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Connecting 3rd party hardware to the Hologram network

/ Written By Maiky Iberkleid

Hologram’s network is designed to work with every piece of hardware in every country in the world. Hardware that cannot join our worldwide network is the exception, not the rule. But even a widely accessible network requires getting third party devices hooked in and transmitting properly. This guide (and the associated video below) goes over the basic steps needed to get your device working, as well as some of the common pitfalls we have seen in the process.

Step 0: Making sure you are using compatible hardware

Why “step 0”? Because this is an important step before attempting to connect to the Hologram network. We accept a lot of hardware onto our network, but if it cannot talk to the towers in your home country, your attempts will be thwarted early on. Not sure what kind of hardware might work on our network? Check out the Hologram Compatible Hardware list that was recently published.

Some modems only work in certain areas of the world, some only on certain carriers, and others only on certain technologies. So before you try connecting to Hologram’s network you have to make sure your device can join it.

For example, our own products like the Dash and Nova use the U2 series modems from uBlox. Looking at their chart, you can see there are versions that cover different bands (ie. “B3, B8”) and different countries. We have switched to using global modems on all of our products, whenever possible.

If you’re unsure about your hardware’s country / zone of operation, check the following:

  1. Modem country status — If the product does not explicitly state it, you may need to find the modem and check where that is enabled (look for the metal can and markings from companies like uBlox, Sequans, Telit, SIMCOM, or Huawei). If only the bands are marked, check out which bands are supported in your country. For instance, Wikipedia has a listing of cellular bands covered and carriers in the US. You can also check whether your specific location has coverage on 2G/3G and LTE.
  2. Device lock status — Device locking is a relic of the 90s, but still happens sometimes when the device is purchased directly from the carrier. If you bought the device directly from a carrier other than Hologram and especially if there was a deeply discounted price, ensure the device isn’t locked.
  3. Roaming status Roaming is the ability to travel outside of a home network. Without the ability to roam or set a custom APN, your device will not be a good fit for Hologram. If you’re unsure, you can always ask on the Hologram forum!

Step 1: Activate your Hologram SIM

Before you insert a SIM card into your device, you’ll need to activate it. This is done on the Hologram Dashboard and this guide goes into that process in detail. Activation can take up to 15 minutes, as information has to propagate across all our network, but is often much faster. If you find your SIM isn’t active after 1 hour, contact support@hologram.io.

Once your SIM is active, you will see a green status indicator on the Dashboard. This means that your SIM is live on our global network!

Step 2: Place the SIM into your device

This sounds straightforward, but is a common issue we see in our forum and in helping customers face-to-face. First and foremost, look at your device’s documentation and make sure you are using the correct size. If not, start with the largest SIM size and work your way down.

Some other thoughts and tips.

  • SIM orientation matters! Most devices will have a diagram showing you where the SIM’s notch needs to go. Placing it differently will not work.
  • If your device doesn’t have a diagram for SIM orientation, there may be a notch in the SIM holder.
  • If your device doesn’t have either, make sure the SIM slot/holder’s contacts are touching the SIM’s contacts.

Once your SIM has been inserted correctly, your device is ready to connect.

STEP 3: Setting the Access Point Name (APN)

With an activated SIM card inserted, your device should be able to send and receive SMS messages without any other setup. To send and receive data, however, you need to set the APN. This can be done in one of four ways:

Automatically

This usually occurs on mobile phones like iPhones and Android Phones. On larger embedded devices and more advanced modems, the manufacturers store large carrier APNs in memory. SIMs from larger carriers may already be included and Hologram is now included on many newer devices.

Via SMS

This usually applies to devices with no external input ports. We have seen this in cellular asset trackers, such as pet trackers. You can send SMS messages to your device using Hologram’s Dashboard, information on that can be found here.

Via Software

This usually applies to USB Modems and Routers. We have seen this in Huawei USB Modems like the MS2372 and Cradle Point’s COR Series Routers.

Via Code

This is common for development boards like Adafruit’s Fona boards, Arduino’s MKR, and PyComm boards.

Hologram’s full APN information

    APN: hologram
    APN username: (none)
    APN password: (none)
    IP Address: Dynamic (using DHCP)
    Data Roaming: Enabled

Please note that your specific device might not ask for all of this information and that no PIN is required.

Dealing with issues

We are always looking to expand the scope of hardware that works with the Hologram network. We maintain a community compiled list of development hardware and modems, with notation on whether they have been verified to work on our network. If you see anything not mentioned on there or need some help getting your device onto our network, stop by the Hologram Forum for some help!