SparqEE Agility. Vision. Innovation. Sat, 03 Oct 2015 02:40:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cellular RasPi – Internet and Remote Connections on the Raspberry Pi Sat, 03 Oct 2015 00:53:31 +0000

There are many ways to provide internet to your Raspberry Pi so you may browse the internet or enable remote applications.  Depending on your application requirements, different methods exist that must be evaluated in order to determine the correct one for you.

Here’s a short list of the most common methods of enabling internet on the Raspberry Pi:







-Fast data rates, piggy-back on existing home/office service

-DHCP is enabled by default

-Requires a physical wired connection


-RasPi Laptop

-RasPi Home Video Monitor

-RasPi phone



-Fast data rates, piggy-back on existing home/office service

-Fairly easy setup

-Requires a local connection


-Same as Ethernet, but wireless

-Home/Office remote door opener, thermostat, monitoring


-Cellular towers are everywhere in the populated world -Additional service fees -Internet enabled RasPi, everywhere

-Remote door opener, thermostat, monitoring


-Satellite is available everywhere there is a clear view of the sky -Costly service

-Slower data rates

-Higher power required

-Wilderness sensor

-Wilderness tracking


-Piggy-back cell phone service

-Local connection to home/office computer

-Additional costs for tethering

-No simple methods or hardware to get it online otherwise

-Tether sensors through your phone’s internet

Ethernet: Ethernet is the go-to resource for testing code and developing as it does not require any additional cost, is very simple to setup, and is the oldest form of internet communication available to the Raspberry Pi.  Simply plug in your cable and Ethernet internet connectivity should be enabled by the RasPi’s DHCP client by default.

The majority of contemporary and IoT applications require remote or wireless connectivity and usage where Ethernet itself is a burden or simply unacceptable to require the routing of a physical cable.  So, can we start with Ethernet, test all those components we can test outside of the final network, then we move on to integrating the final network connection component.

WiFi: Some WiFi development boards and shields have started to come out that offer easy connections to your home and office WiFi routers.  These connections, if made easily accessible enough, can directly replace Ethernet connections with the same home networking equipment but without wires.

Wireless connections, especially when used with wireless extenders, can enable a variety of applications that wires would be unacceptable to be used.  For example, wirelessly enable a garage door opener, a front door locking mechanism, alarm monitoring, video surveillance, or a thermostat for those cold days when you want a warm home to come home to.

Cellular: Cellular service has made strides in recent history with respect to the ease of use in development modules as well as available SIM cards.  My company, SparqEE, makes a cellular kit called the CELLv1.0, pictured with everything you need to get online using cellular service, no matter where you live in the world.  It’s a world compatible chipset that works on both 2G or 3G services, whichever is available.

The CELLv1.0 works stand-alone, using breadboards or jumper wires, or through the use of our shields which allow it to directly connect to your Raspberry Pi or Arduino development boards as shown below for the Raspberry Pi B+ or 2.  Visit our website at for further information or RS Components to pick one up.



Cellular service is another challenge.  Within cellular service there are two main trade-offs to consider given your application.  If you’re using lots of data, for video or voice for example, you’ll want to look at a higher rate plan (1GB+) which are offered by individual providers and are location specific – for example AT&T or T-Mobile in the US.  If you’re using smaller amounts of data (<100MB), there exists SIM cards that are reasonably priced and can operate anywhere in the world coming in at a lower cost than those direct from a provider.  Although certain countries may charge slightly more money per MB, these worldwide SIMs are becoming more popular.

A Note on Cellular Technology and the Service

CDMA and GSM are the two main cellular technologies that currently exist throughout the world and are currently broken down into three main speed categories or “Generations” of technology – 2G, 3G, and 4G.

In the United states, CDMA is provided through Verizon and Sprint whereas GSM technology is used by AT&T and T-Mobile.  Although CDMA or rather Verizon and Sprint are household names in the United States, GSM is the most common technology throughout the world taking about 80-85% of the market.

2G is the oldest of the wireless standard speeds and also the slowest.  Even so, 2G is available in developing countries that are behind the times in adopting newer technologies.  The majority of the world has either 2G or 3G services whereas 4G service has only recently gained popularity and begun to be implemented.

The SparqEE CELLv1.0 provides 2G and 3G GSM services as to be compatible with the majority of the world.  This device targets applications that can work anywhere in the world as it uses enables a range of frequencies to be compatible everywhere.  All that is needed is a worldwide SIM that would provide lower data rates or a specific region’s SIM that would allow a higher data rate.

Satellite: Satellite is still slightly out of reach for most applications.  The additional power requirements and costs required to implement a satellite solution and the lack of development tools available to utilize those modules are very limited and expensive thus putting them out of reach.  However, there are still certain applications that require satellite coverage, for example, wilderness tracking or sensory input in remote areas.

Bluetooth: The most common methodology to get internet through a Bluetooth connection is through tethering.  Tethering provides an automatic methodology for forwarding data through a Bluetooth link to an internet network connection.  Historically, tethering has been quite controversial to be used through cellular phones as cell phone companies disallow the functionality to be included with standard plans but rather charge additional fees for tethering.

Therefore, the use of Bluetooth through tethering has waned in popularity and opportunity for Bluetooth to bring unadulterated internet to external devices like the Raspberry Pi.

Getting Internet on the RasPi (Example uses the SparqEE CELLv1.0):

Getting internet through a cellular connection on the Raspberry Pi is a piece of cake.  With the CELLv1.0, a SIM (such as the SparqSIM), and the adapter shield connected similarly to the above images, the below code will setup a PPP connection and provide an IP to allow you to start surfing the internet.  That’s it.

Using ‘ifconfig’ – Without Any Networking Attached:

Before any network is attached to the Raspberry Pi, the command ‘ifconfig’ will bring back something like the following image displays.  There is an eth0 (ethernet) interface and lo (loopback), but the ethernet interface does not have an associated IP address since no ethernet cable is connected.

Using ‘ifconfig’ – CELLv1.0 Internet Enabled:

Once the CELLv1.0 is attached with the appropriate shield, the sakis3g script, shown below, is a quick way to bypass having to use lower level commands and intense configurations.  The sakis3g command can be used without a UI to create a ppp connection (noted as ppp0 below), thus providing an IP address to the Raspberry Pi as shown below, and noted in detail on the CELLv1.0 product page within the SparqEE website.

Zoomed in:

Once you enable mobile internet on the Raspberry Pi, there is no end to the opportunities for innovation in the field.


SparqEE CELLv1.0 kit -Full cellular development! RasPi or Arduino shields. Sat, 03 Oct 2015 00:44:16 +0000

Brought to you by

What Is It?

The CELLv1.0 is an easy-to-use cellular development kit. Add it to your Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or any other project you have to instantly add wireless communications capable of operating anywhere in the world!

Purchase the kit through RS Components. It includes the SparqEE CELL, a wall power supply, usb cable, and antenna – everything you need to get your device on the internet!

Full examples and code available at:

  • A worldwide device – Works on any GSM network in the world.  Just activate our SparqSIM or use your own
  • 2G+3G, GSM device – 2G+3G support means it will fall back to 2G if 3G is unavailable or to 3G when AT&T cuts 2G here in the US
  • Smallest/Cheapest – Smallest and Cheapest 2G and 3G device on the market.  What happens when 2G gets cutoff in the US?  Nothing, it will use 3G

Connect directly to your Raspberry Pi (B, B+, 2)

code available!

Connect directly to your Arduino Uno/Mega

code available!

Umbrella USB available on online retailers Fri, 09 Jan 2015 23:37:35 +0000

Umbrella USB is now available for purchase at two online retailers. We launched the SparqEE Store on December 2014 with the Umbrella USB as the first product for sale on the store. This month began selling Umbrella USB as well. Learn more about Umbrella USB at


What is Umbrella USB?

Unwanted data syncing is a problem of the past. Umbrella completely stops automatic syncing – for example iTunes or Windows drivers.

Works on Any Smartphone or Tablet*

If you charge via USB – which all smartphones and tablets do – Umbrella will protect your data. When connected to any USB port, Umbrella allows power to flow to your device so it can charge, but physically disconnects the data connections – eliminating any possible data theft or leak.

  • No App or download required!
  • No settings, switches or charging required – EVER!

*COMPATIBILITY: Although we have a plethora of devices at our disposal to test with, new phones are constantly coming out and sometimes protocols change, so please help us out by letting us know if there are any issues discovered!

  • Samsung Galaxy S5 – It appears the Galaxy does not accept the charge rate set by this version of the UmbrellaUSB.
Kickstarter launch: Umbrella USB Wed, 04 Jun 2014 03:46:48 +0000

On Tuesday, June 3rd, SparqEE launched its second Kickstarter campaign for Umbrella USB. Within 8 hours of the launch the campaign raised 26% of its funding goal.


What is Umbrella?

If you charge via USB – which all smartphones and tablets do – Umbrella will protect your data. When connected to any USB port, Umbrella allows power to flow to your device so it can charge, but physically disconnects the data connections – eliminating any possible data theft or leak.

No App or download required!

No settings, switches, or charging required – EVER!


Unfortunately, we have all gotten the infamous “low battery” warning only too frequently. We have no choice but to charge at the first USB port we can find – we take this risk because of how important it is to have our devices charged, potentially at the expense of our own data’s security.

“Juice Jacking” is a new phenomenon where people can take over your phone when you plug it into a compromised USB charging port.

With Umbrella, you no longer have to worry about this risk. Think of Umbrella as the most affordable insurance policy you can buy. Plug in at the first USB port you see, completely risk-free.


Unwanted data syncing is a problem of the past. Umbrella completely stops automatic syncing – for example with iTunes or Windows drivers.


Zero compatibility issues – Just plug it in and enjoy security and peace of mind – Works on every device that charges via USB.


Measuring less than 2 inches (~5 cm) long and made of premium and durable materials, Umbrella can keep up with your lifestyle day in and day out. Leave Umbrella attached to the end of your smartphone or tablet’s charger – so it is always there when you need it.

In fact, I accidentally left one of the first prototypes it in my pant pocket and put it through the wash… still works just fine!


We intentionally made Umbrella bright so it would be highly visible. That way, you can see Umbrella at the end of your charger and without having to check anything, you know your data is completely secure.


When using a USB cable, you risk malicious data transfers. Your data can actually be hacked from “charging stations.” Instead of relying on software settings or an anti-virus program, Umbrella eliminates the hassle with a 100% effective solution. Just plug it in and you’re protected.

Use Cases

We found these to be the most common use cases for Umbrella but of course there are many, many more. It is always safer to keep an Umbrella with you!

The Design

As with a lot of ideas, it starts out with a sketch. After I came up with the idea, while having trouble with charging with my car’s head unit, I drew the above schematic in my log book.

After that we did some quick prototyping with a male and female USB plug. Then we added the reference voltage chips so your device sees the recharging port, we ordered a few samples of the housing, and we were off to the races!

What we also did was test out the stretch goal of adding in the LED. Although the stretch goal is relatively easy, with an LED, the injection molding process does need to change and therefore incurs more cost. This simple little circuit is what we used to record the Umbrella with LED for the stretch goal that appears in the video!

The Team

  • Chris Higgins: The CEO of SparqEE, LLC and came up with the idea for Umbrella USB. An engineer through and through… from welding up his first go-kart, through a career in the defense industry, and now Umbrella USB! Chris has run over a dozen projects through to completion and will also be taking care of the Umbrella USB.
  • Lyndell Higgins: I think you can guess, Lyndell is our artist and designer. She takes care of our themes, colors, layouts, and all things art.
  • Hardeep Johar: The COO of SparqEE, LLC and our resident Cambridge MBA and CPA too. He’s our business development guy, figures out our financials, and looks after our community. He’s doing a great job keeping us in the black!

Stretch Goal

We had a “bright” idea! We can make it even more visible! If we reach $50k in funding we will add LEDs to everyone’s Umbrella for free! The LEDs will be on the top and bottom so the light will be visible from any angle.

Adding an LED will not only be an indication that the Umbrella is on, but a constant reminder that it’s protecting your data!

Delivery Schedule

  • May: Development and sampling of prototypes
  • June: Kickstarter campaign: The fun part!!!
  • July: Ordering: Since we’ve sampled products already and are in the supplier’s system, ordering should be a breeze. Once we get done with all the T&Cs, we place the order!
  • October: Testing and Delivery: As soon as we receive all the Umbrellas they’ll go through a quick test to ensure they’re in proper working order before shipment!

Note: If the stretch goal is achieved an additional 4 weeks for implementation
and sampling is required to ensure quality in the LED and housing.

Manufacturing Plan:

We have already finished testing several prototypes in their housings from several different manufactures.
This allowed us to make an informed, confident decision and also have
backups just in case our first choice falls through.

With our last Kickstarter’s success we were able to work directly with a
distributor and learned a great deal. Although having a distributor has
numerous benefits (global distribution, adding additional community support, etc.)
it unfortunately extends the timeline. We will ensure that this does
not happen with Umbrella. Even if it is picked up by a distributor,
SparqEE will be fulfilling the Kickstarter orders outside of the distributor contract and will be able
to keep to the timeline.

Risks and challenges
Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The core solution is prototyped and done, and following the successful funding of this campaign, will be able to be built in any volume given that we’ve actually sampled with several manufacturers and have backups ready.

Adding an LED into the design was not in the initial prototyping effort. Adding an LED gives the user a useful reminder that the Umbrella is not only protecting them but still functional. Adding the LED is the biggest risk this project has as the injection molding process is rather hot and the LED wouldn’t be able to hold up to the current housing’s process therefore a slightly modified housing must be created and validated to function properly. Although we have prototyped and tested the LED design, it has not been sampled and hence it is the largest challenge we have even though our fabricator and assembler have been through the process before and are confident.

As soon as the Kickstarter is funded we will be ordering the rewards for the Kickstarter patrons regardless of distributor interaction, so we see no other complications to schedule or delivery.

We’ve learned a lot about distributor interaction and even though in some situations it makes sense to hold off production for the full batch, with the Umbrella USB we’ll be ordering as soon as the 30 day timer runs out.

7 SparqEE boards, on RS-Components and Digispark Tue, 20 May 2014 03:53:06 +0000

RS-Components and their Digispark community released a blog post about their recent listing of all 7 SparqEE boards from our first Kickstarter!

Take a look at:

RS Components now selling the SparqEE CELLv1.0 and its Raspberry Pi and Arduino shields Thu, 08 May 2014 15:09:21 +0000

Today RS Components started selling the SparqEE CELLv1.0 cellular board, developmental board and shields for the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Visit the RS Components store to buy your CELLv1.0 gear.

In 2013, SparqEE launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for the CELLv1.0. RS Components purchased exclusive rights to the CELLv1.0 after the Kickstarter was successfully funded. Several components were sold under the Kickstarter and now are available through the RS Components store.

The items available for purchase are as follows:

  • SparqEE CELLv1.0 – The CELLv1.0 is a tiny Cellular development board that provides Wireless Worldwide. The CELLv1.0 uses a 2G+3G chipset, which means it will use 3G primarily worldwide and only fall back to 2G if 3G is unavailable.
  • SparqEE Raspberry Pi Shield – The ShieldRv1.0 is a shield or adapter that connects the CELLv1.0 to a Raspberry Pi without any additional wiring. In addition, breakouts are provided for the four additional SparqEE boards (ACCELv1.0, GPSv1.0, POWERv1.0, RELAYv1.0) if the user prefers to directly connect any of those boards to the shield.
  • SparqEE Arduino Shield – The ShieldAv1.0 is a shield or adapter that connects the CELLv1.0 to an Arduino processor board without any additional wiring. In addition, breakouts are provided for the four additional SparqEE boards (ACCELv1.0, GPSv1.0, POWERv1.0, RELAYv1.0) if the user prefers to directly connect any of those boards to the shield.
  • SparqEE GPS Receiver Board – The GPSv1.0 provides an Antenova M10478 GPS module based on the SiRFstarIV 9333 GPS chipset.
  • SparqEE Power Board – The POWERv1.0 board converts an unregulated power supply to the +5V and +3.3V supply rails required by most embedded development systems.
  • SparqEE Relay Board – The RELAYv1.0 provides a wide input range relay for driving high-current and high-voltage peripherals.
  • SparqEE Accelerometer Board – The ACCELv1.0 provides a wide input range 3-axis accelerometer based on the Analog Devices ADXL345.

Thank you RS Components for making the CELLv1.0 available in your store!

SparqEE’s CELLv1.0 – Named One of Engadget’s Top 10 Crowdfunding Projects of 2013! Fri, 03 Jan 2014 05:12:32 +0000

On December 31, 2013, Engadget (top web magazine – daily coverage gadgets and consumer electronics) described 2013’s top 10 crowdfunding projects. (Read the article) Our CELLv1.0 is Number 6!

Engadget had great things to say:

  • “there’s a whole lot of potential here”
  • “We wouldn’t be surprised to see the SparqEE Cell powering other Insert Coin entrants in the near-future”

Thank you Engadget for the kind words!

Distributor Interested in CELLv1.0! Thu, 05 Dec 2013 10:30:28 +0000

SparqEE received great news that a well-known distributor is interested in manufacturing the CELLv1.0. Further details about the distributor and the details are planned to be disclosed at a later time.

Dear Kickstarter friends, this interesting development means the CELLv1.0 will be delivered later than December as originally advertised. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause, but are excited to share the news!

CELLv1.0 Progress – Doing it right Wed, 23 Oct 2013 04:34:37 +0000

imagesThe serial entrepreneur in me is screaming “GET IT DONE” constantly, but my hare-brained personality needs to be a little more turtle-ish for this one.

It’s been just over a month since the Kickstarter successfully funded and it feels like an eternity – but that’s good! I think. So much has happened, and mostly good things! Some of it will be kept up in these posts ( and others in the forums ( since they may be technical pieces. So what’s happened?

CELLv1.0: On to the fun stuff – the board! All 20131022_013304the final designs are done, the boards are here, the parts are here, the new paste is in, the masks are here, the certifications are lined up, now it’s build/test time!

Logistics: Logistics has actually been quite a time suck and is one of the most frustrating parts. Making sure everyone gets what they expect, didn’t under or overpay and if they did, correct it. Correcting credit-card processing errors, picking dev points, dealing with Kickstarter’s VERY limited console (BTW: for the survey Kickstarter gives you radio buttons or fill-ins, that’s it! AND every field MUST be answered… not my fault people, just the nature of the beast.)

Distributor: Yep, I’m Hare-brained thinking that I’d have a big announcement for everyone already… it’s coming, but for a sneak peak, we’re working with a great distributor and really excited where things are headed. Contracts are in the works.

You know how this post is called “Doing it right,” well, one bad thing about going with a distributor is that we have to do it right rather than quick. For the longevity of this project, product, and thus company, there are some delays happening. We put some “slop” into the schedule to provide for just these types of circumstances to deliver on time, but the wiggle room is slowly running out. Once we get the contracts in place and solid quotes back from the distributor’s assembly house (It’s thrilling to be in the big house BTW) then we’ll be able to set a more definite timeline.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still blazing forward and can see the finish line – it’s comin!


As always, we appreciate all the support of the community that helped push this project, product, and company to the next level. We look forward to getting the product out ASAP and are fully focused on providing the best product we can!



Kickstarter Fully Funded! Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:54 +0000

On August 20, 2013, SparqEE launched its first Kickstarter project with a funding goal of $70,000; see the press release for additional information.

On September 19, 2013, the Kickstarter project exceeded the funding goal. The community pledged $72,155 toward the CELLv1.0.  (Click here to see our Kickstarter!)

Special thanks to everyone who believed in this project and helped in it’s success!

The SparqEE CELLv1.0 is a tiny cellular development board that provides wireless worldwide cellular service. CELLv1.0 is designed for Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and other single board computers.

Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward!


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