Intelligent router for stable, fast and secure bonded cellular internet via multiple LTE providers

Scope

Albeego Limited wished to design an innovative intelligent cellular router which would connect to multiple LTE providers and deliver a single high bandwidth broadband connection that would work on the move and without the need for costly installations.

Overview

With the world becoming ever more dependent on high-bandwidth internet connections for activities such as file transfer and video conferencing, fibre optic has become the minimum specification for most home, commercial, and industrial internet connections. But despite the ubiquity of fibre optic installations, there are areas of the world including the UK where there still isn’t the funding or the infrastructure to support this high-speed connection. Furthermore, mobile operations and temporary places of industry and commerce, such as in vehicle WiFi and CCTV, building sites and festivals, still require a high-speed broadband connection, but in their nature either don’t allow for hardware to be installed, or the cost to do so would be prohibitive.

Objective

Albeego Limited wished to solve this problem by developing an innovative new intelligent router, which would connect to multiple LTE providers, select the ones with best coverage at that time, and combine their bandwidth into one high-speed broadband connection. In rural areas funds are perhaps not adequate for fibre optic installation, but LTE networks are less saturated than city environments, so this new device would capitalise on this unused bandwidth and use it to deliver high speed internet to homes sitting outside the main ISP networks. In larger countries where distances are more extreme, essentially pricing out wired connections, this new device would provide homes and businesses with high-speed broadband where otherwise it would not have been possible. Businesses both static and operating on the move in vehicles would also benefit from this new device, as roaming SIM cards, dynamic IP addresses, and secure cloud-based data centres provide additional security for those transferring sensitive information.

Challenge

Most system integrators would be hard pressed to find an embedded box PC which can support multiple cellular modems out of the box, at least at a reasonable price point. High-power cellular modems use the Mini-PCIe slot, and most compact embedded box PCs with Mini-PCIe support only provide one of these. Impulse was tasked with finding a compact solution which supported up to four Mini-PCIe slots — three to house the cellular modems, and one for the WiFi card. With three modems comes the requirement for three SIM cards and six antennas, plus two more for the WiFi card, so an out of the box solution was not looking possible.

System Design

Impulse Design Engineers delved into their extensive product toolkit to source a suitable embedded PC with the required four Mini-PCIe slots to use as a base for the solution, with a view to customising the I/O and connectivity to meet the requirements of the specification. An important requirement for Albeego was that the device did not look like a “computer”, so Impulse worked with the manufacturer of the embedded PC to remove any redundant I/O, such as the COM ports, audio, DIO and display port. The 3-pin DC terminal block was also removed, with a more user-friendly DC jack put in its place, and the depopulation of this I/O freed up space on the enclosure for the addition of eight antennas to support the three modems (with MIMO support).

An additional external SIM card slot was integrated into the enclosure to allow easy access to install and change SIM cards by general users. This feature of external SIM card slots was important, with many SIM card slots on embedded box PCs being located on the board itself making access difficult, especially for non-technical home and office users. Finally, Impulse helped Albeego achieve their brand objectives by powder coating the finished units in their signature black and adding the Albeego logo to the device.

Certification

Due to the device being sold under Albeego’s brand ‘Pinion’, the unit needed to be CE certified. Impulse worked with the manufacturer to achieve this certification as part of the customisation undertaken to the I/O, connectivity, and enclosure. Furthermore, devices that include wireless transmitting technology require CE RED certification for distribution in most major countries. This is also taken care of ensuring there is no disruption in the distribution flow to countries requiring this certification.

Support

Due to the device being distributed globally, the possibility of a change of modem to cater for different territories was designed into the support agreement. All RMAs are handled by Impulse, with free, first-line support available to diagnose any issues and help with the RMA process. A scheduled order facility was made available to allow the customer to call off batches of units throughout a pre-determined period, which helped the customer to balance the expenditure of their project and manage invoicing and product warranties.Impulse Embedded is a provider of Industrial computing systems and solutions. Their customers rely on Impulse to provide the best embedded computing products and solutions for the challenges presented by today’s industrial demands. Together with their global manufacturing partners they provide world-class innovative embedded computing and automation products and solutions suitable for multiple industrial market sectors.

"The brief we gave to Impulse was technically challenging and made harder by the timeframe which we set them to deliver a solution. The end result exceeded our expectations in terms of the solution's specification, performance and delivery date for the Albeego Pinion," said Simon Precious, CEO, Albeego Limited.

https://www.impulse-embedded.co.uk/

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