A low-cost, wireless, Arduino-compatible system
The FreakLabs Freakduino is designed for rapid prototyping, experimentation, and deployment of wireless designs at low cost. It combines the ease-of-use of the Arduino IDE, compatibility with a rich assortment of third-party peripherals, and an integrated wireless radio for an inexpensive wireless prototyping system.
The Freakduino version 2.1a improves on the original design by adding features for low power operation, AES-128 encryption, hardware-based true random number generator, and special high data rate modes that can transfer at speeds up to 1Mbps. Many of the components were also replaced with an emphasis on power optimization. As a result, the board can now operate down to 200 uA in sleep mode on two standard alkaline batteries. Theoretically, this translates into months of operation with proper power management.
The base board has all the functionality of an Arduino-based system that includes wireless communication and is an inexpensive way to start playing with wireless Arduino designs. It also has optional accessories such as a battery regulation circuit for battery-powered designs, bottom-mounted battery case to hold two AA batteries, and a ruggedized enclosure with integrated battery case.
This board was designed to introduce people to wireless sensor networking inexpensively and without having to deal with complex toolchains, protocol stacks, and software. It’s fully compatible with the Arduino IDE which offers a simplified user interface and user libraries, single click compile and download, a rich ecosystem of open source software and tutorials, and a large variety of third party peripheral shields.
The addition of an integrated wireless radio based on the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol (same radio protocol as the XBee) allows for wireless control of devices or wireless sensor data collection. Optional battery circuitry was added so that it could function as a true wireless node without any external power cables. The board is also designed to fit a ruggedized enclosure so that the design can be transported safely or deployed in an actual usage scenario without worrying about damaging the circuitry.
This 900 MHz radio is a personal favorite of mine. I use it all the time because 900 MHz offers much better range compared to 2.4 GHz. The radio can output up to 10 mW of transmit power which can get a surprising amount of range. With direct line of sight, a few hundred meters would not be surprising. If additional range is needed, the modulation mode can also be changed from OQPSK to BPSK. This results in additional range at the expense of data rate, with the max going from 250 kbps to 40 kbps in standard mode.
The chibiArduino wireless protocol stack was designed specifically for this board. It has a simple programming interface and small memory footprint and was designed to enable Arduino users to start communicating wirelessly quickly and easily. The design goal was to use as much of the radio hardware as possible to perform the complex tasks so that the user only had to handle the main functions: init, send, and receive.
The Freakduino comes in a partial kit form or fully assembled. In the partial kit form, the surface mount components come pre-assembled but the through hole components come in kit form. Some soldering will be required to assemble the board if purchased in kit form.
Baseboard Only: The baseboard only option is the cheapest way to get started with the Arduino platform and wireless communications. Even with no antenna, it is possible to transmit over short ranges of approximately 10-25 meters. It also offers the functionality of a standard Arduino and is good for people that want an inexpensive way to try out the platform.
900 MHz +2 dBi Antenna: This is a standard 900 MHz whip antenna that attaches to the antenna connector on the Freakduino board. It greatly improves the range and signal quality.
Battery Regulator Circuit Kit: The battery regulator circuit kit allows the Freakduino to be battery powered as well as line powered (USB or external DC jack). It comes with the components required to implement the battery voltage regulator which maintains a constant 5V output. This is needed because batteries have varying voltage outputs depending on the material and number of batteries. The input voltage range can vary between 0.7V to 6V. The maximum current output of the regulator circuit is 200 mA. The components come in kit form and require soldering.
For the optional ruggedized enclosure or bottom-mounted battery case, these are available as a complete set or sold separately.
chibiArduino Source code and Documentation
chibiArduino Library Usage Guide (pdf)
Here's the original post that introduced the board.
Tutorial on assembling the board and setting it up:
Tutorial on installing the chibiArduino library:
Tutorial on using it as an 802.15.4 protocol analyzer. That way, it's possible to decode XBee/Zigbee or 6LoWPAN traffic:
Tutorial on using the Freakduino to wirelessly sequence and control lighting or motors via DMX: