Plug-and-play IoT modules and design kits are further simplifying smart device connections to the cloud with out-of-box solutions. Created for the wide range of designers across the electronics industry, they calibrate design support to expert developers, hobbyists, and students alike. Kits like these are becoming more popular, packaging hardware, software, and support into modules with high flexibility and ease of use.
Here's a look at three such boards that have bundled as much functionality as possible into accessible boards.
Sensors, Sensors Everywhere
IoT devices are often characterized not only by their connectivity but also by the data they transmit. Data gathering via sensors is increasingly common across many IoT applications.
The SensorTile.box from STMicroelectronics is an example of a kit that emphasizes data gathering. It can be configured for design prototyping for users of any skillset level, and it can also be used as a module in a wide range of sensing, tracking, and monitoring use cases.
SensorTile.box facilitates out-of-the-box connection to Microsoft’s Azure IoT Central, allowing users to easily collect and send sensor information to the cloud. While the system is designed to work for developers of any skills level, there are also more advanced modes for more experienced designers which include a graphical wizard and enable the use of custom embedded code.
The plug-and-play IoT module can be used for learning and prototyping as well as in commercial end-products. Image from STMicroelectronics
The onboard sensors on the SensorTile.box include 6-axis inertial measurement unit (IMU) with machine learning core, humidity sensor, magnetometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, and analog microphone, all managed by ST's STM32L4R9 microcontroller. This wide array of sensors make the module suitable for applications like pedometers, asset trackers, and environmental monitors. Likewise, beginners can explore SensorTile.box for vibration monitoring, data recording, inclinometer and level sensing, digital compass, and baby monitoring applications.
In terms of connectivity, users can connect this plug-and-play module to a smartphone using BLE (Bluetooth low energy).
Low-Cost Hardware Development
Another entry into the IoT development sphere is Microchip’s PIC-IoT WG development board, which provides another case study on a company hoping to allow designers to quickly add cloud connectivity and migrate their applications via a simplified development process. The AC164164 dev board allows designers to develop PIC microcontroller-based applications and connect them to the Google Cloud IoT Core platform.
Microchip addressed the pain points of power consumption, security, and connectivity by including a low-power PIC microcontroller, a CryptoAuthentication secure element chip, and a fully certified Wi-Fi network controller, respectively. The board’s self-contained software framework enables it to connect to the Google Cloud Platform without the need for a real-time operating systems (RTOS).
Microchip's AC16416 dev board. Image from Microchip.
The board allows IoT designers to evade complexities associated with communications protocols, security, and hardware compatibility. And, after getting connected with Google Cloud, they can employ Microchip’s MPLAB Code Configurator (MCC) to quickly develop, debug, and customize their application.
Bluetooth 5 Connectivity
ON Semiconductor’s Bluetooth Low Energy IoT Development Kit (B-IDK) is a similar story to the AC146164; it’s a hardware-to-cloud solution that claims to provide an ‘out of the box’ way for developing intelligent and connected IoT edge nodes. The modular node-to-cloud IoT platform is ready-to-use and is fully supported with sample software.
A view of the key building blocks of a node-to-cloud IoT platform. Image from ON Semiconductor
Like the SensorTile, this platform leverages Bluetooth 5 connectivity, in this case via ON Semi's RSL10 Bluetooth 5 radio SoC (system on chip) across modular hardware—a chip ON claims is the lowest-power of its kind on the market. The mobile app ON developed for this board both controls the hardware and allows the use of the MQTT protocol for sensors and mobile data through various cloud services.
Apart from design simplification, these hardware development platforms significantly reduce cost and time to market. And they are complemented with a variety of easy-to-use software tools.
Which other IoT dev boards have caught your eye recently? Let us know in the comments below.