(Pycom and LoPy featured in an article in Rethink IoT)
by THOMAS FLANAGAN
Dutch start up Pycom has secured another investment round for its low energy triple bearer IoT development boards LoPy and WiPy – this time from Hong Kong based In-Tech Electronics.
The WiPy launched last year, and now the LoPy board has been causing quite a stir in the industry by combining LoRa, WiFi and BLE, so much so that it managed to hit its Kickstarter target in just 5 days, raising over $136,000. The term disruptive has become almost throwaway in the IoT, but products like the LoPy have the potential to cause genuine seismic shifts in the market – by combining chipsets, as LoPy has done. But is this a step towards an option for a single IoT radio chipset solution?
This will certainly be no easy feat, particularly with licensing issues and getting various parties to agree to FRAND (Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory) patent regulations, and of course economies of scale – less devices equals lower per-device royalties, but potentially far more volume. But if the smaller players want to gang up on the incumbent MNOs, a single or modular chipset sounds like a viable strategy.
A major issue is that a lot of IoT protocols work in sub-GHz ISM bands, and some in unlicensed bands, LoRa operates in the 868 MHz and 915 MHz ISM bands, which is awfully close to that used by cellular operators for the narrowband LTE standards Cat M1 and M2 for M2M IoT applications. Cat M1 and Cat M2, as well as the current low-power LTE Cat 1 offering, will challenge LPWAN technologies like LoRa and Sigfox, mainly down to the brand recognition that the MNOs flaunt and the multitude of customer contracts already boasted thanks to their established cellular networks.
Pycom says it opted for LoRa as the LPWAN protocol because it “loves the openness of the standard” – allowing developer communities to quickly build and share IoT applications using MicroPython.
LoPy will beginning shipping to around 50 countries upon launch (date to be confirmed) and Pycom cites that China is set to become the world’s largest IoT market, despite the US and Europe leading the way. Pycom now supplies over 3,000 developers and almost 1,000 enterprises – that’s quite a customer base it has accumulated in just five months.
The LoPy can perform as a LoRa Nano Gateway and a multi-bearer development platform, encompassing LoRa, WiFi and BLE with the latest Espressif chipset, and is programmable with MicroPython and the Pymakr IDE (Integrated Development Environment).
Both low-power 25mm by 45mm development boards combine WiFi and Python – few other boards run Python which many developers already use, so this apparently reduces the need to spend lengthy periods studying the ins and outs.
WiPy is powered by a CC3200 ARM Cortex-M4 MCU from Texas Instruments, combined with a WiFi network processor – with features such as secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) for cloud security capabilities.
The low power LoPy and WiPy boards consume just 850uA (microamps) while still maintaining the WiFi connection while in suspended mode. Pycom claims this is the first low energy triple bearer board in the world – while there are other triple bearer boards out there, this is definitely the first to incorporate LoRa.
“Since launching in January, Pycom focused on producing a series of fast deployment, multi-network, edge-of-network modules at a price point that finally makes connecting lots of individual sensors an economic reality. It’s just been far too expensive and long-winded for many enterprises to make their IoT strategy a reality until now. Our LoPy Kickstarter campaign demonstrated that our pricing works for development boards that support Bluetooth, WiFi and LoRa – in fact the campaign was oversubscribed by almost three times such is the demand for this innovation in IoT,” said Pycom CEO and co-founder Fred de Haro.
“The benefits of IoT is evident for Chinese manufacturers. The government has launched a “Made in China 2025” initiative, modelled on Germany’s “Industrie 4.0” scheme to improve our country’s manufacturing competitiveness and according to Accenture “the economic value from the IoT could jump from $196 billion to $736 billion – a 276% increase,” said In-Tech Electronics CEO and founder Albert Ho.