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In The Internet of Things, the ability for a device to securely and reliably reach the internet is everything. The problem is, for a number of sensing devices, adding a costly (often ~$20+) Wi-Fi or Cellular module isn’t tenable. If you’re looking to connect a set of smoke detectors in a facility, or a set of dispensers in a bathroom, adding a cellular or Wi-Fi module to every device is likely to result in a Bill of Materials (BOM) cost higher than that of the device itself. And while the data collected and insight gained from IoT devices is valuable, doubling your BOM just to get online is a non-starter for most solutions.

The good news is that, when it comes to wireless connectivity, Wi-Fi and cellular aren’t your only options. And depending on range and the needs of your application, approaches like BLE, Thread/Matter, and LoRa exist to help lower the cost of connectivity for IoT devices.

After we launched the Notecard in January of 2021, we saw a lot of interest from customers who were impressed with our approach to simple, developer-friendly cellular IoT and wanted to explore how our products and approach to low-code IoT development could meet their needs. And as we explored use cases and the challenges our customers were facing, we saw an opportunity to extend our product offerings into places were a Notecard on every sensor wasn’t an option. Over the last year, we’ve been working to expand the reach of Blues products from cellular, to Wi-FI, and today, to LoRa.

Introducing Sparrow

Sparrow Essentials Board

Today, I am proud to announce the general availability of Sparrow. Sparrow is a developer toolkit that accelerates construction of low-cost, LoRa-based device cluster applications. Our developer kit, which is available now, contains everything you need to build a POC of a solution, including:

  • A Notecarrier A and Wi-Fi Notecard.
  • 2 Sparrow Reference Sensors with onboard motion (PIR), temp, and humidity (BME280) in a ready-to-deploy enclosure.
  • 3 Sparrow Essentials boards to create the gateway and two for adding your own sensors.
  • Batteries and cables for power and programming devices.

Description of the Sparrow Product family of devices

As an extension to the Blues ecosystem, Sparrow works with any Notecard. We provide a Wi-Fi Notecard to get you started, but a cellular Notecard works great too. You create a Sparrow Gateway by connecting a Sparrow Essentials board to a Notecarrier using a Qwiic cable, and the pre-loaded firmware knows how to function as a gateway when it powers on and detects a Notecard.

The two reference sensors will help you deploy your first Sparrow app in minutes, simply plug in the included batteries, pair each with the Gateway, and the sensors will start sending temperature, humidity, and motion data to the Notecard and Notehub.io.

As with our other products, we have a complete quickstart and guides available at dev.blues.io to help get you going with Sparrow.

A complete toolkit, including firmware and software

And since Sparrow is meant to be a complete developer toolkit, we decided we wanted to go beyond the hardware and provide everything developers might need to explore the product. That includes reference firmware, and software for a web-based dashboard application.

On the hardware side, we’ve open-sourced the firmware that comes included on every Sparrow device, and have created an extensive set of guides at dev.blues.io to help you get started building Sparrow apps that read from your own sensors.

And on the software side, we’re also releasing an open-source reference web app that provides a customizable dashboard for viewing Sparrow data, and configuring your sensors. We’ve published a hosted version with some of our own sensors so you can see the app in action, and a complete set of instructions for creating and deploying your own instance of the app, and routing Sparrow data from Notehub.io to your preferred cloud store.

Sparrow Web App Dashboard

At Blues, we believe that LoRa is a great option for use cases where customers are looking to add connectivity to low-cost devices. And with Sparrow, it’s never been easier to add developer-friendly LoRa connectivity to Notecard-based applications.

We hope you’ll take Sparrow for a spin, let us know what you think, and share what you build with it!

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