The best way to see where the Internet of Things is valuable is simply to try it out.
Now there is a new hardware platform that makes this faster and easier than ever before.
Texas Instruments announced the LPSTK just a few weeks ago and we got our hands on it before the release.
The LPSTK (yes, we pronounce it lipstick) is a successor to the Sensortag hardware, also from Texas Instruments.
We have used the Sensortag in a number of customer projects, but it was primarily useful as in the business case validation phase.
The primary drawback of the Sensortag was that did not have a way to add more sensors than the on-board sensors. The LPSTK changes this by adding an external connector. It also features an external antenna as well as a larger battery.
What is the LPSTK and what is it good for?
But the LPSTK is more than just a showcase for a wireless chip. It is a hardware kit that is packed with sensors that is ready to be used in IoT projects.
At Thingsquare, we have previously used the TI Sensortag, which is predecessor of the LPSTK, both in the lab and in customer projects. Because the LPSTK is so new, we have not yet used it in any customer projects, but are looking forward to doing so.
In the lab, the LPSTK replaces the Launchpad boards. The LPSTK is way easier to work with than the Launchpads: it is smaller and looks better. And it has the same connections as the Launchpad, which makes it easy to connect new sensors.
And because the LPSTK’s handy size, and relatively large batteries, it can be used in customer projects. Previously, we would have had to produce a new, custom, board for use in customer projects.
Plenty of wireless: Bluetooth and sub-GHz
The LPSTK has two wireless ways to communicate: Bluetooth and sub-GHz.
The Thingsquare app uses Bluetooth to detect the presence of the LPSTK: just put the phone next to the LPSTK and it appears in the app.
The sub-GHz communication has a much longer range than the Bluetooth link: sub-GHz can do up to several miles/kilometers in the right conditions, whereas the Bluetooth can barely reach from one room to the next.
The sub-GHz link is why the LPSTK has its black antenna. The antenna can be removed, but the range will suffer. We have not yet done any range testing on the LPSTK yet, but will get back to you with more information once we have some solid data.
The LPSTK has a build-in battery pack that holds two AAA batteries. This is enough to give the LPSTK many years of lifetime, even under relatively demanding conditions.
The Sensortag, which had only a single coin-cell battery, could run for years, but that required it to sleep a lot.
The LPSTK packs a bunch of useful on-board sensors:
- Ambient light
- Magnetic (Hall effect) sensor
If more sensors are needed, they can be easily attached via the expansion ports. This is the real beauty of the LPSTK.
The size: good and bad
The only drawback we have found with the LPSTK thus far is the size: it about the size of a palm, which is sightly larger than the previous Sensortag.
But the size is not all bad. Most of the size comes from the battery holder and the plastic casing. These can both can be removed, and the naked board can be detached.
This board is fairly small, which makes it useful for including in a nice 3D-printed case.
On the back side of the board, there is also an attachment for a coin cell battery holder. This makes it even more versatile as some applications need a small case, but do not consume extensive amounts of power.
The new LPSTK from Texas Instruments is an exciting new hardware kit for Internet of Things solution development, both during the lab phase and during the business validation phase.
The LPSTK packs a bunch of useful sensors, as well as two expansion ports that make it extremely versatile.
The battery pack contains two AAA batteries, which give the LPSTK years of lifetime. There is also a coin cell battery connector on the back, if a smaller form factor is needed.
We just received the first LPSTKs at the Thingsquare office and have not yet used them in customer projects. But we are excited to get started!