More WiFi Modules for IoT Madness

IoT

The last year has brought us CC3000 WiFi module from TI, and recently the improved CC3200 that includes an integrated microcontroller. The Chinese design houses have gotten the hint, putting out the exceptionally cheap ESP8266, a serial to WiFi bridge that also includes a microcontroller to handle the TCP/IP stack and the software side of an 802.11 connection. Now there’s another dedicated WiFi module. It’s called the MT7681, and it’s exactly what you would expect given the competition: a programmable module with the ability to connect to a WiFi network.

Like TI’s CC3200, and the ESP8266, the MT7681 can be connected to any microcontroller over a serial connection, making it a serial to WiFi bridge. This module also contains a user-programmable microcontroller, meaning you don’t need to connect an Arduino to blink a few pins; UART, SPI, and a few GPIO pins are right on the board. The module also includes an SDK and gnu compiler, so development of custom code running on this module should be easier than some of the other alternatives.

You can pick up one of the MT7681 modules through the usual channels, but there’s an Indiegogo campaign based in China that takes this module and builds a ‘dock’ around it. The dock has a relay, temperature/humidity sensor, a few GPIO pins, and a USB serial connection for use as an Internet of Things base station.

For anyone looking for a little more computational horsepower, there’s also a few mentions and press releases announcing another module, the MT7688, This is a very small (12mm by 12mm) module running Linux with 256 MB of RAM and 802.11n support. This module hasn’t even hit the market yet, but we’ll be on the lookout for when it will be released.

Thanks [uhrheber] for sending this one in.

TI’s New Family Of WiFi Chips

cccc Texas Instruments’ CC3000 WiFi chip is the darling of everyone producing the latest and greatest Internet of Thing, and it’s not much of a surprise: In quantity, these chips are only $10 a piece. That’s a lot less expensive than the WiFi options a year ago. Now, TI is coming out with a few new modules to their WiFi module family, including one that includes an ARM micro.

The CC3000 has found a home in booster packs, breakout boards for the Arduino, and Spark, who are actually some pretty cool dudes.Still, the CC3000 has a few shortcomings; 802.11n isn’t available, and it would be really cool if the CC3000 had a web server on it.

The newest chips add these features and a whole lot more. [Valkyrie] got his hands on a CC3100Boost board and was pleased to find all the files for the webserver can be completely replaced. Here’s your Internet of Things, people. The CC3200 is even better, with a built-in ARM Cortex M4 with ADCs, a ton of GPIOs, an SD card interface, and even a parallel port for a camera. If you’re looking to pull a hardware startup out of your hat, you might want to plan your Kickstarter around this chip.

It’s all very cool stuff, and although the bare chips aren’t available yet, you can get an eval module from TI, with an FCC certified module with the crystals and antenna coming later this year.

Hardware Startup Review: Spark

The Hardware Startup Review - Spark - Hackaday-01

Like it or not, a whole new wave of Hardware Startups is coming our way. Crowd Funding campaigns are making it possible for everyone with an idea to “test the waters”, tech-savvy Angel investors are eager to help successful ones cross over, and Venture Capitalists are sitting on the other side, always on the lookout for potential additions to their “hardware portfolio”. It’s these billion-dollar acquisitions that made everyone jump on the bandwagon, and there’s no going back. At least for now.

That’s all great, and we want to believe that good things will come out of this whole frenzy. But instead of staying on the sidelines, we thought Hackady should get involved and start asking some hard questions. After all, these guys didn’t think they’d be able to get away with some nicely produced videos and a couple of high-res photos, right?

For our first issue, we picked a relatively innocent target – Spark, the team behind the Spark Core development board. By embracing Open Source and Open Hardware as the core part of their strategy, Spark has so far been a positive example in the sea of otherwise dull (and potentially creepy) IoT “platforms”. So we thought we should give [Zach Supalla], CEO of Spark a call.

[Read more...]

Atmel Announces SmartConnect WiFi Modules

Atmel SmartConnect

This week we talked with Atmel about their new WiFi solutions targeting Internet of Things applications. Back in 2012, Atmel acquired Ozmo, a company focused on point-to-point WiFi solutions using WiFi Direct. These devices are known as SmartDirect, and have been available for some time.

Atmel has just announced a new product line: SmartConnect. This moves beyond the point-to-point nature of WiFi Direct, and enables connections to standard access points. The SmartConnect series is designed for embedding in low cost devices that need to connect to a network.

The first devices in the SmartConnect line will be modules based on two chips: an Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ microcontroller and an Ozmo 3000 WiFi System on Chip. There’s also an on-board antenna and RF shielding can. It’s a drop in WiFi module, which is certified by the FCC. You can hook up your microcontroller to this device over SPI, and have a fully certified design that supports WiFi.

There’s two ways to use the module. The first is as an add-on, which is similar to existing modules. A host microcontroller communicates with the module over SPI and utilizes its command set. The second method uses the module as a standalone device, with application code running on the internal SAMD21 microcontroller. Atmel has said that the standalone option will only be available on a case to case basis, but we’re hoping this opens up to everyone. If the Arduino toolchain could target this microcontroller, it could be a great development platform for cheap WiFi devices.

SmartConnect Architectures

The Add-On and Standalone Architectures

At first glance, this module looks very similar to other WiFi modules, including the CC3000 which we’ve discussed in the past. However there are some notable differences. One major feature is the built in support for TLS and HTTPS, which makes it easier to build devices with secure connections. This is critical when deploying devices that are connected over the internet.

Atmel is claiming improvements in power management as well. The module can run straight from a battery at 1.8 V to 3.3 V without external regulation, and has a deep sleep current of 5 nA. Obviously the operating power will be much higher, but this will greatly assist devices that sporadically connect to the internet. They also hinted at the pricing, saying the modules will come close to halving the current price of similar WiFi solutions. SmartConnect is targeting a launch date of June 15, so we hope to learn more this summer.

We’re always excited to see better connectivity solutions. If Atmel comes through with a device allowing for cheaper and more secure WiFi modules, it will be a great part for building Internet of Things devices. With a projected 50 billion IoT devices by 2020, we expect to see a lot of progress in this space from silicon companies trying to grab market share.

CC3000 WiFi driver for .NET Micros

CC3000

The Netduino and other .NET Micro boards don’t seem to get much love, but that doesn’t mean they’re not able to use one of the coolest chips we’ve seen in a while. [Valkyrie] has written a driver for TI’s new CC3000 all-in-one WiFi chip, giving any .NET micro device a very small and very cheap WiFi connection.

A while back, [Chris Magagna] created a TI CC3000 library for the Arduino. [Valkyrie] fell out of his chair when he saw that post, as it meant the .NET Micro devices such as the Netduino could finally use this device. With a TI Launchpad and a logic analyzer, [Valkyrie] recorded all the SPI commands and responses eventually reconstructing the entire library.

As for how useful this is without any hardware, There’s already a CC3000 Gadgeteer module available from GHI Electronics.

Microcontrollers and Node.js, naturally

Tessel

We see a surprising amount of projects using Node.js, but despite this we haven’t seen much JavaScript running microcontrollers, even the ARM powered Raspi or BeagleBone. The folks at Technical Machine want to change that with a very cool dev board designed to be an Internet-connected JavaScript running prototyping device from the very beginning. It’s called Tessel, and brings some very cool tools to any maker’s workbench.

On board this little… board is an ARM Cortex-M3 running at 180 MHz, 32 Megs of Flash, 32 Megs of SDRAM, and a TI CC3000 WiFi module that we’ve heard so much about. The 16-pin GPIO can connect to other Tessel modules that allow for servos, accelerometers, micro SD cards, and a whole bunch of other sensors for just about any project imaginable.

Aside from having WiFi built in from the get-go, Tessel also has some Arduino compatibility, allowing it to work with existing shields and code. It seems pretty cool, and we can’t wait to get our hands on one when it launches in September.

Tiny WiFi modules, again

cc3000

The CC3000 is a tiny, single-chip component that adds all the necessary hardware (save for a chip antenna) and software to get even the most minimal microcontrollers onto a WiFi network. It was announced early this year but making proper breakout boards takes time, you know? This time has finally arrived with CC3000 modules from Adafruit, and evaluation modules and booster packs from TI themselves.

Unlike other microcontroller-compatible WiFi modules out there, the CC3000 takes care of just about everything – the TCP/IP stack, security stuff, and even the configuration with TI’s SmartConfig app for desktop, laptop, or mobile devices. Realistically, you can get an ATtiny, an exceedingly sparse microcontroller, or even a Commodore 64 or Apple II on the Internet with this. It’s very, very cool.

While these breakout boards and modules are priced very well for what they do, they’re still fairly expensive to stick in a project permanently. Where the CC3000 really shines is including it in your next fabbed board. There are already Altium parts and an Eagle library that includes this part should you need help with that, and blatant advertising for our overlords at SupplyFrame if you’re looking for a source.

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