The New OpenH Pulsar and Quasar Boards

Alasdair Allan
3 min readJun 3, 2017

To most people smart light bulbs, like the Philips Hue, or smart thermostats, like the Nest, are the poster children of the Internet of Things. So it might come as a surprise to some that there are large parts of it that don’t depend on WiFi—distributed sensor networks using Zigbee or Z-Wave, and remote sensors using cellular.

But most of the cellular boards on sale—including those for the Arduino or the Raspberry Pi—use outdated but cheap 2G cellular radios, and that’s a problem because the 2G network is being shut down both in the U.S. and elsewhere. However finding 4G modules to replace the cheap 2G modules is problematic—enter the new Quasar and Pulsar boards from OpenH.

The OpenH Quasar for the Raspberry Pi. (📷: OpenH)

The Quasar is a 4G Cat 4 cellular supervisor board intended for high speed connectivity—up to 150 Mb/s. While it will work with most Linux-based single board computers, such as the BeagleBone, its form factor is designed to work as a Raspberry Pi HAT.

The Pulsar is a 4G Cat M1 cellular board intended for low-bandwidth projects—up to 200 kb/s. ​It’s compatible with Arduino, and has an onboard SAMD21 MCU—the same one used in the Arduino Zero—for user code in additional to the management CPU.

Local connection to the manage the boards using Bluetooth with NFC pairing. (📷: OpenH)

“Both Quasar and Pulsar boards have a dedicated management CPU that handles the Bluetooth LE and NFC communications. This aspect of the board is typically not user programmable but is highly configurable. The CPU runs Bluetooth LE, NFC, digital power supply, battery charger, battery charge gauge, power monitoring, cryptography, and a few other things. The Bluetooth LE connection requires our app and provides a full-featured control console both on the user phone as well remotely via a web interface.” — Alex Kaay, OpenH Founder

Beyond the local management interfaces, both boards also have remote device management and debugging, allowing you to update the on board firmware over the air. The boards also support most of the popular cloud providers, meaning that you aren’t locked into a single provider.

Selecting your cloud provider. (📷: OpenH)

Of course, there’s no reason the cloud components of a connected device needs to be tied to a single provider. There’s nothing to stop companies creating things that will self-deploy the cloud capability the device needs directly to the consumer’s cloud provider of choice. That way, the consumer both pays for their own cloud usage, which most people will find more palatable than a subscription, and can migrate the device’s cloud components between different providers as needed. However in the past it’s been pretty rare to see connected devices offer this sort of choice between providers.

“We see a lot of interest outside of the typical niche of remote hardware that is usually associated with cellular connectivity.” — Alex Kaay, OpenH Founder

Pricing and availability for the both the Pulsar and Quasar boards has not yet been set, but both boards will be available to pre-order shortly. The manufacturer is currently actively seeking qualified beta users to help them test the product before they start shipping.

UPDATE: The Quasar will soon be on Crowd Supply.

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