Introducing the Soracom Onyx

Soracom Onyx Commercial Packaging

Today is an exciting day for the Soracom product team as we announce the release of our new dongle-style LTE modem, the Soracom Onyx LTE USB Dongle.

Although there have been other USB-based LTE dongles on the market (a few of which we’ve even offered on our web store) we’re excited about this little USB stick and the solutions it will bring for our customers around the world.

A crucial bridge from dev to scale

The USB modem plays a crucial role in the IoT ecosystem, where these unassuming stick-type dongles are typically used to quickly and easily connect devices to mobile networks during prototyping and testing. Although many projects eventually move to built-in modems as their teams gain the experience to design purpose-built hardware, Soracom still helps startup and enterprise customers alike to deploy thousands of devices globally, all connected with USB modems.

Having worked with thousands of customers in just about every industry, we have seen all kinds of applications that leverage the simplicity and flexibility of these USB dongles. Solutions range from rapid prototyping with Raspberry Pi, to machine vision use cases based on edge-computing devices like the Nvidia Jetson, to retrofitting Sigfox Micro Base stations and Industrial Routers for cellular backhaul. Our customers have even inspired us to build our own all-in-one hardware, connectivity, and cloud machine learning solution based on the Raspberry Pi, called the Soracom S+ Camera.

Where dongles fall short

Despite the ubiquity of USB dongles, different models can present some specific challenges in deployment. As we explained in our beginner’s guide to connectivity, typical consumer models are complicated to configure or don’t meet always-on reliability requirements. Some dongles have built-in networking features that may be convenient for connecting a laptop to a mobile network on the go, but actually limit fleet management capabilities, such as support for Soracom’s Napter service for on-demand remote access, when installed on IoT devices.

More recently, while many USB dongles work with most 3G networks around the world, their compatibility with LTE networks is often limited to specific regions, even among some of the most recent dongles, creating extra work just to figure out which regional version of a dongle you need in your device, or to manage multiple SKUs in order to deploy a single product across different regions.

Soracom Onyx: Designed for IoT

After years of working closely with modem manufacturers to help customers overcome these challenges, we decided to apply that experience to develop our own USB dongle, one that we believe fulfills even the most demanding requirements of any IoT project. The Soracom Onyx LTE USB Dongle represents the next step in our endeavor to build a robust IoT ecosystem, working with software developers, hardware producers, and our customers to improve products, and sharing our findings along the way.

Whether you’re a developer looking to prototype an idea or a product manager ready to upgrade an existing fleet of devices, Onyx provides truly global LTE network compatibility in a single SKU, with the same convenience and software standardization you expect from other made-for-IoT dongles. For deployments that rely on older networks and need to transition to LTE, Onyx also provides full global compatibility for 3G and 2G networks.

What’s more, Onyx comes with a wide range of application protocols built-in, including TCP, UDP, HTTP, and MQTT, allowing you to integrate with leading cloud services or even your own backend, without using third-party code or developing your own stack, which helps simplify your device logic and reduce software vulnerabilities. Make sure to check our MQTT application example blog and our Onyx Getting Started guide for more details.

When combined with Soracom’s global IoT SIM, you get a single, powerful hardware connectivity solution that works in 140 countries and more than 200 networks.

Currently, Onyx has completed FCC, PTCRB, and TELEC certifications (CE certification in progress) as an end product, meaning that you can start using Onyx in your applications in the United States, Canada and Japan right away, with Europe following shortly. While we will continue to pursue more certifications, please contact us if you are planning to deploy your project in a different region and have any questions about additional certifications.

We can’t wait to see what you build using Onyx, and welcome any feedback you have so that we can continue to develop products that help drive the next wave of IoT innovation.