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FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?
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FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jimk123 on Mon Jan 04, 2021 3:04 pm

I wanted to also add to this thread that I desperately need a 3g replacement for the current 3G boards that are going end of life shortly. Over the past couple of years I have purchased 10 of the Adafruit FONA 808 Shield - Mini Cellular GSM + GPS for Arduino (ID: 2636) boards along with the corresponding Ting cards from your web site and pair them up with the Arduino Mega 2560 R3 (has lots of memory for all the I2C sensors)

I install these in pairs on marine vessels. One pair is using SMS txt commands to control DC and AC circuits on the boat and get daily txt messages on the status and trigger alarm warning txts. The other pair is uploading data to your awesome Adafruit IO service (see screen images below) Each board typically has around a dozen I2C sensors to monitor temperature, humidity, battery voltages, air quality, light level, roll and pitch, GPS lat/lon location, and alarms for bilge pump, shore power, motion, etc.

These things are FANTASTIC ! I am not an engineer but because of the excellent tutorials and code examples Adafruit offers I was able to build these, saving thousands of dollars compared to a commercial marine monitoring service and they have been rock solid in reliability over the years. People are very impressed with the IO graphs and the ability to send SMS text messages to the boat to toggle deck lights, AC etc using your phone. Because these are boats that move around on the ocean (and are are typically within range of cell tower) traditional wifi is not an option and I looked briefly at Iridium Satellite modems but very expense and not fast or reliable enough.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me Adafruit you are working on a 4G replacement for this shield ? btw the feather version was way to small in terms of memory to use with lots of I2C sensors and the Particle offerings are geared toward highly skilled developers with limited code examples and little support.

Thank you

SMStxt.jpg
sample SMS txt I get at 8am and 4pm daily
SMStxt.jpg (130.24 KiB) Viewed 349 times


temp.jpg
sample Adafruit IO
temp.jpg (163.36 KiB) Viewed 349 times


volt light.jpg
volt light.jpg (155.11 KiB) Viewed 349 times

jimk123
 
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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Thu Feb 18, 2021 2:20 pm

Jimk123,Any luck getting a 4G replacement?
I have some ideas.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by EPD on Sat Feb 20, 2021 10:44 am

ive not found any boards at this time, however im in the process of working with SIMCOM, the SIM5320E/A manufacturer, in the hopes of creating my own 4g compatible board to talk over uart, not sure on all the details as this is a work in progress but i should have something next year on sale from myself.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by rskup on Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:56 am

Hi Tkall, curious to hear your 4G ideas.

I've been tinkering using a Feather Proto (#2771) to control this 4G IoT breakout board that uses a SIM7000G chip:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32964568200.html

Using a Hologram.io sim card in it. So far have sent simple test data back and forth between this board and Hologram's dashboard. Now working on making a GPS tracker with it and using Adafruit's dashboard and the Map block.

So far no complaints about this board, I like it, easy to code for since it's similar to my FONA 3G (based on the SIM5320), but would love if Adafruit had a FONA 4G.

Price is nice too at $25, but of course delivery time is not so nice, took about a month to get it.

Also put the Pycom GPy from Adafruit (#3612) on my wishlist for my next order, looks pretty cool with 4G, wifi, bluetooth, and supports MicroPython.

Anyways, would be interested in hearing your 4G ideas. I'm sure others would too, as this "Adafruit FONA 4G ???" type of post always seems to get a lot of views.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:05 pm

I sent this idea to Adafruit customer service yesterday:
I think this could help solve the problem many of us are
experiencing with the cellular transition from 2G and 3G to 4G. Rather than
Adafruit building and selling your own cellular device, you could carry the
Digi Xbee cellular and provide the helpful libraries and tutorials as you
did with the 2G and 3G breakout boards. The Digi device is already certified
but could benefit from the world class Adafruit support. I would purchase
these directly from you and would bet many others would also.
Thank you for your consideration,

Tkall
 
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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jimk123 on Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:31 pm

I was really hoping adafruit would step up and offer a 4g replacement to their 3g boards. I have invested a lot of time and money over the last few years using the 3G boards and deploying them on marine vessels. For the adafruit IO portion I had to go buy a verizon mifi device and use a ESP32 board to connect and upload data. Still in the testing stages but it is considerably more costly than buying a phone number from Ting and a small data plan, $50 month vs $10. Multiple this by several vessels and the costs rapidly rise.

Would like to hear from adafruit what their plans are for replacement, it seems irresponsible to not offer a 4g cellular solution to their current 3G offerings for sending and receiving text messages. I have little electronics background or experience but one thing adafruit does provide are excellent tutorials so people like myself can build solutions.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Sat Feb 20, 2021 1:39 pm

@jimk123
That's why I was thinking the Digi XBee cellular might be a good solution. It has XBee form factor, is reasonably priced and has been FCC certified. Digi is just a little light with useful documentation and tutorials. That said, it may be easier to use than I am imagining....imagining is always worse than doing.

Off topic, where are your boats?

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jimk123 on Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:51 pm

Hi Tkall
I have a hunter marine 380, anther couple at the marina has a Hunter 386, two others are power boats, the fona 3g has been rock solid over the years. I saw the xbee but not much sample code and experience in the past is large corporations don’t provide much direct support. This is where Adafruit does a good job with extensive complete code samples and these forums if problems do arise.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:06 pm

Jimk123,
I was hoping Adafruit Tech support would weigh in on this topic. I think their involvement with the Digi cellular 4G could work well for all of us.
I too have had excellent results with both the FONA 2G and 3G. I use them across the country with different carriers and the operation has been perfect.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jim_lee on Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:19 pm

jim123 Where are these boats you speak of located? What pert of the planet?

-jim lee <<-- ( Pacific North West between Seattle & Canada )

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jimk123 on Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:33 pm

The boats are all in the north east of the US, mainly CT and all in range of a cellular service. I’ve had excellent results with the FONA 3G shield combined with a arduino mega which has enough memory and processing power to handle roughly a dozen i2c sensors, relays, etc. all controlled by send and receiving sms text messages. I am not a engineer or programmer but Adafruit always provides excellent fully working code examples which other companies do not. The fona board also has a built in gps which can be used to request its location and the code uses a geo fence to notify by a text message if a boat leaves a predefined area. Adafruit also partnered with Ting which offered very affordable data plans. Adafruit had an excellent product and support, I am really hoping they will provide a follow on set of similar offerings with 4G support. The feather version was way under powered in terms of memory but the shields were a perfect fit.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:57 pm

My boat is in S FL. I thought about doing something similar.
I've still got 2G fona's in service. It is getting critical to upgrade however.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Sun Feb 28, 2021 10:01 pm

Thinking about it...it would be nice to know when the bilge pumps run and be able to start the engines remotely. Easy enough to do.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by jimk123 on Sun Feb 28, 2021 10:15 pm

On my boat I deployed two versions of the fona 3g shield and arduino mega, one uses sms text messages that I can send to get a status on various sensors and I can turn on and off deck lights, AC, anchor light, get gps coordinates and map it on a return txt message etc, and it can also text me if something crosses a threshold like battery voltage, bilge pump, motion on board using a pir sensor, etc.

The second board uploads all the sensor data every 60 seconds to the Adafruit data Io service, a wonderful easy to use dashboard to graph data. I think I may be able to use a mifi card and the esp32 feather to connect all the I2c sensors and connect to the onboard mifi device and upload the data but it is about 10x the cost of Ting.

What I really need is the sms txt capability to send and receive txt messages. I have experimented with the publish feature of data IO service to toggle deck lights, relays, etc but not confident it will be reliable enough. Also for critical alerts like motion on board nothing beats getting a txt message.

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Re: FONA 4G replacement for current 3G boards ?

by Tkall on Sun Feb 28, 2021 10:20 pm

I like sms too. I put together an app to simplify the message codes so that I dont have to remember all the commands. It sounds like you have a great system.

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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.