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Ray Ozzie's latest venture is a cheap IoT board with flat rate connectivity (blues.io)
296 points by matthewsinclair on Aug 3, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 141 comments

The first one is always free. Here's the actual pricing.[1]

There's a free tier limited to 5,000 events/month. The "Deploy" tier is $5,389.20 per project/year, plus event charges, plus a "connectivity assurance" charge.

Still, you could get a lot done with the free tier if you didn't overdo the traffic. Every half hour, "Soda machine #5621, no alarms, outside temp 82F, inside temp 36F, cash $75.25, stock level for Diet Pepsi 4, stock level for Sprite 50..."

[1] https://blues.io/services/

Yes, if you use our Notehub there is a free tier, and higher tiers are still very reasonable. (It does cost money to run infrastructure.)

That said, although we don't talk much about it, the HN crowd may be interested in knowing that this exists: https://github.com/blues/note

If you want to use the Notecard and you like Golang, you can spin up your own server and switch the notecard to speak with it via the "host" field in this JSON request: https://dev.blues.io/reference/notecard-api/hub-requests/#hu...

I know "meta" is discouraged on HN but I absolutely love that I can participate in a forum where Ray Ozzie replies to a comment made by John Nagle.

I think it's not so much that meta is discouraged as much as knee-jerk emotional meta reactions are, because they rarely lead to useful discussion. Complaining about downvotes or that you think the mods are being unfair are ultimately selfish actions most the time that drag the rest of the discussion down. At the same time, people sharing some of their favorite "HN discussion brought amazing person to the fore that shared" moments and links to them has allowed me and others to revisit and share in those moments and learn some of those amazing things shared even though we weren't part of that discussion.

"That's all you pay", says the website.

That seem significantly inaccurate if the deploy cost could be over 100× the headline "that's all you pay" figure.

Yes, you are correct. I am responsible for the messaging on blues.io and I agree with you, we could do a better, more full job explaining.

We are working through the final elements of a website revamp right now. I chose to update the whole site, rather than do it piece by piece so please accept my apology.

If you comment to this thread, I'll circle back and let everyone know when the site is updated and you can tell us what you think about it.

So.... if you were to connect this free board to something, such that it provided GPS coords in each message (whats max msg length? It would seem that you can do ~6 messages per hour, every hour, for the month - for free?

Is this correct?

So I can make a GPS child tracker for my kids backpacks - and it would just cost the $50 -- EDIT, ah for 10 years.

This is wonderful.

We attempted to negotiate this in 2007 after leaving Lockheeds RFID division, and nobody would touch it :-( for our sensors.

Yep, your scenario works and it's completely possible and plausible.

Messages are extremely small and efficient OTA (highly optimized and compressed).

The API is JSON and messages are your own unconstrained JSON object, but they're transmitted as compressed binary. (You can also have a binary payload 'attachment' to a JSON message if you so choose.)

Although everything works fine if the messages are individually in the KB's, that's not the design center because of how we manage memory on our (STM32L4R5) MCU.

Things work most efficiently when the app uses lots of small messages. We buffer them in flash, and power-on the modem at user-settable intervals (or conditions) for upload.

May I please have one clarification:

The 500MB - is that per month - or once for the lifetime of the 10-year cell-"contract" of the card? (if once, how refill once depleted?)


(Also, while at Lockheed, our division was one of the early adopters of Groove. Sadly, we had factions who loved it and wanted to use it and factions who didnt want to change their workflows. -- As the head of IT, I liked it, although it had some quirks... it was too bad we didnt "find our groove" with Groove at the time. But the vision behind it was dope.)

I'm having a hard time finding out the physical dimensions of the cards. Can't see anything in the data sheet about that?

I'd like to know how small a configuration with a Notecard + carrier can be?

For sewing into a kids backpack I think it looks like it will be small enough, but in my mind, putting a tracker inside a shoe would be much better. A backpack is easily forgotten or lost somewhere, but shoes tend to stay with the person. However, to put it in a shoe it'd have to be pretty small.

I think this has what you are looking for, there are a few different cards to choose from but I think they are all in the 35mm square range (https://github.com/blues/note-hardware/tree/master/Notecard)

Long time no chat! Haven’t talked to you since a couple years after Microsoft acquired Groove.

This is really cool, but I don’t see any information on costs if you go over the 500mb of cellular data. Probably missed it, but I did click around a lot trying.

A heads-up: I have been told flash wear can be a problem for such a use case if you always start writing records from the same address after transmitting the buffer. :)

Your raising of your own children is none of my business, but I'm curious: how do you think that being raised while constantly tracked affects the child later on in life?

My personal armchair worry is that it makes them likely to accept a dystopian surveillance society without even considering that it might be problematic.

Sounds like a market: backpack faraday cages and gps spoofing marketed to kids thru animated cartoons on the internet where they find a way to spend their parents money on it.

Why is it desirable to track the kids backpacks? Are they so very untidy that they often get lost?

Where the backpack goes, the kid goes. And the associated battery, case, etc would be easier to put on a backpack than on the kid's clothing.

But what scenario do you want to prevent? I think in case of abduction, the backpack would likely be left behind.

People are unreasonably scared of abductions. The most common use case would most likely be to find a kid that got lost.

Of course, this unreasonable fear of abductions means that a commercial GPS tracker for kids would sell much better if it supported the "abducted kid" use case well, on top of more likely use cases.

If abductions are not an issue, couldn't lost kids simply ask strangers for directions?

Unless you talk about the wilderness.

Actually when I let my kids go outside alone, I usually give them a phone. I live in a big city. Reception could be a problem in the countryside.

Backpacks are a mechanism for transporting your belongings in a convenient bag fashioned with straps such that you may wear it, carry your belongings AND have your hands free.

They would typically be worn by the child, and thus a good indicator of where your snowflake is.

But I want to use this to put on BIKES!

> But I want to use this to put on BIKES!

Are you thinking about theft tracking or some other use case?

Sure. It's a valid case. The problem is that it's probably also easily removable, unless you can hide the gps receiver, the cpu, and the long life battery in the bike itself and the necessary antennas (maybe under a sticker say).

Though I have to say I saw a youtube video recently (sorry to lazy to google it) where someone put an apple tracking device in a bike and was able to locate it after it was stolen.

The best place to put a tracker on a bike is in the fork's steering column, since it's empty and open at one end for antennas. Still, it would take a dedicated device, because it needs to fit in an 1" hole.

I've also thought about building a GPS child tracker, as I haven't found any reasonable/good existing options out there. Tell me if you need any assistance. I am a semi-incompetent full stack developer with IoT experience, reachable at hello at pushdata. io

I know I'm a bit late to the party, but Xplora[1] makes smart watches for children that can be used to call and also has a GPS tracker. They've become very popular here in Norway.

[1] https://shop.myxplora.com/

I used a Samsung SmartThings tracker to track my baby’s stroller.

Would also be interested.

I see there's a board for an ESP-32 Huzzah Feather devkit, which can run a web server too. Interesting.

Also interesting is no need for 'KYC'.

This doesn't look misleading to me. 5,000 events per month is very reasonable for a hobbyist project and the Prototype free tier is pretty generous as things go.

One message every 8.something minutes. Very useful for an 'asset' tracker.

You could reduce the frequency by using an accelerometer to skip updates if there's no motion, and increase frequency if there is, thereby staying below the 5K limit.

Geofencing could help too.

I like the free tier, it satisfies lots of gadgets' requirements:

Door lock.

Window shade.

Light switch.

Washing machine.


Pet feeder.


...or as we saw a few days ago: desk raiser/lowerer.

I'm not clear if I get another 5,000 events/month for each $49 device I buy, or if 5k/month is the ceiling for a single person/entity.

Is that pricing for an additional service that is optional, or is it required to operate the card? I'm confused.

See above. It's not required to use the Notecard, but it's extremely easy to use and convenient. The combination of the Notecard and the Notehub are essentially a simple JSON-centric "data pump", with a good deal of carrier data included.

We've priced it so we can make an "infrastructure-appropriate" profit on a sustainable basis; there's no 'surprise' business model and your data and your devices are yours, not ours.

same here - "Prototype" ($0/mon) looks like what most hobbyists would use who exceed 5K/mon:


I don't get how the front page could be so clearly misleading and not expect to get found out. It's all about nothing hidden and "that's all you pay" until you click pricing and then there are many different charges and models.

I think you're being grossly unfair there.

Nobody expects to be able to pull a 10,000gallon tanker truck up to a "free refills" soda station in a fast food joint and fill it.

Anybody who's in the target market for these also understands the "Includes IoT cellular connectivity for 10 years" isn't going to mean "Cool! I'll get one of these to stream 4K video to youtube 24x7x356x10, sweet!!!"

No, I'd expect it to mean free refills for me for the duration of my meal, like most people would.

My point is, there is quite an involved pricing model - 5 tiers, each tier has multiple charges in it, none of them obviously correspond to the advertising on the front page. They even repeatedly use the phrase "for X MB" which is unclear to me. I first read it as storage. I assume it means total upload/download? The numbers for this on other devices on the front page are not mentioned on the pricing page. Charging categories also have a mixture of sold-by-the-MB and sold-by-usage, as well as pre-sold - within a single tier.

The front page is selling "look, it's very clear and simple" and it's just obviously not clear and simple. Unclear why that view garners downvotes - this is honest feedback about their marketing and pricing. Even if they are mostly talking about the free tier, it's not clear

I’m not in the iot space and still understood that they probably have some tons of optimizations to reduce data on the devices and probably buy wholesale data to form one big pool.

It’s going to be kilobytes.

Tangentially related: I set up a security camera based on Raspberry Pi in an area with no wifi. It sends notifications and pictures to my phone when any motion is detected. From T-Mobile, the hotspot was free and the data plan is $5 a month. The data plan only has a few hundred meg of "fast" data but unlimited 128k/sec after that. Which is perfectly fine since the images it sends are usually around 100k each. It's been working great for months.

A rare trifecta of cheap, easy, and good. (Although it did take a weekend to build and test.)

Great idea! I've always wanted to set one of these up to catch the illegal dumpers who leave truckloads of crap on the forest road I live on.

Did you use the app "motion" with a post-hook?

Nice!! You could spend $49 on this, and after 500 MB (~5000 pictures?), just buy another one and replace it!

Have any project pages? GitHub? website? etc?

> and after 500 MB (~5000 pictures?), just buy another one and replace it!

That sounds very wasteful, to throw hardware away because a subscription ended.

It was meant in jest. :)

Thanks for the pointer, could you share a link or search term for this plan?

I see the $5/month plan here: https://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/affordable-data-pl...

Their hotspot page shows two which are free with a 5GB plan, but I can't find a deal which makes them free with the 512MB one though.

How do you power it?

This is very interesting. I'll provide a hot take since Seam (YC S20, i.e. the company I work for) could be a target customer for this for our on-prem multi-protocol hub. There are a number of use-cases that need a cellular back-up connection.

1. The data cost of most cellular solutions out there does eliminate a number of interesting use-cases that just don't have the margins/unit-economics to swallow $10/mon of data cost. For Seam, we're currently looking at Twilio and Skywire. If this is in fact 10X cheaper, I'd want to dig into why. This may be an unpopular & contrarian opinion, but so far my take is that regular carrier networks are pretty good at what they do (network ops, real-estate placement...etc)[1]. Competing with them on pricing probably implies some important trade-offs.

2. The provisioning of a cellular modem is a bit of a PITA. AT commands can vary for each modem and makes the process a bit daunting. But if you're making a lot of units of your product like us, it's really not that big of a deal.

3. The PCI connector is interesting. I think the form factor is what makes it a non-option for Seam's Hub, mostly because it's not something we can easily plug into an existing custom PCBA. But starting with the hobbyist market, or low-scale production devices [2], is probably a good idea. They can later work their way toward modules the way most LTE modems are sort of sold today.

[1] If i am wrong, please let me know. I am genuinely curious to know where areas of operation improvements could exist in the current U.S. carrier market.

[2] This is the market that OTA as a service folks are targeting. It's much bigger than one would initially think. Example of companies in this space include Esper, Balena...etc

There are no tricks to the Notecard's pricing. The 500MB/10-years of data is embedded within the hardware pricing, which is $49 for North America and $59 for 135+ countries.

What's more, it's "permanent roaming" and you don't need to identify the end-user of the device. It can be used anonymously.

Welp, first, thank you for taking the time to respond here. My mom won't believe it when I tell her that THE Ray Ozzie responded to my random HN comment :)

Second, could you comment a bit on the latency/bandwidth of your solution? I was poking around the site and couldn't find that answer immediately available.

Happy to comment. We've been working on this for several years now and we're super proud of what we see people building and deploying.

The question is a bit general, so let me just give you some related facts.

- Because more than half our customers use this in a battery-powered way (such as a tracker), the normal operating mode (json-configured) is "normally quiescent" (~8uA draw) with the modem powered off completely. You program the sync period and can also kick off syncs manually, for example if you sense an urgent condition.

- In this "periodic mode", syncs are usually take about 15 seconds to register, 1 or 2 seconds to sync, and then hanguup. If you configure for TLS it sends about 4KB for the TLS session setup, and if you don't care about on-wire encryption you can use straight TCP at about 1KB. A half dozen reasonably-sized JSON notes compresses to about 250-500 bytes on the wire.

- Many customers don't use it battery-powered - such as embedding it inside an air handler or generator, etc. When in this mode, you can configure (JSON) it to be connected in a "continuous" mode. Not much downside - just a 1 packet (40 byte TCP header + 1 byte) for a ping every 20m for robustness.

When in continuous mode you get "instant sync" upstream, and get a bonus feature: If you use an HTTPS (JSON) API to send an inbound message to the device, it syncs instantly to the device.

- Our packets are so tiny that nobody ever thinks about actual modem bandwidth. However, you'll notice it when you're using it for firmware update. (We support DFU of modem, of our firmware, and of your own host MCU's firmware.)

We have 2 primary SKUs for the product: our "Narrowband" SKUs based on BG95 which support three RATS: LTE Cat-M1 (~375Kbps), LTE Cat-NB1 (~64Kbps), and GSM (~100Kbps).

For $10 more you can buy our "Wideband" SKUs based on EG91 which supports LTE Cat-1 4G/LTE, 3G, and GSM. These go up to 10Mbps.

Hope you find this interesting.

Terrific answer. Thanks for responding here! What kind of real world speeds are you getting on North American M1 (and NB1) networks? I know the rates that the carriers quote but see some people say to not really expect anywhere near those for these service levels.

My use case would probably want to push a fair amount of data (say 1MB) very infrequently in a semi interactive mode so there would be a user waiting for the transfer to complete. Thanks!

YMMV but our experience with Cat-M has been very good with regard to speed and general coverage. (Probably because it was just a tower software for LTE eNodes.) 300Kbps+ seems to be the norm.

It's an M.2 key E connector, not a PCI connector, but it doesn't follow the M.2 standard -- they're just reusing a cheaply available connector. The microcontroller they're using doesn't support PCIe, so it's probably just power, some serial interfaces, and maybe some boot/reset/interrupt pins.

As such, you should have far less of an issue integrating this onto a custom board than a real M.2 card that uses PCIe or USB.

ah very interesting. Thank You for the correction! I quickly saw what looked like pci and some GPIO options.

Looks like you communicate through that header over I2C, USB, or “serial”… which I am not sure if they mean SPI or UART/USART (or yes).

All of USB, I2C, low power UART (9600 fixed), and high speed USART.

They all equivalently are JSON request/response ports. I2c uses a simple serial-over-I2C protocol.

Most customers use the I2C or low power UART interfaces because the device only uses ~8uA when listening on those ports. (Our internal MCU can listen on those ports while in STOP2 mode.)

I feel like with the sheer amount of IoT options available, using hardware that's vendor-locked to a cloud service is a risky move.

Why would I choose this over existing solutions in which I can use any MNO or MVNO I want by swapping the SIM?

I believe the greatest unrealized potential is for product manufacturers to embed cloud connectivity without the end-user needing to do anything to get it working.

The Kindle Whispernet model is my ideal, where you make an up-front decision to buy a cell-enabled product and it just works.

The classic model of monthly charging, activation, deactivation, etc used by the likes of the Apple Watch are not good for IoT because then someone needs to - ensure that your device is certified on a carrier, or get it ptcrb certified - sign up for a carrier contract - acquire/activate the sim - pay a monthly fee per-device (and sometimes also per-fleet) - figure out how to not needlessly pay when devices are broken or end-of-life - and so on.

Of course, if you want to just use the Notecard with your own SIM, you can. The Notecard and all the standard Notecarriers have an external SIM slot (usually used when someone wants to use it in a non-covered country such as China).

Whispernet only 'worked' because of the pricing structure they had with their MDN, the amount of books they were selling with it, and trying to break into the market and willing to eat some cost to do so. Also notice they retired it. That means it was not working pricewise.

To put it this way lets say the ODM makes a device for 40 bucks and sells it to you for 50. Their cost to their MDN/carrier is say 1 dollar per month per device. That means at best they can float you for is 10 months before you start costing them money. That does not involve any other services they may have to pay for to make that connection happen (support, VMs/machines, phone lines, datalines, buildings, etc). But if there is an extra ARPU on each unit that time to cost you money is much longer and in some cases never happen.

They way they priced this it looks like they are trying to get people into the ecosystem and are willing to eat some cost on that. Hoping to get a few whale accounts to cover the 'free' bits.

> ensure that your device is certified on a carrier, or get it ptcrb certified - sign up for a carrier contract - acquire/activate the sim - pay a monthly fee per-device (and sometimes also per-fleet) - figure out how to not needlessly pay when devices are broken or end-of-life - and so on

That is exactly what MDNs like this do. They do that carrier abstraction for you. They do however charge for it. Each of the big carriers also do this and have programs for it. They have a list of pre-certified devices and 'try before you buy' style programs.

I was using Whispernet as an example of a great user experience; that's all.

There are no tricks and our prepaid/embedded pricing is real, and we will never sell anything for a loss. We're selling commercial IoT and our business must be sustainable. (Free tier of Notehub is an acquisition cost and that cost is extremely low.)

fair points. wispernet was one of the first of that type. In many ways the pricing structure you are getting now is because of the efforts after that. What you are paying for 150mb we would have got maybe 10-20k in that era. Steve Jobs really did the IoT market a solid with the iPhone and its data plan.

It looks like pre-paid data cards which eventually 'run out'. Which should keep you from having any loss. Aside from incidental support and promotional costs.

It sounds like you are building a similar business that I used to work at. Good luck! It is a tough market with a long tail sales cycle. Some go 'quick' and are up and running in a couple of months. Some take a couple years to get really going.

If I have one piece of advice. Keep an eye on your 'connect/disconnect' metrics. You always get that one device that will decide to bounce the connection 80k times per day. Get a few dozen of those and it will swamp out your other devices.

> Whispernet only 'worked' because of the pricing structure they had with their MDN, the amount of books they were selling with it, and trying to break into the market and willing to eat some cost to do so. Also notice they retired it. That means it was not working pricewise.

3G Whispernet couldn't outlast the carriers getting rid of the hardware to support those frequencies. So yes, that means "forever" didn't work price-wise, in that Amazon didn't feel it was worthwhile to build their own outdated-tech cell network just to continue it, but it was still a reasonable "for most of the life of the device" offer - note that newer devices have 4g and still will work.

> I believe the greatest unrealized potential is for product manufacturers to embed cloud connectivity without the end-user needing to do anything to get it working.

I feel like this is a double-edged sword for consumer products. Right now, I can keep my smart TV 'dumb' by not connecting it to my WiFi. I have reservations about a TV that has a GPS antenna (for my Zip code) and has its own pipe to the internet that I have no control over.

I'm hoping there will be an active Youtube community for "How to disable your TV's 5g" for whatever model of TV you have.

Or maybe just covering the entire back of the TV with foil tape would do the trick in most cases.

I'm curious, the list of not-included countries is largely unsurprising however what makes South Korea difficult?

> hardware that's vendor-locked to a cloud service is a risky move.

AFAIK from an above comment by @rozzie the protocol is open and the domain can be changed. So it should be possible for someone to write a self hostable server

https://dev.blues.io/reference/notecard-api/hub-requests/#hu... https://github.com/blues/note

Depending on where/how you're deploying this, "swapping the SIM" may be non-trivial. I could definitely see cases where it would be desirable to have someone else take ownership of the whole data pipeline, keeping the radio firmware up to date, whatever.

Though yeah, definitely you and your investors need to have enough confidence in this venture to want to hitch your train to it.

They claim to be 10x cheaper.

I'm somewhat sceptical the cellular hardware in question will be functional for ten years. The 3G sunset is killing quite recent devices. Will 4G be around for another decade?

LTE feels as though it is going to be an exception to that rule. This is the dawn of eMTC lifecycle

With this offer of $49 for "10 years of cellular" (and 500Mb data [1]) included, I wonder which LTE network is expected to provide and support that connectivity for that long?

Something like this could be a good candidate for what the Helium Network (and similar) are intending to do.

[1] : https://dev.blues.io/hardware/notecard-datasheet/note-wbex-5...

500Mb across the 10years? Monthly?

The Notecard auto-activates on first use. Without a recharge, it will "just work" until the earlier of a) 10 years b) 500MB of data used

If you need more years or more data we can help, but in the vast, vast majority of narrowband use cases we've found this to be quite sufficient.

Based on prior comments from the seller, for the life. And so nobody else has to compute it, that's:

5,256,000 minutes in 10 years (ignoring leap years)

500,000,000 bytes of data (assuming mega and not mebi)

An average of 95 bytes a minute per device over that 10 years, or an average of 951 bytes every 10 minutes, or more than 5k an hour. For event messages, that seems like something that can be worked within fairly easily, depending on use.

Truth in advertising: As stated in another response above, if you want to do a real computation you need to factor-in "session setup" overhead. If you config for TCP/IP (unencrypted) your session overhead is about 1kb. If you config for TLS, your session overhead is just under 4KB. Once the session starts, data transfer is super efficient - probably about 250-500 bytes for a half dozen or dozen notes of typical size. Session duration is typically 1-2 seconds.

The other secret of most IoT platforms is that their negotiated rates round sessions to 1KB boundaries. That's insane for IoT. For ours there is no rounding, and the 'practical' rounding is the 40-byte TCP/IP header.

That's what it comes loaded with. 500Mb data and 10 years connectivity, which I assume you can top-up.

In a modified configuration, this will completely eat the gps tracker market. The pricing is insane. Normally if you want to track something like a car, you have to get a little tracking device (Which to be fair can be had from alibaba for ~$15) and put a sim in it at a minimum of $10/month.

Getting a ping every 10 minutes with location is more than ample for most things. I suppose you could also give it a request to turn on minute-based updates as well if need be.

You may be interested to know that the Notecard + Notecarrier-AA, without any host MCU, and with just a couple lines of JSON to configure it, act as a tracker. It has on-board GNSS plus antenna, plus an accelerometer so that it doesn't consume energy when not in motion. (It draws about 8uA when idle.)

Also, if you want to pair it with a $2 ESP32 configured with ESP-AT firmware, the built-in firmware will also do WiFi triangulation.

Yes, we have customers using it as a simple tracker. However, to be clear, this is not a complete "to the glass" tracking solution. All it does is to send tracking data to your service via HTTP JSON. If you have a system that "just wants the data", this is a perfect solution.

I know you guys likely want to focus on being the shovel vs the gold miner, but if you were to setup a ready-to-go tracking package, You would easily take over the entire market.

The amount that insurance companies pay for services to track leased-cars, Shipping carriers wanting to track high value items, etc.. Its a massive market- and all of them are paying 3-5$/month per tracker.

You should consider making a white labeled tracker 'company' you own in house. You could charge easily, 4-5x more than you do for the product. Its also the most obvious use case for your product. You would kill it.

> if you were to setup a ready-to-go tracking package, You would easily take over the entire market.

So do it. :-)

My guess is that by the time to build that as an end-user suitable product (including stuff like enclosure, packaging/i, structions, distribution, retail channel, support, etc) and stand up the web service dashboard and write the mobile apps, unless you can go from zero to 100k units in the field immediately, you're gonna end up at similar end-user pricing. 4-5 times more for the product (which is still only a couple of hundred bucks) is a lot of years of $15 Alibaba GPS tracker with $3-5/month subscription SIMs in them.

I'd bet good money that trying to outcompete existing produce segments on price isn't going to be the unicorn success stories that are told of customers for these in 3-5 years time, it'll be people who've thought up entirely new markets and product categories that this device makes possible.

I agree with your prediction about the market value of low cost trackers. I've been searching for a low cost way to track things for a long time.

I kinda hate the "we give you a microcontroller that you can't program, only talk to it using some protocol" model. It just feels wrong, having to add an external one just for the application code. And here the protocol is even tied to a particular web API on the other side (looks like you can change the URL to your own instance but it's still all tightly coupled to the shape of the API).

I can understand why it's locked down. But I wish (selfishly) they had added some very basic inbuilt IO. Myself I would want 1or 2 gpio pound and in particular a couple of ADCs to measure 4-20mA sensors.

Depends on the market. If I wanted to tinker I wouldn’t buy this. If I wanted to build a white labeled product quickly without having to even think about sourcing hardware and worrying about updating their firmware etc, this would be extremely attractive as it brings the time to market way down.

There are other platforms like this.

I was given one of these by their dev rel folks and I'm really impressed by it. Easy to use, and the interactive tutorial they have that uses the Web Serial API is really great. I haven't quite put it to production use so can't speak to that, but they've really nailed the developer experience.

Honestly, our thanks to Google's WebSerial folks who helped us to deliver the experience. It's quite wonderful.


That Google WebSerial team needs a round of applause...what a great overall experience.

I don't fully understand this kind of thing, but it gives me a small selfish hope..... That I can have a decade of remote car starting from anywhere for less than the current fee for 1 year.

You can easily develop this, and you won't pay anything except for the Notecard. It'll work until you reach 500MB or 10 years, whichever is sooner. (We offer the ability to upgrade beyond 500MB.)

There's a fee for remote car starting?? Is this an aftermarket thing or a factory thing?

Some vehicles have cellular built-in to where you can start your vehicle with your phone remotely. Some make it free, others charge for it.

Some interesting projects using this are documented here:


Is that 500MB total transferred over the 10 years? Or per month?

500MB over 10 years, but you can "top up" if need-be. A primary use case would be for sensor data which can stretch 500MB a long time, not high-bandwidth streaming video.

Related question, do any mobile (virtual/non-virtual) carriers other than Google allow for additional sim cards to be added to an account without monthly fee?

Rather than IoT devices each coming with their own cellular service, it'd be lovely if users could attach cellular devices to their own plans. Alas, the pricing model for most carriers makes this sadly unrealistic.

Looking at the list of options available it seems like the Global version is cheaper than the EMEA one. Does this mean the global antenna functions suboptimally in the EMEA region?

Another question, could this work well with something like Firebase? the event retention restrictions on Notehub would put a spanner in the works for my use case.

Is this certified on any carrier networks? Is it intended to be a component of a final solution, or is it more of a reference design?

This looks/feels like an uncertified reference design, which is OK, but I'm trying to gauge applicability to build a product on top of this beyond a hobbyist scenario.

It's PTCRB-certified as an "End Product", so it doesn't require the customer's product to be further PTCRB-certified.

It operates in 135+ countries.

It's an embeddable component that is to be installed in product manufacturers' end products. It is not just a reference design.

You can think of the "notecarriers", though, as OSS reference designs or accelerators. They're intended to make it quick to prototype and deploy pilots, before designing the m.2 connector into your own design.

The definition of an End Product by the PTCRB is that it must utilise one of these physical interfaces:

"Physical Interface - If a physical control interface is required for the End Product, it shall utilize one of the following: USB, PCMCIA, Compact Flash, MMC, RS-232 (DE9), or IEEE-1394. No other physical control interfaces are acceptable."


Curious how an M.2 based connector was allowed here as they are explicitly called out as connectors allowed for PTRCB modules, not end devices.

Nice :) The dollar pricing on the front page made me think this might be US only, thankfully not the case, this is a very exciting piece of the jigsaw :)

"For early adopters and evaluation" - does that mean this is a limited time deal for now?

I think it means you can order 1 or 2, but you can't order 10,000.

I might have been interested if "flat rate" didn't really mean "Tracphone subscription model". I'm sick and tired of SaaS companies nickle-and-diming me, I'm certainly not going to add a second cellular plan to my stack anytime soon.

So what network is it using ? What frequency ? What range ? What is the maximum size for messages ? Where is the coverage map ? Is it LoRa ? Sigfox ? It says cellular, so, LTE ? Something else ? Anyone has data on this ?

Just so there's no confusion, you linked to the "NOTE-WBEX" which is europe-only. If you're interested in countries covered, it's best to look at "NOTE-NBGL": https://dev.blues.io/hardware/notecard-datasheet/note-nbgl-5...

Got it. :+1: UK here.

Does this board allow for cloud-to-device communication as well? I can only find this line on the product page which idicates that the answer is no: "The Notecard is a device-to-cloud data pump"

Suggestion for docs:

- Please include a clear link to the dev boards from the main menu.

- The back button seems to be hijacked. I went from blues.io to dev.blues.io and couldn’t navigate back with the back button. Mobile safari.

Is there another interface besides json? Json works great with languages like python but can get painful for embedded c on microcontrollers.

Looks cool! How does this differ from http://particle.io ?

Is there a specific part of this website.. a specific product+service combo you feel competes?

Particle seems to offer more options and products other than just cellular. But if just looking at the cellular options, my understanding is that both offer an inexpensive, one time fee dev board/module solution for IoT with data.

@rozzie I deploy in the rural intermountain west where Verizon reigns supreme for connectivity. Are you on their network?

Sorry dumb question: what are the dimensions of the board? I am not able to find this anywhere on the site.

30mm x 35mm, plugging into a standard M.2 Key E socket

Curious why the EMEA card would be USD 20 more expensive?

Why syncronous protocol ?


Why do you say this?

Because of how he behaved wrt to the Groove staff when he sold the company to Microsoft

Who is that Ozzie?

lotus notes, and a fill in for creepybill at microsoft for a while

What’s “creepybill”? Obviously Bill Gates but a quick search isn’t showing what’s it a reference to?

Presumably the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by Bill Gates: https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-harassment-inappr...

many inappropriate relationships and sexual advances on employees while he was at microsoft

edit: you downvote this but cry about horrible the treatment of women at companies like Blizzard, get real it's the same thing except creepybill has more money and clout

> cheap IoT board with flat rate connectivity

sounds like a security nightmare

Not so much.

On-board STSAFE secure element with ST-issued ECC P-384 certificate provisioned at point of chip manufacture.

Sessions are TLS-encrypted to the Notehub: TLS_ECDHE_ECDSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384

Kind of wonderfully, all traffic flows from the carrier over a VLAN to the AWS/Azure Notehub instances, so your devices aren't even visible to attackers on the internet.

And if you don't want your data in the clear on the Notehub, there are options for you to place your server's public key in fleet environment variables, and the data will be end-to-end encrypted between device and your service.

These are super helpful responses. Makes me want to instabuy.

Sounds amazing. What is the insurance policy if you get acquired and the platform gets retired?

Interestingly, setting aside whatever else you can say about Lotus Notes, Ray's work was some of the earliest to prioritize what we now recognize as good infosec practices in client/server computing.

He's got plenty of street cred in this area, enough to earn the benefit of the doubt.

Only if your attackers pay for access - just kidding, but in this approach the board isn't connected all the time I don't think, only when it sends a message.

Or if your attackers can NSL blues.io/AWS/Azure...

Can someone edit the title? Ray Ozzie doesn’t ring any bells and the title of the page is “The Notecard makes cellular IoT developer-friendly. Finally.” So the current title is already editorializing.

Ray Ozzie is well known for being the creator of Lotus Notes and being the CTO and CSA of Microsoft for half a decade (taking over for Bill Gates as CSA) and introduced Azure during his time, and now the director of the board at HPE.

He was basically the CTO at Microsoft for a number of years and that's just a short-snapshot into his long, successful career :)

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