Webduino Smart board reminds me of Witty ESP8266 board with its RGB LED and photocell sensor, but the design is a little different, and does not come with an extra USB to TTL board, as it’s designed to be programmed over the air using Blockly Editor.
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Webduino Smart specifications:
WiFi Module – AI Thinker ESP-12F module with Espressif ESP8266 WiSoC
Connectivity – WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
2x 8-pin headers with GPIOs, ADC (Connected to Photocell), UART, VCC, 3.3V, GND, and Reset.
USB – 1x micro USB port for power
Misc – Photo resistor, RGB LED, micro switch button for firmware upgrade (connected to GPIO 4)
Dimensions – 3 x 2.5 cm (See comparison to AA and AAA batteries below)
While Witty board was mostly targeting mainland China market with all documentation in Chinese, Webduino Smart does have some documentation in English, and is made by Banana Pi team (SinoVoIP). The default firmware allows you to program the board through WebSocket and a web-based graphical interface by accessing the board using Webduino Blockly Editor.
I could not find information about price and availability yet, but eventually the information should be shown in Webduino.io website, where they sell their older Webduino boards, shields, and kit in Taiwan. Banana Pi also have a dedicated forum page, and we should expect them to sell the board worldwide once it’s launched.
I’ve already written about Vocore v2 Crowdfunding campaign, where the second generation Vocore WiFi module supports audio, PoE, and ultimate dock, and price starting at $12. But there has been some development since the launch of the campaign, as the developer received request for a cheaper board, and after looking into it, has now added Vocore2 Lite WiFi module reward for only $4, or $7 once shipping included.
He obviously had to make some trade-offs to bring the cost down, but the Lite board impressively still keep many of the same features.
VoCore2 Lite (2016)
x1 / x5
x1 / x5
USB 2.0 Host
USB 2.0 OTG
Compared to Vocore2, Vocore2 Lite has a cheaper Mediatek MT7688N MIPS processor, which is already used in board such as Mediatek LinkIt 7688, Onion Omega2, and Widora-NEO, less memory and storage, WiFi is limited to 150 Mbps and an external antenna is required, and the PCIe 1.1 interface is gone. The dimensions appear to be the same, so the dock should be compatible too, provided PCIe is not needed. Software support will be the same with OpenWrt/LEDE Linux distribution.
If you are interested, you can pledge $7 for Vocore2 Lite on the Indiegogo page with delivery planned for January 2017. There aren’t any pledge combining Vocore2 Lite with a dock so far.
Next Thing CHIP board and corresponding PocketCHIP portable Linux computer have been relatively popular due to their inexpensive price for the feature set, as for $9, you’d get an Allwinner R8 ARM Cortex A8 processor, 512MB flash, 4GB NAND flash, WiFi & Bluetooth connectivity, and plenty of I/Os, which made it very attractive for IoT applications compared to other cheap boards such as Raspberry Pi Zero and Orange Pi One. The first board was mostly designed for hobbyists, but company has now designed a new lower profile system-on-module called CHIP Pro based on Next Thing GR8 SIP combining Allwinner R8 SoC with 256MB DDR3 RAM that can be used for easy integration into your own hardware project.
While the original CHIP board exposed full USB ports and interface for video signal, the new CHIP Pro is specifically designed for IoT with the following specs:
SIP – Allwinner R8 ARM Cortex A8 processor @ up to 1.0 GHz with Mali-400 GPU + 256MB DDR3 RAM (14×14 mm package)
Storage – 512MB SLC NAND flash, 1x micro SD port
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.2 with chip antenna and u.FL antenna connector
USB – 1x micro USB port for power and serial console access
Expansion – 2x 16-pin with 2x UART, parallel camera interface, I2C, SPI, 2x PWM, USB 2.0 OTG, USB 2.0 host, 2x microphone, 1x headphone
Power Supply – AXP209 PMU supporting USB power, Charge in, and 2.9 to 4.2V LiPo battery
Dimensions – 45 x 30 mm
Certifications – CE and FCC part 15
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The module is pre-loaded with the company’s Linux based GadgetOS operating system, but custom firmware flashing is available for orders of 1,000 modules or more. Potential applications include physical computing, voice recognition, smart consumer devices, portable audio devices and so on. Software support should be identical to what you already get in CHIP board, and you can already find some hardware design files specific to CHIP Pro on Github including datasheets for the system-on-module and Allwinner GR8 SIP.
In order to help you getting started as fast as possible, a development kit is also available with a baseboard and two CHIP Pro modules. The baseboard include a 5V-23V power jack, a 3.5mm audio jack, a micro USB port, a USB host port, some LEDs, a power button, and female headers for easy access to all I/Os.
CHIP Pro SoM will start selling for $16 in December of this year without minimum order quantity, and no volume discount, e.g. if you buy 1 million SoMs, you’d have to pay 16 million dollars. One issue with CHIP board is that if you asked Allwinner for a quote for module used in the board, it would cost more or about the same as the board itself. Allwinner/Next Thing GR8 is completely different, as you can actually buy it for $6 (including AXP-209 PMIC) to integrate into your own project. The development kit is available now for $49. More technical details and purchase links can be found on the product page.
I find it fun to spend time watering the flowers and grass in my garden, but if you’d rather do it automatically then Tevatronic Exilong might be for you as the irrigation system controls up to 4 valves, triggers watering based on RF water sensing sensors via a gateway connected to the cloud through your wireless router.
The kit gateway takes care of RF communication with sensors, WiFi connectivity to the cloud server, and turn on and off up to four 24V DC water valve part of your existing installation. It can be configured by iOS or Android mobile app, or your web browser.
The other part of the kit are the water pressure sensors that you need to insert into the soil of your garden in order to monitor trees, bushes, and/or flowers. The sensors are using RF (433/915 MHz) communication, send data back to the gateway every minute, and are powered by two AAA batteries that are supposed to last about 3 years.
Configuration involves scanning the QR core on the kit package, configuring plant type (tree/bush/flower), water quantity (low, medium, high), and optionally time period when irrigation is allowed, for each of the configured sensors. If everything goes well, it should be a one time setup, and you’d never have to change the settings, unless maybe you grow different type of plants later on, or want to monitor the status of the valves and/or sensors in the app.
The way the sensor work is quite interesting. I had see cheap soil sensor often used with Arduino projects that you simply insert in the soil and connect to your board, but Tevatronic first product was for the professional agriculture business, and they adapted those sensors to the home market. They include a water container and ceramic tip that will only let water gets out when some pressure is applied. The plant roots are attracted to the moisture and grow around the ceramic tip, and the cloud based algorithm uses the resulting pressure data from the sensors among other parameters to determine whether to irrigate the plants. I’m not sure how it works with plants with short roots, or when you’ve just planted seeds or young plants in the garden. Anyway, the whole concept and how to use the kit is explained with both home (Exiling) and agricultural version of the sensor and gateways in the embedded video.
The way sensor work also mean that if you live in a place where the temperature drops below 0 C, you’d have to remove the sensors before freezing, and only place then back after winter once temperature goes back above 0 C. Beside saving your time, Exilong promises to save on water usage and improve yield, just like what they achieved in for bigger farms with up to 75% less water (and fertilizers) used, and up to 20% yield improvement.
Tevatronic launched their irrigation system for the home on Kickstarter a few days ago, and they’ve already raised over half of their $50,000 funding target. Pledges start at $249 for “Exilong Starter house backyard Kit” with the gateway and 2 sensors, and if you have a very large garden, goes up to $2,400 for “Exilong Castle Kit” with 4 Exilong gateways and 24 sensors. You’d obviously still need to source the pipes, 24V DC water valves, and sprinkler systems separately. Shipping is included in the price, and delivery is scheduled for March 2017.
In a recent article about Sonoff TH10/TH16 WiFi relays with sensor probes support, we also saw that ITEAD Studio started to have a nice family of home automation products. The company has now added one more item to the Sonoff family with Sonoff Pow support up to 16A/3500W input, and the first to also include power consumption measurements.
Sonoff Pow specifications:
SoC – Espressif ESP8266 Tensila L106 32-bit MCU up to 80/160 MHz with WiFi
Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi with WPA/WPA2 support
Relay – HF152F-T relay with 90 to 250 VAC input, up to 16A (3500 Watts)
Terminals – 6 terminal for mains and load’s ground, live and neutral signals.
Programming – Unpopulated 4-pin header for flashing external firmware
Misc – LEDs for power and WiFi status, power consumption circuitry with 1% accuracy.
Dimensions – 114 x 52 x 32mm
Temperature range – -40 ℃ to 125 ℃
The wireless relay can be controlled using Ewelink app for Android or iOS. But beside manually turning on and off the device, or settings timer like with all other Sonoff devices, you can also check real-time, daily or monthly power usage.
There’s some limited info on the Wiki, and I could not find any API incase you want to measure the power consumption from your own app or program. But at least they’ve release the schematics showing HLW8012 chip (Datasheet in Chinese) is used to measure power consumption, and is connected to ESP8266 via SCL and PWM1 pins. The 4-pin header would also allow you to flash you own firmware relatively easily on the board.
The company also mentions “this is a customizable product. Based on the original prototype, we can make the customized prototype that meets your requirements”, so if you order in quantities you should be able to get a slightly modified hardware and customized firmware.
ITEAD Studio home automation products used not to have any kind of CE/FCC/UL/TUV/ETL certifications, but the company recently got CE certification for their Sonoff switch, which explains the CE logo on the unit.
Vocore WiFi IoT board was popular at its launch in 2014 because affordable WiFi boards with I/Os were not common at the time, and it came with an Ethernet dock making it a complete router within a tiny and cute cube. The developers have been working on VoCore2 (aka Vocore V2) with a faster processor, more memory, a lower power consumption, a better WiFi signal, and more I/Os for several months, and have now launched the board on Indiegogo aiming to raise at least $6,000 for mass production.
Vocore2 and Audio Dock
Vocore2 board specifications:
SoC – Mediatek MT7628AN MIPS processor @ 580 MHz
System Memory – 128 MB DDR2
Storage – 16MB NOR FLASH, 1x SDXC via I/O pins
WiFi 802.11n 2T2R up to 300 Mbps with either 2 u.FL connector or 1 u.FL connector + on-board chip antenna (Max signal output >19.5dbm peak)
2x 10/100M Ethernet interfaces via I/O pins
I/Os – About 30 GPIOs multiplexed with 3x UARTs, 1x I2C, 1x I2S, 1x reference clock, 1x USB 2.0, 1x PCIe 1.1, 1x high speed SPI (40Mbps max), 1x SPI slave, 2x hardware PWM
Power Supply – Input: 3.6~6.0V; output: 1.8V, 3.3V.
Power Consumption – 74mA @ 5V (wifi on, no data transfer); 233mA @ 5V (max speed cpu and wireless)
Dimensions – 25.4 x 25.4 x 2.8 mm
Vocore2 + Ultimate Dock
Considering we have an embarrassment of choices of low cost Linux WiFi boards with easy to use platforms such as Mediatek LinkIt Smart 7688 or Onion Omega2, the main draw to the new Vocore V2 is mostly because of its three docks:
AirPlay Dock – Adds a micro USB port for power, as well as an audio codec and 3.5mm audio jack to connect to speakers. Dimensions with Vocore2: 25.4 x 25.4 x 9.0 mm
PoE Dock – To upgrade existing wall-mount Ethernet panel to a wireless hotspot
Ultimate Dock – Combines audio jack, Ethernet (RJ45) port, micro SD slot, USB 2.0 host port, micro USB port for power and debugging, and a AD/DA converter to connect sensors. It can be used to store data in the SD card, as CCTV DVR system by adding a USB webcam, as a voice command system with a microphone, and so on. Dimensions with Covore2: 28 x 28 x 22 mm
Vocore2 and PoE Dock installed in a (not included) Wall-Mount Ethernet Panel
Some extra details about the docks, and some earlier firmware release would have been nice to have, but I could not find this information on their Indiegogo page.
VoCore2 module starts at $12 (Early bird), Vocore2 + Airplay or PoE dock goes for $29, and you’d have to pledge $39 for Vocore2 with Ultimate dock (and case?). Bundle rewards are also available with 5 pieces for each kit. Shipping is not included but only adds $3 to $10 depending on the selected reward, and delivery is scheduled for November 2016 for most rewards, except PoE rewards which should be shipped later in January 2017.
Google made a bunch a new product announcements with their Pixel phones, Daydream View VR headset, and Chromecast Ultra 4K dongle, but in this post I’ll write about two other new products: Google Home an Amazon Echo competitor powered by Google Assistant and supporting multi-room, as well as Google WiFi (Mesh) router aiming at providing WiFi all over the house by combining multiple WiFi routers.
Google WiFi Router
Most households now use a single router to provide WiFi to the home, but inevitably this introduce some dead or “slow WiFi” zones within the house. One way to work around this is to use WiFi repeaters, but it’s not always easy to setup and may lead to lower bandwidth. Google WiFi router uses a technology called mesh WiFi, where each router work together to determine the best path for your data using Network Assist technology to automatically choose and update the best channel for your device in real-time.
The router(s) can also be managed with an Android or iOS app, for example to pause WiFi for your kids when it’s time to go to bed or dinner, prioritize devices within your network, etc…
Google Wifi will be up for pre-order in the US in November for $129 for a single router, and $299 for a pack of three routers on Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. Visit the product page for more details.
Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon Echo, a voice controlled system to play music locally or from services such as Google Music, Pandora, Spotify…, get answers to questions, manage home automation (IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings…), adjust the thermostat or lights (Nest, Philips Hue), etc… But instead of Alexa software, the device relies on Google Assistant.
Google did not provie many technical details about “Home”, but we do know it uses two omnidirectional microphones and neural beamforming in order to hear people from across the room, and “integrates a high-excursion driver with a dual passive radiator design that delivers crystal-clear highs and deep lows for Hi-Fi sound”.
Google Home supports multi-room features so you can have multuple Google Home devices or Chromecast Audio devices playing music all aroudn the house, while at the same time being smart enough to only answer questions within the room your are located.
Arduino LLC has just launched its very first Kickstater campaign with ESLOV IoT Invention Kit combines a WiFI board and modules, a visual code editor, and Arduino Cloud. The goal of the project is to let people connect devices to the cloud without needing any programming skills, although the Arduino IDE can still be used for more advanced users.
The brain of the project is ESLOV Wireless & Motion Hub:
MCU – Microchip (previously Atmel) SAMD21 ARM Cortex-M0+ micro-controller @ 48 MHz with 32KB RAM, 256 KB flash
Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
USB – 1x micro USB port for programming and power
Sensor – One motion sensor
Expansion – 5-pin ESLOV connector based on I2C protocol plus a multifunction pin for wakeup, IRQ, and discovery
The ESLOV hub would then connect to tiny (2.5 x 2.5cm) ESLOV modules based on Atmega ATmega328P MCU, and communicating through the ESLOV protocol. 25 different modules will be provided at first with sensors, motor controller, OLED displays, buttons, LEDs, and so on.
The net step is to decided which ESLOV modules you need, and connect them to the Wireless hub and other ESLOV modules for your project, and start ESLOV visual code editor to virtually connect them, and define actions.
Finally, you’ll be able to control everything using Arduino Cloud from a web interface, or a mobile app.
Potential projects include a washing machine notifier, a light theremin, a baby monitor, a seismic monitor, a smart thermostat, an irrigation system and so on. As usual for Arduino project, both hardware and software will be fully open sourced.
Arduino is trying to raise $500,000 for the project, with pledges starting at $55 for the Wireless and Motion hub, $99 for the hub with 3 modules of your choice, $499 with hub + 21 modules, and up to $4900 if you want access to Arduino development team beside multiple hubs and modules to develop your own Arduino certified module. If you feel it’s rather expensive, you may not be the only one, as the campaign has just raised about $28,000 in the first two days.