, click on the associated link.

Break Away Headers - Straight

Break Away Headers - Straight

PRT-00116
$1.50
20
Arduino Stackable Header Kit - R3

Arduino Stackable Header Kit - R3

PRT-11417
$1.50
12
Raspberry Pi GPIO Tall Header - 2x20

Raspberry Pi GPIO Tall Header - 2x20

PRT-14017
$1.95
Raspberry Pi Pico Headers Kit

Raspberry Pi Pico Headers Kit

PRT-17907
$1.25
Insulated Silicone Soldering Mat

Insulated Silicone Soldering Mat

TOL-14672
$9.95
7
Soldering Iron - 60W (Adjustable Temperature)

Soldering Iron - 60W (Adjustable Temperature)

TOL-14456
$14.95
11
Weller WE1010 Soldering Station

Weller WE1010 Soldering Station

TOL-14734
$129.00
4
Solder - 1/4lb Spool (0.020") Special Blend

Solder - 1/4lb Spool (0.020") Special Blend

TOL-10242
$29.95
12

JTAG Functionality

Users interested in JTAG applications (i.e. programming and debugging the RP2040) will need an Arm® Programmer and need to solder on a JTAG header. We recommend these programmers from our catalog:

J-Link EDU Base Programmer

J-Link EDU Base Programmer

PGM-15346
$60.00
1
J-Link EDU Mini Programmer

J-Link EDU Mini Programmer

PGM-15345
$18.00
1
J-Link BASE Compact Programmer

J-Link BASE Compact Programmer

PGM-15347
$378.00
Header - 2x5 Pin (Male, 1.27mm)

Header - 2x5 Pin (Male, 1.27mm)

PRT-15362
$1.50

JTAG Functionality

Users interested in modifying or updating the firmware on the Apollo3 will need an Arm® Programmer and need to solder on a JTAG header. We recommend these programmers from our catalog:

J-Link EDU Base Programmer

J-Link EDU Base Programmer

PGM-15346
$60.00
1
J-Link EDU Mini Programmer

J-Link EDU Mini Programmer

PGM-15345
$18.00
1
J-Link BASE Compact Programmer

J-Link BASE Compact Programmer

PGM-15347
$378.00
Header - 2x5 Pin (Male, 1.27mm)

Header - 2x5 Pin (Male, 1.27mm)

PRT-15362
$1.50

Antennas

Below, is a selection of a few LoRA antenna options from the antenna product category.

Interface Cable RP-SMA to U.FL

Interface Cable RP-SMA to U.FL

WRL-00662
$4.95
1
Pycom LoRa and Sigfox Antenna Kit - 915MHz

Pycom LoRa and Sigfox Antenna Kit - 915MHz

WRL-14676
$11.95
915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/4 Wave 2dBi

915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/4 Wave 2dBi

WRL-14875
$8.95
915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/2 Wave 2dBi

915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/2 Wave 2dBi

WRL-14876
$7.95
Wide Band 4G LTE Internal LoRa Antenna

Wide Band 4G LTE Internal LoRa Antenna

WRL-17841
$1.95
LoRa Fiberglass Antenna Type N - 5.8dBi (860-930MHz)

LoRa Fiberglass Antenna Type N - 5.8dBi (860-930MHz)

WRL-15597
$49.95
Interface Cable N to RP-SMA Cable - 1m

Interface Cable N to RP-SMA Cable - 1m

CAB-14911
$7.95
(*A diplexer is used to combine the BLE and LoRa signals to a single U.FL connection. Only the Wide Band 4G LTE Internal FPC Antenna is recommended for use as a combination LoRa and BLE antenna.)

LoRa Gateways

Below, is a selection of a few LoRA gateway options from the LoRa product category.

LoRa Raspberry Pi 4 Gateway with Enclosure

LoRa Raspberry Pi 4 Gateway with Enclosure

WRL-16447
$199.95
2
LoRa Raspberry Pi Gateway with Enclosure

LoRa Raspberry Pi Gateway with Enclosure

WRL-15336
$199.95
1
Nebra Indoor HNT Hotspot Miner (915MHz)

Nebra Indoor HNT Hotspot Miner (915MHz)

WRL-17843
$349.95
Nebra Outdoor HNT Hotspot Miner (915MHz)

Nebra Outdoor HNT Hotspot Miner (915MHz)

WRL-17844
$488.95
SparkFun LoRa Gateway - 1-Channel (ESP32)

SparkFun LoRa Gateway - 1-Channel (ESP32)

WRL-15006
$34.95
3
Interface Cable RP-SMA to U.FL

Interface Cable RP-SMA to U.FL

WRL-00662
$4.95
1
915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/4 Wave 2dBi

915MHz LoRa Antenna RP-SMA - 1/4 Wave 2dBi

WRL-14875
$8.95

Suggested Reading

As a more professionally oriented product, we will skip over the more fundamental tutorials (i.e. Ohm's Law and What is Electricity?). However, below are a few tutorials that may help users familiarize themselves with various aspects of the board.

Serial Communication

Asynchronous serial communication concepts: packets, signal levels, baud rates, UARTs and more!

I2C

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

Bluetooth Basics

An overview of the Bluetooth wireless technology.

Logic Levels

Learn the difference between 3.3V and 5V devices and logic levels.

Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

SPI is commonly used to connect microcontrollers to peripherals such as sensors, shift registers, and SD cards.

ARM Programming

How to program SAMD21 or SAMD51 boards (or other ARM processors).

Installing an Arduino Library

How do I install a custom Arduino library? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino library using the Arduino Library Manager. For libraries not linked with the Arduino IDE, we will also go over manually installing an Arduino library.

Three Quick Tips About Using U.FL

Quick tips regarding how to connect, protect, and disconnect U.FL connectors.

LoRaWAN with ProRF and The Things Network

Learn how to make a LoRaWAN node for your next long range IoT project and connect it to the internet with The Things Network!

Artemis Development with Arduino

Get our powerful Artemis based boards (Artemis Nano, BlackBoard Artemis, and BlackBoard Artemis ATP) blinking in less than 5 minutes using the SparkFun Artemis Arduino Core!

Pulse Width Modulation

An introduction to the concept of Pulse Width Modulation.

Analog vs. Digital

This tutorial covers the concept of analog and digital signals, as they relate to electronics.

Installing Board Definitions in the Arduino IDE

How do I install a custom Arduino board/core? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino board definition using the Arduino Board Manager. We will also go over manually installing third-party cores, such as the board definitions required for many of the SparkFun development boards.

Artemis Development with the Arduino IDE

This is an in-depth guide on developing in the Arduino IDE for the Artemis module and any Artemis microcontroller development board. Inside, users will find setup instructions and simple examples from blinking an LED and taking ADC measurements; to more complex features like BLE and I2C.

Installing Arduino IDE

A step-by-step guide to installing and testing the Arduino software on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Qwiic Connect System

One of the new, advanced features of the board is that it takes advantage of the Qwiic connect system. We recommend familiarizing yourself with the Logic Levels and I2C tutorials. Click on the banner above to learn more about Qwiic products.

Hardware Overview

Board Dimensions

The board dimensions are illustrated in the drawing below. The listed measurements are in inches and the four mounting holes are compatible with 4-40 standoff screws.

Board Dimensions
Board dimensions (PDF) for the SparkFun expLoRaBLE, in inches. (Click to enlarge)

USB-C Connector

The USB connector is provided to power and program the board. For most users, it will be the primary programing interface for the NM180100.

USB-C Connector
USB-C connector on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

CH340E Serial-to-UART

The CH340E allows the NM180100 to communicate with a computer/host device through its USB-C connection. This allows the board to show up as a device on the serial (or COM) port of the computer. Users will need to install the latest CH340 driver for the computer to recognize the board.

How to Install CH340 Drivers

August 6, 2019

How to install CH340 drivers (if you need them) on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Power

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE only requires 3.3V to power the board. However, the simplest method to power the board is with the USB-C connector. There are additional power pins available on the board:

  • 3.3V - A regulated 3.3V voltage source.
    • Regulated from the USB 5V power and/or battery connection.
    • Used to power the NM180100 SiP and Qwiic I2C bus.
  • USB - The voltage from the USB-C connector, usually 5V.
  • VBAT - The voltage from the JST battery connector; meant for single cell LiPo batteries.
  • GND - The common ground or the 0V reference for the voltage supplies.

power
SparkFun expLoRaBLE power connections. (Click to enlarge)

Charging Circuit

The charging circuit utilizes the MCP73831 linear charge management controller and is powered directly from the USB-C connector or USB. The controller is configured for a 500mA charge rate and battery charging is indicated when the yellow, CHG LED. If the charge controller is shutdown or charging is complete, the CHG LED will turn off. For more information, pleas refer to the MCP73831 datasheet.

NM180100 SiP

The NM180100 SiP from Northern Mechatronics is the brains of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. The system in package (SiP) includes an Apollo3 MCU connected to a Semtech SX1262 radio transceiver. The connection between the two ICs is laid out in the table below.

NM180100 SiP
NM180100 SiP on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)
Apollo3 SX1262 Description
Pin Name Pin Name
H6 GPIO 36 19 NSS SPI Slave Select
J6 GPIO 38 17 MOSI SPI Slave Input
J5 GPIO 43 16 MISO SPI Slave Output
H5 GPIO 42 18 SCK SPI Clock Input
J8 GPIO 39 14 Busy Radio Busy Indicator
J9 GPIO 40 13 DIO1 Multipurpose Digital I/o
H9 GPIO 47 06 DIO3 Multipurpose Digital I/o
J7 GPIO 44 15 NRESET Radio Reset Signal (Active Low)

A breakdown of the NM180100 functionality is shown in the block diagram below and the functionality of each embedded chip is laid out in the following subsections. It should be noted, that the Bluetooth and LoRa antenna connections on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE share the same u.FL connector with the use of a diplexer. For more details on the NM180100 SiP, check out the datasheet.

NM180100 Func. Block Diagram

Note: While most users will utilize the USB connection for serial programming, the Apollo3 MCU in the NM180100 SiP can also be programmed through its JTAG or SWD pins. This might is useful for individuals developing and testing firmware that would be flashed directly onto the NM180100 SiP, such as in production for commercial applications. For more details on programming, please check out our ARM Programming tutorial

ARM Programming

May 23, 2019

How to program SAMD21 or SAMD51 boards (or other ARM processors).
SparkFun expLoRaBLE's JATG pins
The JTAG pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Apollo3 MCU

For details on the Apollo3, users should refer to the Designing with the SparkFun Artemis hookup guide. Additionally, users can reference the following resources for more technical information:

Designing with the SparkFun Artemis

June 20, 2019

Let's chat about layout and design considerations when using the Artemis module.

SX1262 RF Transceiver

Note: In the US, LoRaWAN operates in the 915MHz frequency band (i.e. 902 to 928 MHz).

The Semtech SX1262 module is a long range, low power, half-duplex transceiver with global LoRa® frequency coverage, capable of operating as a Long range (LoRa) wide area network (LoRaWAN) or frequency-shift keying (FSK) modem. The module was designed for long battery life with just 4.2 mA of active receive current consumption and it can transmit up to +22 dBm with the use of its highly efficient, integrated power amplifiers. The SX1262 is optimal for devices that are designed to comply with the physical layer requirements of the LoRaWAN specification released by the LoRa Alliance™. For more details on the SX1262, check out the datasheet.

SX1262 Block Diagram
Functional block diagram for the SX1262. (Click to enlarge)
Characteristic Description
Current
Consumption
4.2 to 10.1 mA (RX)
32 to 118 mA (TX)
Frequency Range 150 to 960 MHz
Modulation FSK, GFSK, MSK,
GMSK and LoRa
Link Budget 170 dB (max)
Bit Rate
(programmable)
FSK: .6 to 300 kb/s
LoRa: .018 to 62.5 kb/s
RF Sensitivity -104 to -148 dBm
RF Output Power +14 to +22 dBm

u.FL Antenna Connector

Note: Make sure to utilize an antenna that is appropriate for your RF and/or BLE application.

The Apollo3 BLE and SX1262 RF antenna connections share a single U.FL antenna connector with the use of a diplexer.

U.FL connector
Antenna connection on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Breakout Pin Connections

The pins from the NM180100 SiP are broken out into a feather form factor layout.

breakout pins
SparkFun expLoRaBLE breakout pins. (Click to enlarge)

Power Pins

The power pins aren't really I/O (Input/Output) connections for the microcontroller; however, they are pertinent to the board.

Power pins
SparkFun expLoRaBLE power pins. (Click to enlarge)

The power I/O mostly consists of voltage supply pins. These pins are traditionally used as power sources for other pieces of hardware (like LEDs, potentiometers, and other circuits).

  • 3.3V - A regulated 3.3V voltage source.
    • Regulated from the USB 5V power and/or battery connection.
    • Used to power the NM180100 SiP and Qwiic I2C bus.
  • USB - The voltage from the USB-C connector, usually 5V.
  • VBAT - The voltage from the JST battery connector; meant for single cell LiPo batteries.
  • GND - The common ground or the 0V reference for the voltage supplies.
Note: The EN pin is used to contol the 3.3V voltage regulator output (i.e. the boards power) from the battery or USB connection to the rest of the board.

I/O Pins

⚡ Note: All the GPIO on the SparkFun LoRa Thing Plus – expLoRaBLE are 3.3V pins.

There are 21 I/O pins broken out on this board, which can be used as digital inputs to or outputs from the NM180100 SiP.

digital i/o
I/O breakout pins and headers. (Click to enlarge)

All of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE pins are broken out with .1" pitch spacing for headers. It is best practice to define the pinMode() (link) in the setup of each sketch (programs written in the Arduino IDE) for the pins used.

Input

When configured properly, an input pin will be looking for a HIGH or LOW state. Input pins are High Impedance and takes very little current to move the input pin from one state to another.

Output

When configured as an output the pin will be at a HIGH or LOW voltage. Output pins are Low Impedance: This means that they can provide a relatively substantial amount of current to other circuits.

⚡ Note: It should be noted that there are electrical limitations to the amount of current that the NM180100 SiP can sink or source. For more details, check out the Absolute Maximum Ratings section of the Electrical Characteristics on page 774 of the Apollo3 datasheet.

Additional Functions

There are several pins that have special functionality in addition to general digital I/O. These pins and their additional functions are listed in the tabs below. For more technical specifications on the I/O pins, you can refer to the Apollo 3 datasheet.

Analog Input Pins

Note: Be aware that the ADC input range is from 0 - 2V. Although connecting a sensor with an output to 3.3V is safe for the NM180100 SiP, it will saturate the ADC at 2V.

The NM180100 SiP offers a 14-bit ADC input for eight of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE's I/O pins. This functionality is accessed in the Arduino IDE using the analogRead(pin) function.

Note: By default, in the Arduino IDE, analogRead() returns a 10-bit value. To change the resolution of the value returned by the analogRead() function, use the analogReadResolution(bits) function.

Annotated image of analog inputs
Analog input pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about analog vs. digital signals, check out this great tutorial.


Analog vs. Digital

July 18, 2013

This tutorial covers the concept of analog and digital signals, as they relate to electronics.

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Output Pins

The NM180100 SiP provides 16-bit PWM output for all of the SparkFun expLoRaBLE's twenty-one digital I/O pins. Additionally, the SCL line of the primary, Qwiic I2C bus and GPIO 10, which is connected to the status LED are also PWM capable outputs. This functionality is accessed in the Arduino IDE using the analogWrite(pin, value) function or the Servo library.

Note: By default, in the Arduino IDE, analogWrite() accepts an 8-bit value. To change the resolution of the PWM signal for the analogWrite() function, use the analogWriteResolution(bits) function.

(*The PWM output is the result of the NM180100 SiP's signal generator clock functionality and is not a true analog signal.)

Annotated image of PWM pins
PWM pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about pulse width modulation (PWM), check out this great tutorial.


Pulse Width Modulation

February 27, 2013

An introduction to the concept of Pulse Width Modulation.

Serial Communication Pins

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE has two UART modules that can function independently of each other. By default, the dedicated UART port to the USB connection (Serial) can be accessed through the Arduino IDE using the serial communication module. D0 (RX) and D1 (TX) of the breakout I/O pins are connected to the secondary UART module.

Annotated image of serial communication pins
The available serial communication connections on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE.

Note: To learn more about serial communication, check out this great tutorial.


Serial Communication

December 18, 2012

Asynchronous serial communication concepts: packets, signal levels, baud rates, UARTs and more!

SPI Communication

The default SPI bus on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE is accessible through the Arduino IDE using the SPI module. By default, in the Arduino IDE, the SPI module is configured to utilize pins 25, 27, and 28.

Connection Pin
SCK 13
SDI or CIPO 12
SDO or COPI 11
CS ANY
Note: To comply with the latest OSHW design practices, on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE we have replaced the MOSI/MISO nomenclature with SDO/SDI; the terms Master and Slave are now referred to as Controller and Peripheral. The MOSI signal on a controller has been replaced with the title SDO. Please refer to this announcement on the decision to deprecate the MOSI/MISO terminology and transition to the SDO/SDI naming convention.

Annotated image of SPI pins
The SPI pins on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about the serial peripheral interface (SPI) protocol, check out this great tutorial.


Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

January 14, 2013

SPI is commonly used to connect microcontrollers to peripherals such as sensors, shift registers, and SD cards.

I2C Communication Pins

The SparkFun expLoRaBLE has 2 I2C modules. The Qwiic connector is connected to the default I2C bus that is accessed through the Arduino IDE using the Wire module.

Annotated image of I2C pins
The available I2C bus connections for the the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Note: To learn more about the inter-integrated circuit (I2C) protocol, check out this great tutorial.


I2C

July 8, 2013

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

Buttons

There are two buttons on SparkFun expLoRaBLE; a reset and GPIO button.

Reset Button

The reset (RST) button allows users to reset the program running on the NM180100 SiP without unplugging the board.

Reset Button
Reset button on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

User Button

Note: In order to utilize the user button, connected to GPIO 10, the pin mode will need to be configured as an input with an internal pullup (i.e. INPUT_PULLUP); see an example below.

pinMode(D10, INPUT_PULLUP);

The user (10 ) button allows users to short GPIO 10 to ground (GND).

GPIO 10 Button
GPIO 10 button on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

Indicator LEDs

There are five indication LEDs on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE:

  • Status/Pin 18? (Blue)
  • Power (Red)
  • Battery Charging (Yellow)
  • RX (Yellow) and TX (Green)

Power LED

The red, PWR LED will light up once 3.3V is supplied to the board. For most users, it will light up when 5V is supplied through the USB connection and/or when a LiPo battery is attached to the JST connector.

Power LED
SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus PWR status LED indicator. (Click to enlarge)

Battery Charging LED

The yellow, CHG LED will light while a battery is being charged through the charging circuit. The LED will be off when no battery is present (*dimmed), when the charge management controller is in standby (after the battery charging has been completed), or when the charge management controller is shutdown. The LED will be on when the charge management controller is in the process of charging the battery. For more information, please refer to the MCP73831 datasheet.

Charge LED
The battery charging (CHG) LED indicator on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)
Charge Cycle State STAT1
Shutdown
  • Thermal Shutdown
  • VDD < VBAT
Off (High Z)
No Battery Present Dimmed (High Z)
Charge Complete – Standby Off (H)
Preconditioning On (L)
Constant-Current Fast Charge On (L)
Constant Voltage On (L)

STAT LED

The blue, status (18) LED is typically used as a test or status LED to make sure that a board is working or for basic debugging. This indicator is connected to GPIO 18.

Status LED
The status (18) LED indicator on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)

RX and TX LEDs

The yellow, RX and green, TX LEDs are used to indicate serial communication and programming between the CH340E serial-to-UART and NM180100 SiP.

RX and TX LEDs
The RX and TX LED indicators on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. (Click to enlarge)

Jumpers

There are three jumpers on the back of the board that can be used to easily modify the hardware connections on the board.

  • ISO - This jumper can be used to isolate the 3.3V connection from the voltage regulator.
  • LED - This jumper can be used to remove 3.3V power to the PWR LED and reduce power consumption on the board.
  • RTS - This jumper can be used to disconnect the CH340E from the RESET pin of the Apollo3; effectively, disabling the ability of the CH340E to reset the MCU through software.

Primary I2C Bus

The Qwiic connector is attached to the primary I2C bus. The primary I2C bus for this board utilizes the pin connections, detailed in the table below:

Connection VDD GND SCL SDA
Pad Number
(NM180100 SiP)
3.3V GND D15 D14

Qwiic Connector

A Qwiic connector is provided for users to seamlessly integrate with SparkFun's Qwiic Ecosystem.

qwiic connector
Qwiic connector on the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. (Click to enlarge)

What is Qwiic?

The Qwiic system is intended a quick, hassle-free cabling/connector system for I2C devices. Qwiic is actually a play on words between "quick" and I2C or "iic".

Features of the Qwiic System

Keep your soldering iron at bay.

Cables plug easily between boards making quick work of setting up a new prototype. We currently offer three different lengths of Qwiic cables as well as a breadboard friendly cable to connect any Qwiic enabled board to anything else. Initially you may need to solder headers onto the shield to connect your platform to the Qwiic system but once that’s done it’s plug and go!

Qwiic Cable and Board

Qwiic cables connected to Spectral Sensor Breakout

Minimize your mistakes.

How many times have you swapped the SDA and SCL wires on your breadboard hoping the sensor will start working? The Qwiic connector is polarized so you know you’ll have it wired correctly, every time, from the start.

The PCB connector is part number SM04B-SRSS (Datasheet) or equivalent. The mating connector used on cables is part number SHR04V-S-B or equivalent. This is a common and low cost connector.

JST Connector

1mm pitch, 4-pin JST connector

Expand with ease.

It’s time to leverage the power of the I2C bus! Most Qwiic boards will have two or more connectors on them allowing multiple devices to be connected.

Software Overview

CH340 Driver

Users will need to install the latest CH340 driver on their computer, in order for it to properly recognize the board.

How to Install CH340 Drivers

August 6, 2019

How to install CH340 drivers (if you need them) on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Arduino IDE

Note: For first-time users, who have never programmed before and are looking to use the Arduino IDE, we recommend beginning with the SparkFun Inventor's Kit (SIK), which includes a simpler board like the Arduino Uno or SparkFun RedBoard and is designed to help users get started programming with the Arduino IDE.

Most users will be familiar with the Arduino IDE and it's use. As a point of reference for professional developers who aren't aware, the Arduino IDE is an open-source development environment, written in Java, that makes it easy to write code and upload it to a supported board. For more details, feel free to check out the Arduino website.

To get started with the Arduino IDE, check out the following tutorials:

Installing an Arduino Library

How do I install a custom Arduino library? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino library using the Arduino Library Manager. For libraries not linked with the Arduino IDE, we will also go over manually installing an Arduino library.

What is an Arduino?

What is this 'Arduino' thing anyway? This tutorials dives into what an Arduino is and along with Arduino projects and widgets.

Installing Arduino IDE

A step-by-step guide to installing and testing the Arduino software on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Installing Board Definitions in the Arduino IDE

How do I install a custom Arduino board/core? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino board definition using the Arduino Board Manager. We will also go over manually installing third-party cores, such as the board definitions required for many of the SparkFun development boards.

Software Dependencies

  • Install the latest SparkFun Apollo3 Boards board definitions in the Arduino IDE

    Note: The installed board definitions for our Apollo3 development boards must be version 2.0.5 or later.

    board manager
    Adding the SparkFun expLoRaBLE in the Board Manager. (Click to enlarge)

    Installing Board Definitions in the Arduino IDE

    September 9, 2020

    How do I install a custom Arduino board/core? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino board definition using the Arduino Board Manager. We will also go over manually installing third-party cores, such as the board definitions required for many of the SparkFun development boards.

    Note: For more instructions, users can follow this tutorial on Installing Additional Cores provided by Arduino. Users will also need the .json file for the SparkFun Ambiq Apollo3 Arduino Core:

    https://raw.githubusercontent.com/sparkfun/Arduino_Apollo3/master/package_sparkfun_apollo3_index.json

  • Install the associated Arduino libraries for the board's features:
    1. The ArduinoBLE Arduino library
    2. The RadioLib Arduino library

      Note: Currently, the RadioLib Arduino library, doesn't support the SparkFun expLoRaBLE Thing Plus. There is a pull-request to integrate support for the expLoRaBLE into the library. In the meantime, users will need to manually install the library with this .zip file.

      • Provides support for peer-to-peer RF communication
        Note: Peer-to-peer refers to direct RF communication using FSK modulation and not a mesh network LoRa integration.
    3. Our port of the basicmac code (*requires manual .zip file installation)

      Note: Currently, there isn't an Arduino library that provides a LoRa implementation, supporting the SX1262. However, we were able to modify and port the basicmac code as an Arduino library for the SparkFun expLoRaBLE. Users will need to manually install the library with this .zip file.

      The library includes modifications for the SPI pins use by the NM180100 to connect the Apollo3 MCU to the SX1262 module. Additionally, it also contains modifications to pre-configure the library to use the SX1262, the US LoRa frequency band, and defaults to a SF7 (spreading factor).


    Installing an Arduino Library

    January 11, 2013

    How do I install a custom Arduino library? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino library using the Arduino Library Manager. For libraries not linked with the Arduino IDE, we will also go over manually installing an Arduino library.

The Things Network

Users will need an account on The Things Network for the example that demonstrates the LoRaWAN capabilities of the expLoRaBLE. Please, use the information in either of the following tutorials to create an account on register a node on The Things Network.

LoRaWAN with ProRF and The Things Network

July 3, 2018

Learn how to make a LoRaWAN node for your next long range IoT project and connect it to the internet with The Things Network!

SparkFun SAMD21 Pro RF Hookup Guide

October 4, 2018

Using the super blazing, nay blinding, fast SAMD21 whipping clock cycles at 48MHz and the RFM96 module to connect to the Things Network (and other Radio woodles).

Hardware Assembly

USB Programming

The USB connection is utilized for programming and serial communication. Users only need to plug their SparkFun expLoRaBLE into a computer using a USB-C cable.

SparkFun expLoRaBLE connected to a computer
The SparkFun expLoRaBLE attached to a computer. (Click to enlarge)

Antenna

In order to utilize the LoRa and RF capabilities of the SX1262, users will need to attach an antenna. Check out the tutorial below for tips on using U.FL connectors.

Attaching a whip antenna to the SparkFun expLoRaBLE
Attaching a patch antenna to the SparkFun expLoRaBLE
The SparkFun expLoRaBLE with a whip or patch antenna attached. (Click to enlarge)

Three Quick Tips About Using U.FL

December 28, 2018

Quick tips regarding how to connect, protect, and disconnect U.FL connectors.
Note: Users should be aware that the transmission signal from the Wide Band 4G LTE Internal FPC antenna emmits orthogonally to the top surface (i.e. towards the camera in the image above). Additionally, from our experience the antenna runs better in the wire down orientation as well.

Battery

For remote LoRa applications, a Li-Po battery can be connected. Additionally, users may be interested in utilizing a solar panel and USB-C cable to recharge their battery.

Battery connected to the SparkFun expLoRaBLE
The SparkFun expLoRaBLE with a battery connected. (Click to enlarge)
Solar Panel Charger - 10W

Solar Panel Charger - 10W

PRT-16835
$18.95
USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

CAB-14743
$4.95
2

Qwiic Devices

The Qwiic system allows users to effortlessly prototype with a Qwiic compatible I2C device without soldering. Users can attach any Qwiic compatible sensor or board, with just a Qwiic cable. (*The example below, is for demonstration purposes and is not pertinent to the board functionality or this tutorial.)

Qwiic devices connected to SparkFun expLoRaBLE
The Qwiic XA110 GPS breakout board and Micro OLED board connected to the SparkFun expLoRaBLE.

LoRaWAN Example

LEGAL IMPLICATIONS!!!

Regional Configuration: The (ported) basicmac library includes configurations required for the SPI pins use by the NM180100 to connect the Apollo3 MCU to the SX1262 module. Additionally, it also contains modifications to pre-configure the library to use the SX1262, the US LoRa frequency band, and defaults to a spreading factor of 7 (SF7).

In order to change the regional configuration (for outside the US), users will need to go into the library files to make the necessary modifications to the target configuration file (target-conf.h). The configuration file can be found with the following file path BasicMAC>src>hal>target-config.h; on Windos 10, the file path is C:\Users\"username"\Documents\Arduino\libraries\BasicMAC\src\hal\target-config.h.

Modification lines for regioins
Lines 36-43 in the target-conf.h file used to configure the regional settings. (Click to enlarge)

On lines 36-43, users will find the available regional options. To make the required modifications, users simply need to comment in/out their configuration choice and save the file, before uploading their code. (*It is recommended that users also close and re-open the Arduino IDE before uploading their code, to ensure the modifications are in place.)

Register a Device on The Things Network

In order to utilize this example, users will need access to a gateway that is connected to The Things Network. Additionally, users should have their own account on The Things Network and have registered a device for their node. A device must be registered, in order to receive the Network Session Key, App Session Key, and Device Address required for the SparkFun expLoRaBLE to operate as a node and have its data passed to The Things Network servers. For those who are unfamiliar with LoRaWAN and The Things Network, please refer to the information provided below.

Registering a Device on The Things Network:

Users will need an account on The Things Network for this example. Please, use the information in either of the following tutorials to create an account and register a device on The Things Network.

LoRaWAN with ProRF and The Things Network

July 3, 2018

Learn how to make a LoRaWAN node for your next long range IoT project and connect it to the internet with The Things Network!

SparkFun SAMD21 Pro RF Hookup Guide

October 4, 2018

Using the super blazing, nay blinding, fast SAMD21 whipping clock cycles at 48MHz and the RFM96 module to connect to the Things Network (and other Radio woodles).
Credentials:

Once a device has been registered (*the device activation method should be configure to ABP), the Network Session Key, App Session Key, and Device Address are displayed on the Device Overview page. In order for the expLoRaBLE to have its data passed to The Things Network, the Network Session Key, App Session Key, and Device Address must be hard coded on the device. By default, the Network Session Key and App Session Key fields are obscured for security reasons. Click the icon to show the code and click the <> button to show the codes in a C-style format. Below, is a diagram explaining which field on the Device Overview page corresponds to the variables in the provided example code.

Screenshot of the Device Address, Network Session Key, and App Session Key fields from the Device Overview page
A screen shot from the Device Overview page with labels. (Click to enlarge)

Additional Resources

For more information, feel free to utilize the documentation from The Things Network to:

  1. Create or Register an Account
  2. Add an Application through the Console
  3. Register a Device in the Application
  4. Once registered, in the device settings:
  5. Learn about Working with Bytes

LoRa Example Code

Once users have a device registered on The Things Network, the example code will need to be downloaded and a few modifications are required before uploading.

Credentials

Lines 36-47 of the example code, need to be modified to hard code the credentials required for the payload from the node to be passed to The Things Network:

language:c
// LoRaWAN NwkSKey, network session key
// This is the default Semtech key, which is used by the early prototype TTN
// network.
static const PROGMEM u1_t NWKSKEY[16] = { 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x## };

// LoRaWAN AppSKey, application session key
// This is the default Semtech key, which is used by the early prototype TTN
// network.
static const u1_t PROGMEM APPSKEY[16] = { 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x##, 0x## };

// LoRaWAN end-device address (DevAddr)
static const u4_t DEVADDR =  0x######## ; // <-- Change this address for every node! For example, our device address is 26022DEN. We will need to replace "DEVICE_ADDRESS_HERE" as 0x26022DEB.

Transmission Interval

Lines 62-64 of the example code, are used to set the transmission intervals between payloads:

language:c
// Schedule TX every this many milliseconds (might become longer due to duty
// cycle limitations).
const unsigned TX_INTERVAL = 20000;

Payload Data

Lines 329-336 of the example code, is where the contents of the payload can be modified. The contents of the transmission on can be viewed on The Things Network through the Application Data page, once the node begins broadcasting. To access the Application Data page, click on the Data tab from the Device Overview page on The Things Network console.

language:c
void send_packet() {
  // Prepare upstream data transmission at the next possible time.
  uint8_t mydata[] = "<Enter Text>";
  LMIC_setTxData2(1, mydata, sizeof(mydata) - 1, 0);
  Serial.println(F("Packet queued"));

  last_packet = millis();
}
Note: The data is limited to 13 bytes in size. The data (mydata[]) can take 3 different formats: text (as shown above), integers (8-bit unsigned), or an array. Any data sent as an array, must be in the following format: { 0x01, 0x02, 0x03, ... up to ... 0x13} (i.e. up to 13 hexadecimal numbers in an array).

Before You Upload the Code

STOP!!!

Regional Configuration: Before uploading the code, be sure to make any necessary regional configuration changes, as mentioned at the beginning of this section, to avoid breaking any laws.

Note: For those utilizing our LoRa Gateway - 1-Channel (ESP32), the code on lines 288-300 will need to be uncommented. The modification forces the device/node to only use channel 8; instead of randomly picking a channel to broadcast on. This is important as the single channel gateeway only receives transmissions on channel 8 and if the device were broadcasting on channels randomly, only a portion of the transmissions would reach The Things Network.


// disable channels 0-7
for (int i = 0; i <= 7 ; i++)
{
LMIC_disableChannel(i);
}

// note, leave channel 8 enabled

// disable all other higher channels
for (int i = 9; i <= 63 ; i++)
{
LMIC_disableChannel(i);
}

Code in Operation

Once the example code has been modified and uploaded to the SparkFun expLoRaBLE, users can monitor the serial terminal (or SerialMonitor on the Arduino IDE) for successful transmissions. Additionally, users can use The Things Network to decode the data packets to verify the data transmission.

Serial Output from Example Code
Example of serial output from successful transmissions. (Click to enlarge)

Mapping with Node

For those looking to test out the range of their setup configuration, The Things Network has an application called TTN Mapper. To get started follow the Mapping Gateway Coverage using a Things Node. There is also an option to map using a either an Android phone or iPhone. For more information on the app, please cheack out the documentation on The Things Network.

To generate the images below, the Android guide was followed. The steps were relatively simple:

  1. Download the App
  2. Link a Device by:
    1. Logging-in to The Things Network
    2. Select an Application
    3. Select Device
  3. Power on Device
  4. Walk Around

The TTN Mapper app uses the phone's positioning and ties it to the data transmission from the linked device. Therefore, users will need to enable their phone's data and location for the application to work properly.

Patch Antenna Whip Antenna

Example mapping of the signal coverage, using a spreading factor of 7 (SF7), for two different antennas.

Note: To maximize the range of the device, the spreading factor should be changed to SF12. However, this modification will reduce the bitrate; and therefore, lowers the data rate; and therefore, minimizes the packet size that can be transmitted.

You can even publish your data online, to get a radar-like coverage map for a gateway:

Gateway Coverage - Radar
A radar, coverage map for a gateway. (Click to enlarge)

There were some vehicles parked to the northwest and northwest-by-north of where the gateway was positioned; as well as a tree and post to the immediate west and west-by-north. The image illustrates how the signal strength to the west drops off significantly, due to the proximity of the trees and poles. Additionally, how the signal strength in the northwest gradually falls from interference by the vehicles. The signal coverage to the south of the gateway was spotty since it was around the corner of the building.

Peer-to-Peer Example

In this example, the RadioLib library utilizes the frequency shift keying (FSK) capabilities of the SX1262 transceiver. For this example, users will need two expLoRaBLEs; one to transmit data and the other to receive that data. For more information on this library, check out the GitHub repository Wiki.

Once the example codes has been uploaded to their respective boards, users should see the data transmissions in the Serial Monitor:

Serial Monitor- Transmitter Output
A screen shot of the Serial Monitor, showing that data is being transmitted. (Click to enlarge)

Serial Monitor- Receiver Output
A screen shot of the Serial Monitor, showing that data was received. (Click to enlarge)

Note: The Arduino IDE only lets users connect to one COM (or serial) port at a time. Just verify that the board with the transmit code is sending data; then, monitor the COM port of the board with the receiver code for incoming data. If all is working, Hello World! transmissions will begin to appear.

Resources and Going Further

For more on the Artemis Development Kit, check out the links below:


Need some inspiration for your next project? Check out some of these related tutorials:

SparkFun Tutorials

Installing an Arduino Library

How do I install a custom Arduino library? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino library using the Arduino Library Manager. For libraries not linked with the Arduino IDE, we will also go over manually installing an Arduino library.

What is an Arduino?

What is this 'Arduino' thing anyway? This tutorials dives into what an Arduino is and along with Arduino projects and widgets.

Installing Arduino IDE

A step-by-step guide to installing and testing the Arduino software on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Installing Board Definitions in the Arduino IDE

How do I install a custom Arduino board/core? It's easy! This tutorial will go over how to install an Arduino board definition using the Arduino Board Manager. We will also go over manually installing third-party cores, such as the board definitions required for many of the SparkFun development boards.

Arduino Tutorials

Arduino Board Comparison Guides

Choosing an Arduino for Your Project

Examining the diverse world of Arduino boards and understanding the differences between them before choosing one for a project.

Standard Arduino Comparison Guide

Arduino Comparison Guide Uno or Pro Mini? Bluetooth or wireless? When it comes to Arduinos, there are a lot of choices. We've compiled every Arduino development…

RedBoard vs. Uno

In this tutorial we discuss the differences and similarities between the RedBoard and the Arduino Uno (SMD and PTH). The development platforms
Beginner

Click the buttons above for tutorials relating to the board functionality based on topic difficulty.

Beginner

Serial Communication

Asynchronous serial communication concepts: packets, signal levels, baud rates, UARTs and more!

Analog to Digital Conversion

The world is analog. Use analog to digital conversion to help digital devices interpret the world.

Logic Levels

Learn the difference between 3.3V and 5V devices and logic levels.

Analog vs. Digital

This tutorial covers the concept of analog and digital signals, as they relate to electronics.

Data Types in Arduino

Learn about the common data types and what they signify in the Arduino programming environment.

How to Work with Jumper Pads and PCB Traces

Handling PCB jumper pads and traces is an essential skill. Learn how to cut a PCB trace, add a solder jumper between pads to reroute connections, and repair a trace with the green wire method if a trace is damaged.

Artemis Development with Arduino

Get our powerful Artemis based boards (Artemis Nano, BlackBoard Artemis, and BlackBoard Artemis ATP) blinking in less than 5 minutes using the SparkFun Artemis Arduino Core!

Intermediate

Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

SPI is commonly used to connect microcontrollers to peripherals such as sensors, shift registers, and SD cards.

I2C

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

Processor Interrupts with Arduino

What is an interrupt? In a nutshell, there is a method by which a processor can execute its normal program while continuously monitoring for some kind of event, or interrupt. There are two types of interrupts: hardware and software interrupts. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will focus on hardware interrupts.

Advanced

Integrated Circuits

An introduction to integrated circuits (ICs). Electronics' ubiquitous black chips. Includes a focus on the variety of IC packages.

Bluetooth Basics

An overview of the Bluetooth wireless technology.

Reading and Writing Serial EEPROMs

EEPROM is a great way to add extra memory to your microcontroller project. Wait 'til you see how easy it is to use!

ARM Programming

How to program SAMD21 or SAMD51 boards (or other ARM processors).

Software Development Guides

Using SparkFun Edge Board with Ambiq Apollo3 SDK

We will demonstrate how to get started with your SparkFun Edge Board by setting up the toolchain on your computer, examining an example program, and using the serial uploader tool to flash the chip.

Artemis Development with Arduino

Get our powerful Artemis based boards (Artemis Nano, BlackBoard Artemis, and BlackBoard Artemis ATP) blinking in less than 5 minutes using the SparkFun Artemis Arduino Core!

Artemis Development with the Arduino IDE

This is an in-depth guide on developing in the Arduino IDE for the Artemis module and any Artemis microcontroller development board. Inside, users will find setup instructions and simple examples from blinking an LED and taking ADC measurements; to more complex features like BLE and I2C.

Example Projects

Programming the SparkFun Edge with Arduino

Running low-power machine learning examples on the SparkFun Edge can now be done using the familiar Arduino IDE. In this follow-up to the initial Edge tutorial, we'll look at how to get three examples up and running without the need to learn an entirely new SDK.