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I recently acquired a new product from RAKwireless: the Helium Developer Kit. While RAK is perhaps best known for being the first manufacturing partner of Helium hotspots, the company has been a pioneer in the IoT space, creating the popular WisBlock modular developer platform. The Helium Developer Kit is an iteration of the kit more specific to Helium that provides everything you need to run two functional nodes, whether for weekend tinkering or prototyping a hardware solution that a business hopes to produce for a mass market.
This product can’t be used to mine Helium, create a light hotspot, or run your own validator node. To open the developer kit is to open a box full of possibilities in which those with some hardware and software development experience can create useful LPWAN devices cheaply and easily. It can be a helpful, hands-on tool to teach a beginner Arduino programming or to demonstrate to a large audience some of the use cases for The People’s Network.
While much of the discussion of Helium may center around the expected ROI of hotspots, the truth is that the enterprising individual might find more opportunity in one of these kits. You can use this kit to foster lucrative, in-demand skills in the IoT space. You can use it to better understand the machinations of Helium. A small team could use it to prototype a product or idea that goes on to generate thousands of dollars in sales. I was so excited to receive this kit because, regardless of what I do with it, I know that I’m contributing to the eventual success of Helium and IoT technology in general.
Each person who tinkers or learns more deeply about a technology using a developer platform such as this ends up benefiting the community at large, regardless of what they create. We’re still in the early days of the Internet of Things. Skeptics often express doubt about the applicability of certain IoT technologies, including Helium. With the developer kit and all its included components, the potential use cases and business functions are vast. Just as the Helium network is distributed and growing every day, each participant also can take things into his own hands and create new utilities.
In most of my product reviews, I look for similar products from competitors to compare. When it comes to the Helium Developer Kit, it’s a unique offering released in April in partnership between RAKwireless and Helium. Remember, all Helium hardware manufacturers have been closely vetted by the Helium team, and all products are subject to their approval on top of any regulatory guidelines.
While this is the only Helium-themed developer kit, the good news is that tinkering in the IoT space doesn’t depend on manufacturers being approved by the Helium Systems team. There are plenty of IoT developer kits that you can find on Amazon. However, many will require additional purchases such as Raspberry Pi(s) for computing and other sensors. The significant part about buying such a fully-featured kit is that you can be sure it contains all you need and then some. Your development won’t be hindered by needing to wait for more parts to arrive. Plus, as myself and others use this kit more and write about it, more of the documentation you’ll be able to find will be centered around RAK’s suite of IoT products.
Unlike some other corners of the crypto space, the IoT community doesn’t have many scams or suspicious products. As you become more experienced, you’ll notice that manufacturers tend to be incredibly developer-friendly. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you can do something or whether one component is compatible with another, you can always ask the manufacturer.
What’s in the box?
- WisBlock Base
- 2pcs RAK5005-O | WisBlock Base Board
- WisBlock Core
- 2pcs RAK4631 | WisBlock LPWAN Module
- WisBlock Sensor
- 1pc RAK1901 | WisBlock Temperature and Humidity Sensor
- 1pc RAK1902 | WisBlock Barometer Pressure Sensor
- 1pc RAK1903 | WisBlock Ambient Light Sensor
- 1pc RAK1904 | WisBlock 3-axis Acceleration Sensor
- 1pc RAK1906 | WisBlock Environmental Sensor
- 1pc RAK1910 | WisBlock GNSS Location Module
- 1pc RAK18000 | WisBlock PDM Stereo Microphone Module
- WisBlock Interface
- 1pc RAK1920 | WisBlock Sensor Adapter Module
- 1pc RAK5801 | WisBlock 4-20mA Interface Module
- 1pc RAK5802 | WisBlock RS485 Interface Module
- 1pc RAK5804 | WisBlock Interface Extension Module
- 1pc RAK5811 | WisBlock 0-5V Interface Module
- WisBlock Wireless
- 1pc RAK2305 | WisBlock WiFi Interface Module
- 2pcs LoRa® Antenna
- 2pcs BLE Antenna
- GPS Antenna
- Manual Screwdriver
Even for the layman, you’ll notice that this is a product with a lot of potential. You can keep yourself busy for hours just learning about the components in this box. You could teach a college class or seminar based on what’s included here. When friends have asked me about what I plan to do with it, I’ve first highlighted that the seven sensors present a ton of use cases in a variety of applications. Beyond that, you also have multiple protocols you can use to transfer data, such as LoRa, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and WiFi. For example, you can build a node for weather monitoring or to track water levels.
Ideas abounded before I even completed the unboxing. I’m excited to start tinkering with the Helium Developer Kit and producing blog posts where I work through the whole development cycle–from ideation to finishing a working product. Some of my ideas are ridiculous, others are practical. This is yet another facet of the Helium universe that I’m excited to explore. Please let me know if you have any questions about the product and I will do my best to answer them. If I can’t answer your questions, or you want to engage more with the community using RAKwireless products, join the RAKStars community on Discord!