WISP Adds Wifi To The Internet Of Things

The guys over at embdSocial sent in a project they’ve been working on for a while. It’s a small wifi module for an Arduino or other microcontroller called Wisp. Unlike the many, many other wifi breakout boards we’ve seen, the Wisp has a truly incredible amount of potential. With an API that allows an Arduino to post to Twitter, sending text messages, and even has remote admin capabilities, the embedSocial team came up with something really cool.

We’ve seen our fair share of projects that use wifi, but the Wisp is amazingly clever as to how projects can be controlled. Each Wisp is administered through the Internet. Once a Wisp is registered to your online embdSocial account you can upload new code without ever physically connecting a microcontroller to your computer.

To demonstrate the remote administration capabilities of the Wisp, the embdSocial guys put an Arduino and Wisp inside an electrical junction box. With their setup, the guys have the simplest and smallest Internet connected power outlet we’ve ever seen.

After the break, you can see a demo of a Wisp opening a garage door and a remotely operated, web enabled airsoft turret. We’re loving that the turret sends video from the gun to any device on the Internet, and it’s impressive that [Chris] and [Art] whipped up both these projects in a single weekend. There’s also a Kickstarter for the Wisp, so here’s to hoping we can pick one of these up soon.



40 thoughts on “WISP Adds Wifi To The Internet Of Things

  1. Hmm site seems to be down at the moment but their kickstarter seems to imply that the price of the unit and shield is going to be somewhere around $89. Can’t really tell what the final price is going to be but my guess would be no less than the kickstarter tier that rewards you with the module.

    It also seems to imply that this isn’t a standalone module. That you link it to your network, it logs into their website then you interact with it through your account on their website, that has its pros and cons. On the plus side you don’t have to worry about your IP address changing and I’m sure there are significant perks when it comes to ease of use. The major detraction being if their website is ever down, well you’re SOL.

    I can see how it will certainly be a useful widget for some people and all but the price point is a bit on the steep side. Add to that the fact that it isn’t stand alone and the two sorta do it in for me personally.

    The module I decided to go with for my project is standalone, which does probably mean significantly more headache. However it also clocked in at around $35. Right now its nothing that I would need to access from outside my LAN. I wouldn’t think it would be too troublesome should that need arise to have it notify me of the occasional WAN IP change.

    Don’t get me wrong its a nice product and I wish them all the best :)

    1. To get outside of LAN access you need to setup your router for something like dyn dns. Some routers support this.

      I’m not really a big fan of using WIFI: its range is too limited, too much power consumption and too much processing power required to handle stuff.

      1. Yeah not the biggest WiFi fan myself for pretty much those exact reasons but it was just something I couldn’t run cables to.

        But between a directional antenna and going a bit overkill (ok a lot overkill) on the power supply, I’m not too worried.

        On the plus side it looks like their site has recovered. I’m going to blame the all the sudden Hack-a-Day interest. Actually a really site layout :)

      2. I am not sure that you do. They claim that it will link back to their servers so no port forwarding may be needed.
        The good thing with about WiFi is that it is on most smartphones and it has a longer range than bluetooth.
        Over all I have to say that I am just not into this. I couldn’t find any pinouts but I suspect that it does have a processor. Now if it was a stand alone device then it wouldn’t be bad. The other issue is the mythical PI. $35 plus a USB Wifi Dongle and you have a full Wifi enabled Linux box with digital IO.

        One hack option I have not seen a lot of yet are ones using the Pogo plug. You can get them for under $30 and add USB Wifi to them as well as custom Linux software and say a USB parallel port for doing IO.

    2. HI all,

      As I see it, this kind of services will become redundant in one or two years from now when we start to see the rollout of ipv6.
      With ipv6, every device is directly reachable and you can simply set up a ipsec encrpypted session between your device and your mobile phone; making any intermediate device completely unnecasairy.

      Why would you use some external service (and an additional element that can fail) if you can communicate directly.

      Also, I find wifi not the best solution for this as it needs to much power. Look at -say- zigbee, Dash7 or something like that.

      Cheerio! Kr. Bonne.

  2. One reason why this fits in an outlet box is because the ones in the US are extremely large. Most european models leave virtually no space once you mount the outlet in.
    There seems to be a large enough micro on the board, so why still use the arduino? that uC could be directly programmed to do stuff.
    I wounder how competitive it would be with a $20ish router.

  3. Seems interesting, but the current price of $89.99 is a non starter, I’ve use the RovingNetworks Wifly in a number of projects and must say it seems like the better deal albeit without the web integration that WISP comes with.

    If/when the price comes down I will no doubt get one to experiment with though :)

    1. Their kickstarter does say that the goal is to get the price down to the $30 range. Which is impressive considering that they’re using a Wifli at the moment for wifi and from many places, that alone is already $30.

  4. $35 for a wifly at sparkfun, and your project won’t depend on someone else keeping a website up.

    “Once a Wisp is registered to your online embdSocial account you can upload new code without ever physically connecting a microcontroller to your computer”

    This is great! I totally trust the cloud!

    1. You already trust data to the cloud. Have any emails that are not locally stored – that’s where they are. Online. And that’s where you go to search them and retrieve past information you may need or have forgotten. Use dropbox, you use the cloud. It would seem that embdsocial doesn’t store anything for you. It pretty much connects devices to services you already use anyway. So, if you already trust dropbox with syncing your files, you probably won’t have an issue trusting it to sync your embedded devices files as well.

      I see embdsocial as acting like a direct connection between you and other stuff from the standpoint of your device.

      1. Because when gmail dies, or dropbox dies, I can move on to the next similar service. When WISP dies, who else is going to support a proprietary low volume device? Noone. Unless they provide an open source php package that you can install on any service, the device usefulness dies when the web company does.

        1. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be able to move on to another similar service. As is, the WISP is pretty open. All the APIs would be open and fully documented. I’m not sure where you get proprietary from.

      2. “You already trust data to the cloud.”

        Nope. We live in an era of trivial industrial and personal espionage.

        Quickbooks – used by 80% of all businesses – regularly grabs the financials of their consumer and business users. They claim that they only aggregate the data (“for good, not evil”) or use it for “development and business purposes” and that it’s all safe as houses. It isn’t.

        Using IE? Go into tools, options, manage addons and look at the plugins. See the ones called research? Or the link safety one? Those addons are sending your entire browsing history – all of it – directly to Microsoft. All of it. Symantec and any other real time protection suite does the same thing.

        Use Mozilla/Firefox? Google cut a deal and ended up sending not just the links you click on but also all the URLS in any web page you looked at directly to google.

        And if you’re using chrome? it’s done, mate.
        Because it’s the browser, SSL doesn’t make any difference. In fact, most modern browsers send your browser requests and search queries to a variety of places under the guise of safer internet.

        Ben Franklin’s quote about liberty and safety has a related maxim: Convenience and Security don’t get along so well, either.

      3. BTW, I grant that email is completely insecure. Anyone who assumes that emails are ever private is severely mistaken. Ironically, if you use a secure email service, it’s even worse.

    2. Actually, the wifli shield is about $90 online. The $89 gets you a WISP and shield. So for the same price, you’d be getting all the functionality of a wifli plus a heck of a lot more. And $89 is the current (low volume) cost – goal is to get that down to close to $35 – what you’re paying for just a wifli.

  5. I think it’s great to see companies exploring different real world/connected device models and dealing with the complexities of making an internet of things. It seems that a real risk is dependence on the vendor’s cloud infrastructure.

    These are small companies and statistically speaking, they’re not all going to make it. These guys seem to be orienting towards the maker/hacker crowd who are probably better equipped to deal with this companies’ failure. But it seems like an unacceptable risk for anyone to base a product around devices like this.

    Perhaps what we need is for there to be a new networking/internet standard for internet connected devices. Then there could be service providers supporting many different connectivity companies and mitigating the risks.

  6. I also see this as a non starter.
    It’s easy enough to do this already with a wifly or wired direct from the MCU, on say LPC1769 (with suitable PHY chip)no extra hardware required.
    As for the cloud stuff there’s lots of free options
    Thing Speak
    Nimbits (on Public server)
    plus a number of others
    Or roll a PHP script on a cheap LAMP package.

    If you want a private cloud then Nimbits can be run on your google app engine account , Amazon compute cloud , or a local lan box.

    This sort of stuff is well within the average hackers remit me thinks.

  7. Why choose the term wisp, and get it confused with Wireless Internet Service Provider? Unless one uses a device box you will not be putting that one wisp component in receptacle box during new construction, and it’s not a good idea to retro fit it. I’m no fan of the insurance industry in general, but when comes to fire protection they do suggest guidelines based on evidence,investigation and research. Installing that wisp device reduces the volume in the box possibly creating a condition for over heating inside. Doesn’t appear to be anything to separate low voltage components from line voltage conductors either. I wonder if they applied for a UL listing or intend to? Beyond that this has so many imbedded costs it’s going to leave many people out of the game. Even if the support standard mobile phones a data unlimited data and/ or text plans are implied, In the event it requires a static IP address that’s an extra cost for many. As slow the as the web can get for many, they could open that door manually, and be in the house getting a brew out of the refer by the time the opener receives the command from the phone. All in all I think radio is the better choice for close in remote control. Wish them success though.

  8. Why are people always using the wrong relays in projects like this? The plans call for the usage of 5A relays when the upstream breaker will be rated at 15A or 20A. Even following the 80% rule, that’s still way above what one of those dinky 5A relays will pass. All it takes is for someone to think this project is a handy way to fire up a space heater so they don’t have to get out of bed to heat up the room on a cold morning. One of these days I need to post a video online that demonstrates exactly why people need to pay attention to these things.

    1. That reminds me of a halloween a few years back, I got an outdoor PIR device that would power on some mains lamps behind a ‘scary’ window stencil when someone gets close to the door.

      But to test it before the lights had been setup my mate went and plugged it into a vacuum cleaner… proper facepalm moment – thankfully it just blew the internal fuse of the PIR and I had an identical PIR handy to swap over as the fuse that blew was soldered-in.

      Make that video, I would really like to see what happens when you put 10A or 20A through a 5A relay without any fuses.

  9. I refuse to back anything on Kickstarter if the promoters can’t figure out how to correctly mix music & voice in their videos. This one has to be the worst.

  10. It all seemed interesting until I got to the bit on the kickstarter page that said:

    “your WISP connects automatically to our servers”

    In other words, in it’s present state it is not future proof.

  11. They should chose a different name. Google Colgate Wisp.

    With sane courts and judges, Colgate wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on since this wireless device has nothing at all in common with a disposable mini toothbrush with pre-applied toothpaste.

    The World Wildlife Fund should have been laughed out of court when they sued the World Wrestling Federation over the letters WWF, but they didn’t get told to p-off and won their ludicrous case, which is why the biggest name in pro wrestling is World Wrestling Entertainment.

    To sum up, do some research and don’t give your product a name or even an acronym that’s being used by some big company. Even though it’s perfectly legal under most countries trademark laws to have the same name for two completely different products, services etc, the courts have been deciding in favor of stupidity* and whomever has the deepest pockets.

    *As in the WWF’s claim they were “forced” to always have to use the full words World Wildlife Fund and their panda bear logo so stupid people wouldn’t “confuse” them with the wrestling company.

  12. Hi Olivier,

    > BTW, I grant that email is completely insecure.
    > Anyone who assumes that emails are ever private
    > is severely mistaken. Ironically, if you use a
    > secure email service, it’s even worse.

    Are you saying that the people who designed PGP or the X.509 certificate system don’t know anything about email encryption?

    BTW. Wat do you defined by an “secure email service”?

    Cheerio! Kr. Bonne.

    1. K,

      Seriously, it was great stuff for it’s day, and still the best solution for the average user.

      But that day has passed. Let’s just say that the key space turns out to be much smaller than expected for a variety of amusing reasons, and that the rise of inexpensive multi-core processors changed everything.

      Secure Mail Service: You put your email on a server where someone logs in and gets it, instead of simply emailing it to their mail server.

      1. Hi,

        PGP or X.509 -themselfs- do define a maximum size of the keys.
        If you are that paranoid and think that your secrets are that important, there is nothing that stops you to extend it with even larger keys or simply store your messages in an encrypted attachment to a message.

        If the messages are stored on a local server or a remote “cloud” server makes no difference in this.

        Cheerio! Kr. Bonne.

  13. coffee-maker : can wisp help to fill in the water, coffer powder..etc?

    garage door : y not open the door automatically when I arrive in front of the door, using gps + bluetooth?

    really can’t see y someone wanna to have a wisp ..may be, i m not that smart ..

    1. What if you want to be the only person who actually has the authorization to open your garage door, but retain the ability to allow your friends to enter while you are not there.

      The WISP allows you to remotely control that behavior. Using some sort of proximity or bluetooth device would mean I’d have to make copies of whatever access token for each person, rather than just pushing a button on my phone when they text me that they’re outside the garage.

      What if your project needs to get data from the web. . .or write to a log file. There are limitations to local storage on embedded systems. The WISP helps you solve that problem. Sure, you could make your own custom solution. . . that you would have to design, put together, test, and maintain. . . for your one single project.

      That’s the tradeoff here. You can do things the easy way and have to rely on a product created by others (like using an internet based email service) or you can do the heavy lifting yourself (running your own personal mail server and having your own domain).

      There are always pros and cons for each.

    2. The WISP could have something (arduino connected to some set of servos/robot device) that is able to do that and just needs to get a signal telling it when to run the coffee maker. And if you want that signal to be a calendar event, or tweet, or foursquare check-in into your apartment within a certain time period – you can easily make that happen using the WISP.

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