As the Internet of Things (IoT) concept gets more and more popular these days like the DIY paradigm, lots of new development boards fulfilling different requirements for hobbyists have been launched to the market. I’ve selected some IoT boards based on size and embedded wireless, and will explain some of their features and prices in order to have a stronger background on them before purchasing one. Keep in mind that the following list is not ordered by any criteria.
The Photon, created by Particle (formerly Spark), is a USD$19 development board based on an ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller with embedded Wi-Fi. Particle offers you the Particle Cloud, which is basically a cloud where you can connect your devices and do cloud-computing to process incoming data. It is free for up to 25 connected devices. Also, they provide web and local IDE for coding your apps; the programming language is similar to Arduino’s Wiring. They do have an official community forum which seems to be active.
The NodeMCU is a USD$8 development board based on the famous ESP8266 microcontroller. It has embedded Wi-Fi and is programmed over USB. There is a popular firmware, Lua, available for this microcontroller. It allows you to program the device using Lua scripts in an interactive way. All you have to do is load the firmware once, and then it is programmed through an interactive console via serial console. The other way to program this board is to use Arduino IDE, which has an extension to upload sketches. I personally prefer this second method because of the Arduino libraries available. The ESP8266 community forum is big and they have their own website here.
The Yun shield is a USD$30 board based on an Atheros AR9331 SoC and is compatible with Arduino boards as a shield. It has embedded Wi-Fi, one USB port and an Ethernet port, with all of this controlled by Atheros running Linux OpenWRT. Basically, Yun Shield + Leonardo is equal to the official Arduino Yun, but it is also compatible with Arduino Uno and Mega. The shield+board can be programmed over USB or Wi-Fi, using Arduino IDE (to program the Arduino board), or it can be programmed in python, node.js, C/C++ or something else using its Linux environment over ssh. The Arduino community is one of the biggest on the Internet, with a very active forum.
The Intel Edison is a USD$50 board based on a dual-core Intel Atom microprocessor and an Intel Quark microcontroller. It has embedded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE. It runs Linux Yocto, where you can run python, node.js, Wolfram and more. In order to expose its pin in an easy way, there are two expansion boards compatible with Edison: Arduino Compatible Board for Edison (USD$50) and Intel Edison Break out Board (USD$25). There are three available IDE to program this board: Intel XDK (Node.js), Intel IoT Edition (C/C++ or Java) and Arduino IDE. The website offers a tutorial on using Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT with Intel devices as the Edison. The community forum is active and supported by Intel, which releases interesting events worldwide using their latest technologies.
C.H.I.P. is a USD$9 board based on Allwinner R8 SoC. It has embedded Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, supports composite video, HDMI and VGA and has one USB host. It runs a modified version of Linux Debian, supporting python, Node.js, C/C++ and more. Because it is a computer, it doesn’t need an IDE to be programmed–you just have to access it through a monitor, a keyboard, and start coding, or you can upload code remotely over Wi-Fi and ssh. This board is fairly new, so the community is small and growing, and the second massive shipment of this product is expected to be in October 2016.
Here’s a table that summarizes the main specs of the above boards:
|board||price U$||speed||RAM||flash||Wi-Fi||USB host||Linux||Video||Power consumption|
|Photon||19||120MHZ||128KB||1MB||yes||no||no||no||~80 mA at 3V3|
|Tessel 2||44||580MHz(mediatek)/48MHz (atmel)||64MB||32MB||yes||2||OpenWRT||no||~300 mA at 5V|
|NodeMCU||8||80MHz||64KB||1MB||yes||no||no||no||~170 mA at 5V|
|Yun Shield + Arduino Leonardo||46||400MHz(Atheros)/16MHz(Arduino)||64MB||16MB||yes||1||OpenWRT||no||~280 mA at 5V|
|Intel Edison + Arduino expansion||100||500MHz(Atom)/100MHz(Quark)||1GB||4GB||yes||1||Yocto||no||~300 mA at 3V3|
|C.H.I.P.||9||1GHz||512MB||4GB||yes||1||Debian mod.||Composite/VGA/HDMI||230 mA at 5V (idle)|
Like my Facebook page if you found this interesting, useful, or want to learn more!