Digi XBee Cellular Versus Rudimentary Cellular Breakout Boards

Digi International Digi International
April 14, 2017

Digi XBee® Cellular represents a quantum leap ahead of the typical breakout boards on the market today in terms of features, functionality, and ease of development. A breakout board "breaks out" the pins of an underlying cellular module onto a printed circuit board giving you access to use the pins, but little or no additional functionality. Some breakout boards include end-device certification, a SIM slot, and a simple power supply and antenna connector. But, the designer is left having to design in an external microcontroller to manage the module, integrate security elements into their design, and other complex development tasks.

Unlike these breakout boards, Digi XBee Cellular hardware is fully integrated with an on-board cellular module, ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller, power regulator, and security chip, all packed into a compact 24.4 x 32.9 mm Digi XBee through-hole footprint. This enables a number of useful features on Digi XBee Cellular that are not available on other cellular modules or breakout boards:

Digi XBee Software Interface

Digi XBee Cellular blog diagramThis runs on the on-board micro-controller and provides an abstraction layer for software designers, including a common AT command interface for configuration and control, an API mode for external devices to intelligently communicate with the XBee, and a transparent serial mode for simple transparent communications through the UART, over the cellular network, to the destination IP address or phone number.

Future-Proof Design

The Digi XBee software interface is consistent across all current and future XBees, and they all share the same Digi XBee footprint. This means it will be easy to drop new wireless technologies into your design as they roll out - technologies like LTE-M, NB-IoT or even LoRa.

Digi XCTU Software: Free, Easy-to-Use

The Digi XCTU® software enables you to configure, test, and manage your devices with an intuitive user interface.

Deep Sleep Mode

In this mode, Digi XBee Cellular consumes less than 10 uA. This feature can be configured as cyclic sleep, or pin activated sleep. Other breakout boards support low-power modes that draw significantly more power.

Digi TrustFence Security Features

Digi TrustFence® security features include secure boot, SSL/TLS 1.2, encrypted storage, and protected JTAG interface.

On-board Programmability via MicroPython

Developers will have their own application sandbox directly on the Digi XBee Cellular modem. This enables on-board intelligence for simple sensor/actuator applications, using the digital and analog I/O.

When considering embedded cellular connectivity, it is important consider all of the additional components and work involved in using a breakout board. If time to market and ease of use are vital to your project check out the Digi XBee Cellular development kit which includes a Digi XBee end-device certified modem, a development board, a pre-activated SIM with a live data plan and 6 months of free data service, and the antennas and accessories needed to get cellular up and running in a matter of minutes!

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