Cinterion TC65 Chip

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M2M projects are the type of project I like to work on. Connecting remote devices, making them work together, and controlling everything remotely are things i love !

I discovered the Cinterion TC65 (which belonged to Siemens then) 3 years ago. And it was a dream come true. I’ve been mostly working on it to build some powerfull GPS tracking software over GPRS. But I have also worked on some other projects making it communicate with some equipments using GPIO or serial port.

Some things you might like with the TC65 Chip :

  • Java Virtual Machine (J2ME)
  • Only requires a serial or a virtual serial link over a USB cable to program
  • You can easily build powerful, multi-threaded programs
  • Easy management of GPIO, SPI, I2C ports
  • Easy management of TCP/UDP connections
  • Quite powerful (400 KB of RAM, 1.7 MB of memory)
  • You can update your code remotely with at commands or specially formated SMS
  • It’s fast enough for most of your M2M usages (but it’s not well suited for sound or video transport)

I’m quite disappointed to see how only few people/companies are interested in this product. The product is great, developers tools are great and the over the air updating feature is great too ! I think it costs around 60/70 € ($95). One reason might be that the first version of the chip was pretty buggy. The only safe solution was to add a hardware watchdog.

There’s a pretty interesting feature that I would love to use : libraries that are downloaded and updated separately from the main program. But sadly, it isn’t compatible with some old v1 chips I still use.

Available TC65 software versions are :

  • TC65 v1 : First version. Very unstable. It could crash for days. It also happened that the software was suddenly deleted. Couldn’t get standard output to the virtual serial port on USB. Sometimes OTAP SMS could save the chip, sometimes we just had to wait for days before it decided to come back to life.
  • TC65 v2 : New hardware (HW v2). Seems more stable. Thought, I have one chip where it sometimes crash just 20 seconds after startup.
  • TC65 v3 : Can be upgraded from a software v2 (needs a HW v2). Offers a software watchdog.
  • TC65i v1 : Cinterion has bought it. Smaller, better power saving mode.

And for the XT65 chip :

  • XT65 v1 : TC65 v2 with GPS
  • XT65 v2 : TC65 v3 with GPS

Vendors selling their TC65 with a watchdog often don’t have one. They just rely on the software watchdog of the TC65 v3 chip.

9 thoughts on “Cinterion TC65 Chip”

  1. Hello,

    The TC65 doesn’t seem to have the 10 extrnal GPIO ports like the older versions. Internally, there is a solderable connector that from what I read on forums is actually the GPIO interface, but there are only 5 solder spots on it, not 10.

    Can you please shed some light on this?
    Thanks!
    Bruno.

    1. Hi Bruno,

      I don’t exactly see what you mean, if you look at the hardware description which hasn’t changed much between versions, in section “5.5 Pin Assignment and Signal Description”, GPIO are always available.

      Maybe you are speaking about a particular equipment that uses a TC65 chip.

      Best regards,

  2. Hello, we have developed a M2M aplication in JAVA for a Cinterion T65i, now we are starting to perform the testing ang the memory is full and we have few “out of memory” messages.

    We are intenting to find if exist any tool to doing the memory tuning we need.

    Dou you know any?

    Thank you.

  3. Hi,

    At this time we are experiencing some TC65 issues regarding RTC. For some reason, I think it is the temperature, the HW RTC is ahead (5 seconds for 24h).
    Did you know something regarding that?
    Thanks,

    Daniel

  4. Hi Daniel,

    In all the applications where time was important, I had a GPS chip I could use.

    What I noticed is that you can’t really rely on the RTC clock but I don’t even remember if it goes forward or backward. The best way to fix that is to get the current time from a server every 24h to define an offset between your local time and the real time.

  5. Hi Florent,

    We also use this approach, but one project demands 1 month or more out of operator coverage.
    What we try to do now is an external RTC with temperature compensation connected over SPI or I2C.
    Thanks and Regards

  6. It seems pretty hard to fix the RTC by measuring temperature.
    If you have access to the sky, having a gps chip makes everything easier, it doesn’t cost much so even just to set the time it can be good option.

  7. Ok, I didn’t read it correctly. I guess it would be completely enough.

    Most of them (if not all) support NMEA-0183. And they are all good enough to give the time.
    I’m sorry but I really don’t know much about electronic, so I never had to choose a chip. But I guess you can find some for less than 20$.

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