Q&A with Matt Voigt on Mini PCI Express Adaptor for OptConnect ema™

In recent years we launched a mini PCI express (mPCIe) adaptor card for our patented smart embedded modem, ema. This adaptor expedites a company's ability to incorporate ema into their equipment so that they can quickly and easily connect that equipment to the internet with a fully managed solution and scale easily without having to invest additional money on designing a new board.

I sat down with Matt Voigt, Embedded Cellular Engineer at OptConnect, to find out more about the idea behind the mPCIe adaptor and how it's used.

What was the idea behind the creation of mPCIe?

The mPCIe adaptor provides our customers with a more seamless integration effort for using OptConnect ema™ modems. It eliminates the requirement to create or modify a custom host board to accept ema's 20 pin socket interface, which ultimately reduces engineering effort and time to market. Many verticals that OptConnect sells into use off-the-shelf (OTS) hardware such as, industrial and embedded PC's and Single Board Computers (SBC). These devices usually have a spare mPCIe slot available for use. To use an ema in this scenario, just insert it onto the mPCIe adaptor and plug the mPCIe adaptor into the available mPCIe slot. It's that simple, no custom designs, no re-certifications, just use it as is.

What was the creation process like for our product team?

Due to the fact that ema is a Smart Embedded Modem and has advanced hardware and software features, the creation process for the mPCIe adaptor was a bit more complex compared to other mPCIe adaptors. We needed to make sure that the design supported and exposed all of ema's advanced features like emaLink, Board ID, Board Notify, and Glimpse. To accommodate this, the hardware design needed to include both a USB bridge and a USB hub. There are also a couple of other sneaky features on the mPCIe adaptor that customers will appreciate. Things like the ability to not rely on the mPCIe standard specific control signals, and the ability to switch this feature on and off. In the end, the product turned out to be robust and easy to use.

Why is it important to have an option like the mPCIe?

We wanted and needed to be flexible to adapt to our customer's needs. The natural progression for many of our customers usually goes from low volumes of external ethernet based routers like neo, solo, or mylo, to higher volume embedded modems like ema. We wanted to be able to offer the latter without forcing our customers to redesign and recertify their hardware, and the mPCIe adaptor accomplishes this.

How do you use mPCIe?

Using the mPCIe adaptor is easy and simple. Simply plug ema into it and install the mPCIe adaptor + ema assembly into an open mPCIe slot on the host device. The next step is to do a one-time configuration via AT commands. ema will then attach itself to the host device as a Network Adaptor, and then can be used just like any other internet connection. ema and the mPCIe adaptor are compatible with most operating systems.

Is it an additional cost to ema?

The mPCIe adaptor is very inexpensive. Considering the alternative engineering costs like hardware and software design, testing, certifications, etc., of creating a custom design, the cost of the mPCIe is mostly negligible.

To learn more about mPCIe, please visit https://www.optconnect.com/product/mpcie.

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