Tiny WiFi Modules, Again

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.

35 thoughts on “Tiny WiFi Modules, Again

  1. The problem with WiFi modules, shields and break-out boards is that the Electric Imp is absolutely amazing, easy to use and available at $25. It’s the Raspberry Pi of WiFi-enabled microcontroller boards and with those features and such a low price, effectively removes any incentive for others to compete.

    1. Whilst I’m fairly obviously a proponent for electric imp (being a co-founder), it’s not designed for local network operation – the imp is designed to make devices accessible from “the internet” (ie, if you want to talk to a device within your firewalled network), and to let them easily talk to complex APIs (because every imp in the field gets a “big” virtual machine which runs in the cloud that can do your JSON/HTTP heavy lifting).

      If you’re looking for local network comms (TCP/UDP), say you’re making light controllers that require low latency access, or you don’t find using our servers acceptable, then boards like this are perfect. Looks like Adafruit have done a really nice job of making it accessible with the level shifter and built-in PSU :)

      1. our community likes to have options (we carry and really like the imp) we’ve developed this cc3000 board, we have the shield and “wifi-duino” version almost ready to launch as well. there is room for all of these and all of them have a lot of cool potential for projects and businesses. thanks for the kind words @hfiennes2 !

    2. And when I can write code to run on it in C, without anyone other than me having a copy of said code, and when I can operate one on a network that is *NOT* connected to the internet, i’ll consider the possibility of maybe thinking of potentially using it one day.

      1. Code you write for an imp *is* private *and* remains yours (check the terms of service) but yeah, it’s not designed to be programmed in C or work without the internet. It wasn’t designed to be everything to everyone, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fill an important connectivity hole for some users and companies.

        Adafruit’s CC3000 board, along with their drivers – which, from what I hear – are much more approachable than the TI reference code, along with other products like the Spark Core, are more open approaches to connectivity. There’s plenty of room for everyone :)

        1. I wholly agree that it is useful. (i did not mean to say it is not). just not for me. code may be mine due to license, but if the company is sold, or someone breaks in, my code is still on their server, not safely on a truecrypt partition in my house. :)

    1. I second this. I also chuckled when I followed the blatant advertising link and scrolled down to see newark/element14’s top search result for CC3000 was a Black & Decker 18V Hedge Trimmer combo kit !

  2. The TP-Link 703N is cheaper than any of the options mentioned above for a complete system, you can run OpenWrt Linux on it, you don’t need to trust someone else’s cloud, and you can program it whatever language you like. If you want to interface it to stuff, you’ve got a real Ethernet port, USB port, and plenty of great posts on how to solder to the serial ports or other unused I/Os on the board.

    1. Even better, a little team in Lithuania made what’s effectively a 703N on a module that you can integrate directly into your project – it’s called the Carambola2: 8devices.com
      I haven’t seen many projects built on it yet but I hope it catches on!

  3. I have a question about this that I can’t seem to get an answer for, is that unpopulated solder pad on the bottom left possibly used for an smd mount u.fl connector? I see that you would need to at the least bridge that connection and cut the trace that leads to the ceramic antenna.

    1. More better with ad-hoc software. Convince the neighbors to pop one on the side of their mailboxes and tada! Near disaster proof mesh network.

      Applied over, say, a subdivision or town and you limit the number of needed physical connections, overhead costs, and so on. It could bring really cheap high speed internet to places that cannot afford the initial last-mile investment.

  4. Slightly off topic question…

    I want to be able to talk to my robot using my smart phone. If use one of these devices, does my robot have to connect to my local wifi network before I can access it via my phone’s wifi?

    Does this mean I can’t use it on the road?

    1. Adafruit stopped posting schematics, boards, and BOMs a couple years ago and never used the Open Source Hardware logo on their products. Ironically you can buy Open Source Hardware badges and stickers form them. But Adafruit is an incredible resource and they support the Open Source Hardware community. The forums and (open) software libraries are some of the best on this planet.

  5. My 2 cents..

    The TI 3300 evaluation board is US$35 with free shipping direct from TI, this is a better option if you live outside US so you dont get stung by postal costs.

    The eagle PCB footprint probably should have an option for default antenna trace as basically if your not familiar with these layouts and have to do it yourself you will likely get it wrong.

    I have looked but cannot find the info so I would also like to see a few tests on power requirements at various DTIM values before I would use in a battery powered project, though the 0.7 Second ready to Rx/Tx from sleep is impressive.

  6. that chip is interesting indeed but the price tag makes it a no-no for most makers, especially for some applications such as multi node (mesh) networks. Still way too expensive, but promising.

  7. Hi how do I find one of these modules that someone else has put on my property I’ve tried an RF detector but I’m at a loss I can connect to it’s network but I can’t access the gateway due to 401 error please help

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