CloudGate M2M Router With Global 3G: Hands-On Review

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Thursday, 04 April 2013

 CloudGate M2M Router With Global 3G: Hands-On Review

3Gstore is thrilled to announce the CloudGate M2M Gateway from Option, a gamechanger in the M2M category that can be activated on countless 3G networks worldwide for connectivity wherever you need it. The CloudGate is a feature-rich ethernet gateway built with businesses’ 24x7 M2M needs in mind, and its ability to work with multiple cellular providers makes it the most cost-effective and flexible option on the market.

Prefer to watch a video instead? Check out our video overview of the CloudGate M2M Gateway:

Like other all-in-one gateways and routers that feature embedded cellular modules, the CloudGate is ideal for deployment where connectivity is a must but traditional wired internet is not available. Unlike other solutions, though, the CloudGate utilizes the unique universal Gobi 3000 chip, which can be activated on any 3G GSM network worldwide that uses the 850/900/1900/2100Mhz/AWS frequencies (this includes AT&T, T-Mobile, Rogers Canada, and countless others) as well as the Verizon 3G network in the US (Sprint support coming soon, pending Sprint certification and a firmware update from Option). This is a HUGE advantage compared to other M2M routers that utilize carrier-locked modules. For example, if you purchased 100 units of a Verizon-locked router and then determined that AT&T coverage is better at some of your locations, you would have to replace each of those units with the AT&T model at an average cost of $400-$600 each! With CloudGate, if your technician gets to the site and finds that signal strength for a particular carrier is not sufficient or if your needs change in the future, the router can simply be activated on a different carrier instead and be back up and running in a matter of minutes.

While the flexibility to use multiple providers is one of CloudGate’s standout features, the CloudGate’s functionality and reliability easily rivals that of competing M2M gateways. Read on to see how CloudGate can benefit your business:

Design & Hardware:

On the exterior, the CloudGate utilizes a sturdy, ruggedized aluminum enclosure that can withstand temperatures from -30°C to 70°C and is quite compact at just 4.5" x 4.1" x 1.77" and 6.35oz. For added security, the case has a built-in mounting board with 6 holes for M4 bolts (sold separately) so that the unit can easily be bolted in place to avoid accidents or theft. The front of the router features a single LAN port to connect to your network, ATM, credit card processor, etc, and an SMA/Female antenna connector for the cellular modem as well as one for GPS (which will be supported in the near future and will require a GPS antenna), and seven 3-color LEDs give users a nice visual overview of the system status and signal strength. The back of the router has the reset button and the 4-pin GPIO power connector:

The CloudGate does not feature a built-in WiFi radio, since many M2M applications must be wired-only to facilitate PCI and HIPPA compliance, but an optional WiFi module that can support up to 10 users and can broadcast WiFi up to 150’ can be added if WiFi connectivity is desired. The WiFi module utilizes another of CloudGate’s unique features: the expansion bays. These slots, which are located beneath covers on either side of the router, allow users to add optional modules to customize their CloudGate and add even more functionality specific to their business’s needs. In addition to the WiFi module, other optional modules will be available in 2013, including a serial port module (which will allow communication with digital signage, ATMs, utility meters, etc) and a 4-port ethernet switch expansion. 

Setup & Use:

Initial activation is straightforward and requires no networking savvy — you don’t have to be an IT professional to get online with the CloudGate. If you’re using a GSM provider, it’s as simple as inserting your active SIM card and selecting your carrier within the web admin; for Verizon you’ll call your provider and give them the router’s MEID (device ID) to activate. The provider can be changed any time, and with an average time of just 35 seconds to switch between carriers, there is very little downtime for your business if you have to switch from one provider to another.

CloudGate’s GUI is sleek and more user-friendly than other M2M gateways on the market. All of the typical configuration and security options one would expect from an M2M router are available within the web admin, from firewall policies to port filtering and port forwarding rules. CloudGate also includes a “connection persistence” feature, which allows you to enable a “connection watchdog” that will assist in keeping your connection alive by automatically pinging a website at regular intervals to keep it from going dormant when not actively in use; the router can also be configured to automatically reboot at a certain time every day, which gives administrators a safety net in the event of a lock up or outage (even if you’re off-site you can rest assured knowing that if something goes awry, the unit will be rebooting on its own at a certain time and will not require someone to visit the site where it is installed).

Management, Remote Access & CloudGate Central:

CloudGate’s management tools are yet another area where CloudGate stands apart from other M2M options. The router can be accessed and configured remotely via any web browser by setting up and enabling a dynamic DNS account (note: with some service providers, a static IP address may be necessary for remote access; dynDNS works great when using Verizon, but AT&T users will need to pay AT&T’s $3/month fee for an “i2Gold” account with a static IP address), and if you have multiple units out in the field, like many businesses do, CloudGate’s provisioning service makes remotely managing your entire fleet a breeze by giving administrators easy access to all of the units under their control, eliminating the need to send a technician to each site whenever an update or maintenance on a unit is needed. Administrators can push firmware updates out to all of their routers at once or even upload custom templates with pre-configured settings for remote routers, and with an impressive reboot time of just about 1 minute, each router is back up and running with minimal service interruption.

CloudGate Central is an upcoming optional centralized management system that will give administrators even more control. For a nominal per-unit monthly fee, CloudGate Central will monitor the connection status of each router in the group and notify the administrator immediately when an outage is detected. The routers will be configured to ping our servers at set intervals, and when our system determines that a unit has failed to ping us, the administrator will be notified so that immediate action can be taken and downtime is kept to a minimum. CloudGate Central will be available in late 2013.

Future Updates and Added Functionality:

In addition to the expansion modules that will soon be available, Option has announced that an SDK (software development kit) will be made available to developers, allowing for the creation of custom apps for the CloudGate. This means that developers will be able to expand on CloudGate’s functionality by writing applications that CloudGate users can purchase and install on their routers. These apps aren’t available yet, but the potential for useful add-ons is endless: data logging, bandwidth monitoring, GPS monitoring and mapping, signal strength diagnostics, GeoFence for fleet tracking — the sky’s the limit!

Availability and Pricing:

The CloudGate is available now at 3Gstore for $369.99, and volume pricing is available for businesses and VARs with large-scale deployments. The CloudGate comes with the AC power supply (a cigarette lighter power supply, DC power harness, and GPIO cable  are also available — sold separately) as well as a pair of 1.5” screw-on cellular antennas (a variety of alternative high-gain antennas are also available for locations with weak signal strength).


Below are some additional videos demonstrating how easy it is to get started with the CloudGate and how simple it is to switch between cellular carriers:

CloudGate - How to Install or Swap the SIM:

CloudGate - Switching between cellular carriers:

Last Updated ( Friday, 05 April 2013 )
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