Whitecat ESP32 N1 Board Combines ESP32 WiFi + Bluetooth SoC with a LoRa Transceiver, Runs Lua RTOS

Espressif ESP32 SoC is gaining traction right now as prices have come down, and there’s still an on-going fight among LPWAN standards with LoRaWAN being fairly popular in Europe. Whitecat, a group of engineers from several companies based in Citilab, Barcelona, Spain, has designed a board that combines both ESP32 and a LoRA transceiver, bringing an alternative to Pycom LoPy board, but instead of running MicroPython, they have developed Lua-RTOS.

Whitecat ESP32 N1 hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Espressif ESP32 dual-core Tensilica LX6 microprocessor @ up to 240MHz with 520kB internal SRAM
  • Storage – 4MB flash memory
  • Connectivity
    • LoRa WAN transceiver working in the 868 (EU) MHz / 915 (USA) MHz with on-board antenna, and u.FL connector for external antenna
    • Integrated 802.11b/g/n WiFi transceiver with on-board antenna, and u.FL connector for external antenna
    • Integrated dual-mode Bluetooth (classic and BLE)
  • I/O Headers – 2x 16-pin with SPI, I2C, I2S, SDIO, UART, CAN, ETHERNET, IR, PWM, DAC, ADC.
  • Power Supply
    • 3.3 to 5.5V operating range through input voltage regulator
    • Second voltage regulator for power on / power off sensors through a dedicated GPIO
  • Dimensions – 78 x 26 mm

By default, the board runs Lua RTOS real-time operating system designed to run on embedded systems, and currently supporting ESP32, ESP8266 and PIC32MZ platforms. The OS has a  3-layer design:

  1. Top layer – Lua 5.3.4 interpreter with special modules to access the hardware (PIO, ADC, I2C, RTC, etc …), and middleware services provided by Lua RTOS (Lua Threads, LoRa WAN, MQTT, …).
  2. Middle layer – Real-Time micro-kernel powered by FreeRTOS.
  3. Bottom layer – Hardware abstraction layer, which talk directly with the platform hardware.

Lua RTOS boards can be programmed with Lua programming language directly, or using a block-based programming language that translates blocks to Lua.

ESP8622 and PIC32 targets have some limitations so features like SSL are not implemented, but ESP32 supports all features listed below:

  • Lua Thread, Pthread API
  • SSL
  • On-board editor, Shell
  • FAT and SPIFFS file systems
  • WiFi, Ethernet
  • LoRaWAN class A & B node, LoRa WAN gateway
  • ADC, SPI, UART, PIO, PWN, I2C, CAN,
  • Sensor, Servo

Bluetooth is missing from the list. You’ll find Lua RTOS source code and instructions to get started on Github. The Wiki is also also a good place to get started with ESP32 N1 Board and Lua-RTOS.

Board pricing is currently a little on the high side, as ESP32 N1 board is sold for 30 Euros without Lora, and 40 Euros with LoRa. Worldwide shipping adds 5 Euros to the total. You’ll find more details, including the purchase links, on Whitecat ESP32 N1 page.

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