Ubiquitous Internet of Things: How ESP32s are changing the game


I have been tinkering with IoT devices for over 10 years now, starting with micro controllers with ethernet ports (later bulky wifi-shields) that were cumbersome to scale out and put onto things. For a true internet of things, we needed low-cost, connectivity enabled, sensor packed devices we would attach to things easily and then read or command them

I believe for IoT to become easy to use, connected and ubiquitous we need a board with these characteristics

  1. Low cost (less than $5)
  2. Low power consumption, especially when sleeping (less than 10 μA)
  3. With ready made connectivity (WIFI, Bluetooth etc)
  4. With pre-packed sensors (or at least options to get them pre baked)

Given these criteria, I personally like the ESP32s boards. Lets look at what they are and why they are a great option for an IoT platform

2014 and ESP8266

The ESP8266 was a game changer back in 2014 when it came out. Release by Espressif (https://www.espressif.com/) it was packed with a Tensilica Xtensa LX6 microprocessor and had WI-FI and had about 16 GPIO pins

ESP8266s were not reasonably cheap to buy at the time ($40) and had no Bluetooth support, so we need it to become cheaper and have better connectivity before we threw a bunch of these around the house. Oh and also power consumption was higher compared to what we have now (~ 20 μA when sleeping) – i.e. faster battery drain & frequent battery changes if you have them laying around

ESP 8266 from espressif

Enter the ESP32

Then came the ESP32 in 2016 from the same company and when my colleague showed these to me at a hackathon, I did not understand them (i.e. thought they were ESP 8266s). What had espressif done! Packed with Bluetooth and running at 160 to 240MHz these had 32 GPIO pins and consumed about 10 μA of power when sleeping. Perfect!

Source: http://esp32.net/
ESP32: Shopping options

If you are into IoT then the ESP32 are the way to go in my opinion. These things are cheap and the latest incarnation the ESP32 C3s can be found on Aliexpress for around $4

The ESP32 C3 are dirt cheap!

Now a network of things is truely possible and will start to become ubiquitous, atleast for the makers in the community

Summary

I believe for IoT to become Ubiquitous we need the following to happen

  • Connectivity (WIFI, Bluetooth etc)
  • Cheap boards (under $5)
  • Low Power (less than 10 μA)
  • Lots of pre-packed sensors (or options to get them pre baked)

The 3rd party versions of ESP32 C3 boards are cheap and a great platform to build lots of sensor packed, wi-fi enabled applications that can be plugged into “things” making it easy to setup an internet of things (edited)

References

  1. https://www.espressif.com/en/products/modules
  2. https://www.aliexpress.com/i/1005002226094143.html
  3. https://socialcompare.com/en/comparison/esp8266-vs-esp32-vs-esp32-s2

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