Cellular IoT — MDM9206 Modem and New LTE for IoT SDK

Wednesday 7/18/18 02:09pm
Posted By Nagaraju Naik
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Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Let’s think about what you’re going to need for the truly global Internet of Things and the devices you’re building:

  1. LTE IoT, because you want cellular coverage to track assets and Things where you can’t rely on Wi-Fi
  2. Global multimode LTE (Cat M1(eMTC) and Cat NB-1 (NB-IOT)) support in your IoT device, because you don’t want to maintain different products for North America, Europe, China, India and other regions
  3. Cloud device agents, because you may want your apps to access cloud compute and resources
  4. An on-board application processor, because you don’t want to have separate silicon for processing and communications (or maybe you do — see below)

For #1 and #2, embedded developers are already using the Qualcomm MDM9206 LTE IoT modem from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. for LTE coverage and global multimode support in more than 90 different designs. (Your design may be one of them.) As for #3 and #4, we’ve released the Qualcomm® LTE for IoT SDK so you can take advantage of the chip’s on-board Arm Cortex A7 and pre-integrated cloud SDKs and cloud agents as well.

With the combination of the MDM9206 and the LTE for IoT SDK, you can build global IoT devices for use cases like asset tracking, smart lighting, utility meters, agriculture and manufacturing. And you can build them without the need of an external GPS, microcontroller (MCU) or security element.

Hosted or hostless, you can use the SDK to develop on Cortex A7

We designed the modem on the MDM9206 to cover eMTC (Cat M1), prevalent in North America; NB-IoT (Cat NB-1), prevalent in China, Europe, Asia and other regions; and 2G/E-GPRS as a fallback. Up to now, developers have used the MDM9206 in a hosted architecture without the SDK, running IoT applications on an external MCU and talking to the modem through an AT command interface.

Now, with the LTE for IoT SDK, you have a hostless option, too: Use the on-board A7 to develop with the advanced features in the Qualcomm API (QAPI) and built-in support for IoT cloud solution providers. You can save yourself the cost of the external MCU, the investment in cloud R&D and the headache of separate roadmaps for modem and processor.

The A7 is engineered to run a ThreadX RTOS image that is less than 10 MB in size and boots more quickly than a typical Linux image of about 40 MB. That means lower power consumption when your IoT apps wake up several times a day to exchange messages with the network or with a cloud service.

QAPI exposes interfaces in the MDM9206 for networking services (including HTTP/HTTPS, TLS/DTLS and MQTT), OS services (file system, USB), location (GNSS), board support package services (including UART, SPI, I2C, ADC and temperature sensor), a service layer for device management (OMA LWM2M) and other capabilities you’d expect for IoT app development.

We’ve designed the SDK so you can develop on the MDM9206. Install the SDK on your workstation (Linux or Windows 10), build the application, load it to the LTE IoT development kit over USB, launch it and run it over the cellular network.

Then, connect to the cloud and take your IoT development a big step further.

Plug straight into cloud services from Alibaba, Microsoft Azure and China Mobile

Whether you’re running hosted or hostless, you’ll want cloud access.

To make it easier to connect to cloud services from the MDM9206, we’ve included a shim layer designed to map each provider’s cloud SDK or device agent through a porting interface to QAPI. The cloud device agent is defined by the provider. It contains software components for communicating with the cloud and resides in the MDM9206.

The LTE IoT SDK contains the pre-integrated cloud device agents for three providers:

  • Alibaba Cloud Link One
  • China Mobile OneNet
  • Microsoft Azure IoT SDK

We’ve ported those agents onto the MDM9206, had them certified with their respective providers and distributed a shim layer for them so you can start using their cloud services right away.

The LTE IoT SDK is available to other cloud service providers as well. They can port their agent, ensure that it works from the MDM9206 and distribute it to their customers. Cloud device agents verified on the MDM9206 chipset can be easily integrated, with no need to certify it with different module vendors. Their customers then go through app certification.

The following cloud solution providers have ported their agent to the MDM9206 using the LTE IoT SDK:

  • Ayla Networks IoT Platform
  • Ericsson IoT Accelerator
  • Gizwits IoT Cloud
  • Verizon ThingSpace

Come for the modem. Stay for the A7 and the cloud device agents.

The LTE IoT SDK and the MDM9206 are a great combination for cellular IoT devices, whether you want to go hosted or hostless.

If you run hosted — say, because you’re connecting to a specific type of sensor — you can design around your preferred external MCU and use the modem on the MDM9206. Our QTI roadmap gives you the features — HTTP, MQTT, TCP/UDP, TLS/DTLS — you need to keep evolving, so you can continue hosted while reducing your R&D costs to a simple AT interface and an AT handler application on the A7.

If you run hostless, you can connect your sensors directly to the MDM9206 and develop for your mass-production IoT device, with no need for an external MCU.

Either way, the LTE IoT SDK is expected to be supported in all future LTE IoT chipsets, with backward compatibility.

So it’s a great time to start building cellular coverage and cloud services into your IoT apps. The LTE IoT SDK is available for download now and you can order LTE IoT development kits and modules from multiple hardware providers.