Q&A With Matt Voigt on ema:Play

OptConnect is revolutionizing the embedded world by offering Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) with the introduction of OptConnect ema™ and ema:Play. ema was launched in May and is already making a name for itself, recently being recognized as Innovative Product of the Yearby the Best of Sensors Awards.

With the emergence of this new product, many are curious as to how ema will integrate with their equipment. So I sat down with OptConnect Embedded Cellular Engineer, Matt Voigt, who created ema:Play to answer that question. ema:Play is a development kit that will help designers and engineers evaluate an ema modem, the ability to “Play” with it, and get connected to the internet using it quickly and painlessly.

Here is a look at the conversation I had with Matt on the creation and importance of ema:Play.

Why did OptConnect create ema:Play? ema:Play was created for the sole purpose of allowing our future customers a platform to try to bring their IoT ideas to life using OptConnect ema™. ema alone is a pre-certified LTE Category 4 Cellular modem with a 20-pin interface. In order to begin evaluating it, users will require a custom piece of hardware, and ema:Play fills this void. The general idea is to allow customers a “sandbox” environment that provides hardware and software interfaces to prove their concepts before they take on the task of developing their own custom board to accept ema and bring their IoT product to market.

What was the creation process like for you? In order to create ema:Play, I had to consider a very broad spectrum of potential users and use cases, which made for a very fun project. It's architected in such a way to try and capture as many design techniques as possible. For example, a user can write an application outside of ema:Play on an external microcontroller (MCU), and interface to ema using ema:Play's application headers. Alternatively, the user could write the same application inside of ema:Play's onboard MCU, and interface to ema that way.

What if the user already has a machine that has a serial interface like RS232 or RS485? Simply connect the RS232/RS485 interface to ema:Play’s wire to board terminal, and the user can now interface to ema from their machine. ema's native USB port is also exposed via ema:Play so the user could add ema as a standard network adapter in a Windows or Linux environment as well, or use USB drivers and a single board computer like a Raspberry Pi.

The possibilities are really endless. In addition to supporting multiple design and communication architectures for interfacing to ema, ema:Play includes built-in sensors like temperature/humidity and light detection for enabling simple IoT demonstrations. As many engineers can relate to, creating the design and hardware is only part of the project. There are also components such as software support and documentation.

I’m proud to say that with this device, all of these things are included. Software support is there via sample code and application notes, and documentation has been carefully written with designers and engineers in mind.

Why is it important to have a development kit for a product like ema? Often times, when evaluating small electronic chips, modules, and modems, it becomes difficult to understand exactly how they function. For ema, ema:Play addresses this by providing multiple development techniques, bundled with application notes and sample code, that demonstrate best practices for using ema on the cellular network. Without an evaluation kit like ema:Play, a customer becomes stuck with the burden and cost associated with creating custom hardware to accept and use ema, prior to fully understanding its capabilities. The design of ema:Play has been cost and component availability optimized, and is intended as a reference design and launching pad for custom designs using ema, to get to production quickly and efficiently.

How do you use ema:Play? To use ema:Play, carefully plug in the OptConnect ema™ modem and apply power to the kit. That’s how simple it is, in its basic use case. This will allow ema to get connected on the cellular network and start its management and monitoring services. Of course, that’s not all ema:Play can do. Visit ema:Play and reference the Getting Started with ema document, or the ema:Play User Guide for a complete and comprehensive guide to its features and best practices.

Does ema:Play cost extra in addition to ema? The short answer to this question is yes; there is a small fee associated with ema:Play. However, when an ema:Play is purchased with an ema included, the customer also gets three months at 1 GB per month of trial data for evaluation purposes included.

If you have questions about ema or ema:Play, please call us at 1-877-678-3343. You can also learn more about OptConnect ema™ by visiting http://www.optconnect.com/ema.

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