UK-based Comtech Holdings Ltd. (Bolton, England), a so-called machine-to-machine (M2M) technology provider, is offering---for immediate delivery---a module family called the µWEB Lite GSM/GPRS. As TCP/IP wireless modems supporting automated e-mail and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) modes, these modules can operate standalone or be integrated into remote machines for central management applications.
Module versions are available for both US (FCC-defined bands) and European frequencies (850-MHz to 1.9-GHz). The new modules fit Comtech's image as a "one-stop shop" for hardware, software, and services enabling connectivity to remote equipment.
The modules not only include a GSM/GPRS modem and TCP/IP stack for communication over the Internet, but they also support higher application level modes suited to M2M applications.
For example, an automated mode enables one of these units to wake-up upon an I/O change, or on a schedule dictated by an on-board realtime clock (RTC), or due to a network prompt. One of the modules can then autonomously report I/O status via SMS (Short Message Service), GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), or TCP/IP socket connections over GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and the Internet.
No Local Microcontroller
These modules should serve well for standalone applications where there's no local microcontroller, too. A typical µWEB Lite module supports four analog inputs and eight digital I/O lines. In use, it can log data from OEM equipment over a TTL/RS-232 host port into an on-board EEPROM. The module's e-mail mode then lets the EEPROM data log to be sent as an e-mail attachment.
In addition, the module's FTP mode supports data transfer between the on-board data log and a central FTP server. A key feature of the FTP mode is support for streaming data directly to a host serial port for large data files. Using the standard TCP commands (PUT, GET, MOVE and DELETE), you can transfer files over the GPRS network and the Internet.
µWEB Lite supports many features that can be used in varied ways. For example, OEMs making appliances, vending machines, etc., often deploy testers in high-volume applications in order to optimize products and increase reliability prior to product release. In these settings, µWEB Lite can let an OEM machine log usage, status, diagnostics, and alarm data into its EEPROM over the TTL/RS-232 serial port, and then e-mail this as an attachment to a central application.
The central application, in turn, could be a utility program to gather data into an Excel spreadsheet so that reports can be generated. This could let the appliance manufacturer understand how its products are used in the field. It could also enable the manufacturer to optimize a product and the supply chain.
"µWEB Lite was specifically designed to achieve rapid time-to-market with minimal investment," notes Comtech Holdings Technical Director Steve Whitehead. "It does that by integrating core application-level features, complemented by a toolset which enables rapid application upgradeability both locally and remotely."
As Whitehead points out, the module is complemented by a PC Configuration Tool and a development starter kit. These are supplied to simplify evaluation, and aid design integration. A library of application notes with configuration files is also available.
For its part, the PC Configuration Tool supports graphical configuration of each mode, and includes a firmware upgrade utility. You can also use it to test functionality and verify configuration, all within your PC environment.
The starter kit includes a µWEB Lite module, an antenna, a power supply, and a serial cable. The kit also includes the PC Configuration Tool, an I/O simulator board, a CD-ROM, and RS-232 adapter for interfacing to your PC.
Comtech also offers design customization for its µWEB Lite.
For more details, contact Steve Whitehead at Comtech Holdings Ltd, Comtech House, 28 Manchester Rd., Westhoughton, Bolton, Lancashire, BL5 3QJ, UK. Phone: +44 (0) 1942 851800. Fax: +44 (0) 1942 851808. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Comtech's Web site, too.