Waterproof Satellite IoT Device
The RockBLOCK Plus delivers plug-and-play satellite communication, and is a waterproof and ruggedised version of the RockBLOCK 9602. It leverages the Iridium Satellite network – specifically, ‘short burst data’ (SBD), delivering message sizes of 340 bytes up, 270 bytes down.
It’s highly UV resistant and has a marine kevlar cable, making it ideal for long-term outdoor deployment even in the most severe environments. It uses the RS232 protocol for serial communication, so is truly plug-and-play. If you have sensor data in hard-to-reach places, the RockBLOCK Plus is a reliable means of getting that data back to you in close to real-time.
Where is the RockBLOCK Plus being used?
It’s designed to transmit sensor data from IoT applications, and is being used to great effect in forestry, preventing illegal deforestation and creating alerts for extreme temperature changes; in environmental applications, monitoring earth movement and water levels to provide early warning of landslides and flood risks. It’s deployed as part of Thailand’s tsunami detection system, with the potential to save many, many lives.
You can read more case studies involving the RockBLOCK series of products here.
- Plug and play satellite communication
- Available as a PCB or encapsulated product
- Full 2-way communication system
- Integrated antenna and power conditioning
- Powered via 9-30v DC, RS-232 for data
- Truly global operation, pole to pole (see coverage map)
- Data via e-mail or directly to your web-service
- Utilises Short Burst Data: send 340 bytes from an RockBLOCK Plus, and receive 270 byte messages
- Integrate into your own software with minimal effort
- Built in Antenna: Yes
- Transmits Using Iridium
- Weight: 300 grams (0.66 lbs)
- Size 40 mm (1.57″) high, 137 mm (5.39″) diameter (+cable)
- Waterproofing IP68 certified (submersible up to 1m indefinitely)
- Ideal For External use
- Powered via 9-30v DC, RS-232 for data
- Power consumption: max 450mA (100mA required)
- Power I/O: direct header or FTDI / USB
- Storage temperature: -40 to 85 degrees C
- Operating temperature: -40 to 85 degrees C
- Operating environment: < 75% relative humidity
- Iridium modem: 9602 short burst transceiver
- Iridium antenna: 1621Mhz tuned patch antenna
- Messages sent can be delivered to your chosen email or sent to your web service as a simple HTTP POST
Ground Control offers Iridium SBD airtime both as a prepaid tariff, and as an annual contract for companies planning a larger deployment of devices. Full pricing plans can be found on our Short Burst Data Pricing page.
If you choose our prepaid, or pay as you go option, line rental is paid in blocks of 1 month, and allows the RockBLOCK Plus to exchange information with the Iridium satellite network. You only pay for months in which you wish to use the RockBLOCK Plus. No annual contract is required. Line rental costs £13.00 per month.
Credits are used each time you transmit. 1 credit is used per 50 bytes (or part thereof) of message sent or received. 1 credit is also used if you check your mailbox and there are no messages waiting (A mailbox check). Credits do not expire, even if you are paying no line rental. Credits are shared/pooled between all of the devices on your account
Please note, while our pay-as-you-go tariffs offer great flexibility for development purposes, we know they are not suitable for everyone. If you are planning a large deployment of devices (100+) and are willing to commit to airtime contracts of 12 months or more, please get in touch. We have access to various tariffs which may suit you better.
Frequently Asked Questions
Very. The RockBLOCK Plus is a completely encapsulated design, so it’s at least IP68 (submersible for extended periods). Just don’t expect it to send messages from underwater.
Testing shows it generally takes around 20 seconds from power-up to successful transmission, with a perfect view of the sky. With a very restricted view, it may take several minutes. You should be able to complete an Iridium SBD session roughly every 10 seconds, assuming a perfect view of the sky.
The RockBLOCK does not have a GPS chip inside it. It’s envisaged that if you want position reports, you’d use an off-the-shelf GPS module with your solution and get position data from that.
However, it’s worth noting that with each Iridium transmission we do get an approximate position report. This varies in accuracy from 100km to 1km and therefore can’t be relied upon for accurate tracking, but we do provide this information for you (along with the approximate accuracy, ‘CEP’, in km) with your messages. If you’re looking for a dedicated tracking satellite tracking device, you might want to consider our RockFLEET product.
Our billing is flexible and allows you to pay only when you’re using your devices. Line rental is sold in one-month blocks, and credits are bought in packs. If you have several RockBLOCKs, credits are shared from a credit pool amongst all your devices so you don’t need to buy separate packs of credits for each device. Similarly, if only some of your devices are being used at any one time, you don’t need to pay for line-rental on those which aren’t in use.
If you’re using the SBDRT command and the modem appears to ‘hang’ when you issue the command, it’s probably due to flow control configuration. The default state for the RockBLOCK and RockBLOCK Plus units has flow control turned ‘on’ in the modem. When running in 3-wire serial mode, flow control should be turned off, which will ensure you get responses to your requests.
Use the command AT&K0 at the start of your command sequence. This turns flow control off, and should solve the problem.
The sleep signal is internally pulled high on the RockBLOCK and RocKBLOCK Plus products, so you can leave it disconnected if you want to leave the modem ‘awake’ all of the time. To turn ‘off’ the modem, pull the line to ground.
Almost certainly. If you’ve purchased the optional FTDI-USB adaptor then you’ll need to install the FTDI drivers. You can check on their website, where you’ll find drivers for Linux, Mac, Windows, Android, and others.
The RockBLOCK Plus appears as a serial interface and you can talk to it using a simple set of AT commands. It’s expected that you’ll be able to integrate it into your own software with minimal effort.
Messages sent from RockBLOCK can either be delivered to your chosen email address or sent to your own web service as a simple HTTP POST. The message data will be hex-encoded so there are no character set problems. Full details of our web service are available in the Web Services User Guide.
You can make a simple HTTP POST to our web service. The message is queued on the satellite network almost instantly, ready for RockBLOCK Plus to download (on your command).
Yes, as long as you configure it correctly. Check the 9602 documentation for the ‘Ring Alert’ feature.
Yes. Ground Control (formerly Rock Seven) has been an Iridium Partner since 2008. We’ve been developing all sorts of products, and we’re famously the people behind YB Tracking.
Some ways RockBLOCK Plus devices are used
Satellite-Enabled Tsunami Early Warning System
As a critical communications network, there was never any question that ASC’s early warning system would need to utilise satellite connectivity, both for the coverage requirements and network reliability. Commercial terrestrial power and communications networks tend to perform poorly in a disaster – either through overuse or damage to their infrastructure.
Automated Landslide Monitoring
Slide Sentinel is a fully automated landslide monitoring system using RTK. It regularly monitors landslide activity with high spatiotemporal resolution and centimetre-level accuracy for long-term deployments. Measuring this way aids in early warning information and limits the use of invasive and expensive drilling.
Preventing Illegal Deforestation
The world’s two largest rainforests, the Congo Basin and the Amazon, are under threat from illegal extraction activities. Unfortunately, authorities have long lacked the means and mechanisms to deal with these illegalities which destroy ecosystems and undermine both forest and indigenous people’s livelihoods.