Particle is a component company for hobbyists and IT specialists that makes network-connected parts for DIY projects. For years they made mostly wifi devices, allowing users to connect things like robots and 3D printers to the internet. Now, they’ve announced a new system that offers global cellular connectivity for the price of the hardware.
The new EtherSIM hardware includes a $69 start kit for experimenters that includes an antenna, a system-on-chip card, and a breadboard. The SIM card and cellular connectivity are built-in and activate when you plug the board into a power source.
The EtherSIM solution is especially interesting because it offers cellular connectivity without overage charges.
“With the launch of EtherSIM, Particle’s cellular data plans are now baked into the subscription fees you pay for use of our platform,” they write. “But while those fees might work for customers delivering an IoT product at scale who have worked out their business model, they can be cumbersome in the early stages of development when you don’t yet have your own customers and revenue.”
To combat this problem, the company made connectivity to up to 100 devices free with no time limit, a boon for hobbyists.
Other companies like Adafruit make cellular break-out boards for devices like the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Instead, Particle’s entry-level system is based on the Nordic nRF52840 chip, which is essentially a tiny computer on a single chip.
The most important part? The EtherSIM boards range from $70 to about $102 and can be embedded into almost any electronics project. Add in a rechargeable battery and a few sensors, for instance, you’ve got an instant weather station, GPS tracker, or robotic brain.