Hardware IOT

5 Great IoT starter kits

The Internet of Things sounded stupid at first, but as you get to know more about it, the more fascinating it is to figure out how it can be used in your toaster. The idea is that you create a small device that collects a small amount of data that it sends to a service that can draw conclusions from it. You can use the same technology for devices at home. Most kits contain a single board computer with sensors and a manual to help you get started. Distributors use a range of devices in these packages; the Raspberry Pi is the most common example.

You can also find kits from cloud suppliers, like Amazon, Azure, and Google. The aim of this is for you to use their services with your kit. Intel also has kits aimed at machine learning applications. These kits include the server, more or less, and they cost as much as you expect, or more.

Where can you use IoT?

You CAN use IoT anywhere. Scientists are using RFID tags on bees to research behavior. The question is, where can you see results alone or in a small group? If you are sitting at home trying to learn how it works, the fun part is to make a fascinating, or maybe useful change to your home.

IoT is best used for measuring stuff and have the system act according to the results. Home automation is one thing hobbyists can do. You can measure wind and have your house respond by the closing or opening windows, shades, or other parts of the house. Measuring your energy consumption is also possible.

What are your project needs?

Before you start, consider where your project will be used and find out what you need. Think about what it will measure, how the action will be calculated, and what you need to make the change happen. For a home automation project, you will need relays and possibly servo motors.

Tessel 2 – a very small kit

Weighing in at 60 grams, this is a very small unit. Despite being just one board, you have many possibilities available. You program it using JavaScript, and the default system is designed for integrating with AWS. In the package, you get the board and a micro-USB cable. True, it is not a full kit. However, it has an Atmel SAMD21 processor, 64 MB memory, and Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet.

The true strength is that it has two interfaces that match the Tessel modules. While this locks you to their system, it also makes it easy to prototype. On top of that, everything is Open Source, including the hardware. This gives you the freedom to change it in any way you want when you see that your project is veering off the expected path.

All the technical data is available on the tessels web site; the main sales partners are SparkFun and Seeed Studio.

SparkFun IoT Starter Kit using Blynk Board

This kit is built around a Blynk board. SparkFun has made this board to make it easy to create applications that interface with the ESP8266. It has Ethernet, WiFi, and USB. You can power it from the USB or connect a LiPo battery with a separate connector. Included is an account to the Blynk server. You can set up your own server if you wish. This makes it possible to use the Blynk application on Android or iOS.

The IoT Starter Kit includes many sensors, resistors, LEDs, and even a Pocket Screwdriver set. With the kit, you can create automatic watering solutions, door switches, and other automation projects. The board is designed so that you can use alligator clips to connect external sensors and devices. When you have decided to make the project permanent, you can solder to the smaller corresponding holes and remove your clips.

Nevon Home automation Project

Nevon is a company that works with industries to automate their operations, but this kit is made for homes. Since it is aimed at Home automation, it is powered by a 12 Volt regulator. With this kit, you are ready to connect everything to your immediately. Be careful, make sure you do not take unnecessary risks with high voltage!

The core processing unit is an ESP8266 with WiFi Module. You also get an LCD display, switches, and breadboards. You do not get much processing or advanced pieces with this kit; you instead have everything ready to hook up your house to the result of your project.

Particle Argon IoT Development Kit

When you want your project to consist of many connected pieces that talk to each other, you have a dilemma. Do you want them to talk to each other only, or do you want them to connect to the internet also? With a mesh network, you can have them do both. Some of your devices only are nodes, some will be repeaters, and some will act as gateways to the internet.

A particle is a cheap solution to make this happen. You can use the Argon kit as a WiFi gateway, or a node. The kit does not come with many sensors, but it has all the communication capabilities you could ever wish for. The Particle system is used by many large commercial operators.

You have the kit available at SparkFun together with both bigger and smaller devices.

impExplorer Developer Kit

This kit is the size of three AA batteries. There are holders under the board to accommodate them. Onboard the chip, you have a temperature and humidity sensor, an accelerometer, and an air pressure sensor. You also have a WiFi IoT Module and USB mini-B cable for power only.

You can hook this kit up to USB power and start immediately. By default, it communicates with the impcentral server. You use your smartphone to control it after you plug in the memory board.

Apart from the sensors, you can also add four more devices over I2C. The intention with this board is to develop a solution and then design a new board for large scale projects.

Conclusion

There are many options for IoT, which can be confusing at first. This is one of the things that are refreshing, though. You can always try stuff out and, if you have chosen the correct kit: ask the community. Happy hacking, and make sure you come up with interesting ideas.

About the author

Mats Tage Axelsson

Mats Tage Axelsson

I am a freelance writer for Linux magazines. I enjoy finding out what is possible under Linux and how we can all chip in to improve it. I also cover renewable energy and the new way the grid operates. You can find more of my writing on my blog.