GraspIO Cloudio + Raspberry Pi 3 - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: GraspIO Cloudio + Raspberry Pi 3

Author: laurahallsa

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?:

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Lesser compatibility with Android. - Board would loop infinitely on projects sometimes.

Detailed Review:

GraspIO Cloudio Review

 

A little backstory

When I had applied to this road test, I had mentioned a project I had been doing with my mother - it consisted of using an "arduino" board (WEMOS D1 MINI), connected to an MQTT dash app on my phone. It helped track the humidity and temperature of a fig plant that my mother owns - said fig plant is pretty hard to keep alive in our weather (Canada) because it requires very specific temperature, light quantity and humidity.

 

I found out about the roadtest for GraspIO and thought, "hey, this little device might help with our fig plant!"; after all, it seemed to be equipped with quite a handful of sensors and seemed to also be compatible with add-on sensors and motors. I thought of everything the board seemed to be able to do - read and monitor temperature, humidity, luminosity, servo. What if this were the perfect device to take care of plants? If I were able to put all functionalities together, could I go as far as connecting this with a water pump system?

 

This RoadTest review will take into consideration the original intended use for the device, while also providing an objective point of view for the user who intends to use GraspIO for things other than keeping track of a plant.

 

** Also note that I will be using the names "board", "GraspIO" and "cloudio" to describe the product in question.

Unboxing

This RoadTest included two boxes:

  • the GraspIO cloudio board;
  • a Raspberry Pi 3 model B*

 

The GraspIO comes in a simple black box with nothing other than the board itself, along with a couple booklets. I realized by the absence of additional wires that the board probably only needed to be juxtaposed on top of the Pi.

 

The unboxing of the Pi itself was like every other unboxing of this device - it comes without any cables or SD cards, so it is up to the user to make sure to have around a cable for the Pi that has the right voltage, along with an SD card with at least 8GB of storage in it.

 

 

*I should note that when the GraspIO is bought, it is unlikely to come with the Raspberry Pi. User needs to own a Pi or buy one. As of today, CloudIO is compatible with all Pi models, however models under the Pi 3 require a WiFi dongle in order to be used for the CloudIO.

 

 

Product Appearance and feel

 

 

Right away, I noticed the board's quirky appearance, the OLED screen is framed in such a way that it looks like a mini monitor.

 

A first time user might have a bit of trouble identifying the big variety of components that can be seen on the board, and although I easily found a description of the hardware on GraspIO's very resourceful online startup guide, a little diagram with its parts could've easily been included with the "Quick Startup Guide" booklet that came in the box.

 

I plan on making a 3D printed case for this board, as to make it easier to carry around and maybe hang on a wall to use the board as a temperature/humidity indicator. Make sure to check back on this post if you are interested in the said case.

 

The two only hardware buttons that the user will be interacting with are the two switches (GIO switch and programmable switch). I did not have any issues with the pressing of the switches, and the board held steady thanks to a little flat screw placed between the GraspIO and the Pi to hold the GraspIO withthout the latter caving in whenever a switch is pressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Setup

The first time use of GraspIO requires the user to burn the required software onto an SD card. I am not going to go into detail about the process, but it can be found here.

 

I had a little run in during my RoadTest - decided to change SD cards midway through, and had to go to GraspIO's webpage to grab the ZIP file again. However, this time, the link had been taken down, making it so that I could not have access to the download of the software.

A quick email to the GraspIO email sufficed - its team messaged me back less than six hours after saying they had fixed it. Great customer support.

 

After burning in the software onto the SD card, it is time to download the mobile app and set up cloudio from the mobile device.

 

The app, when opened for the first time, asks you to log in right away onto either your Google account, Facebook account, or new account using an email address. This might annoy some people, but these people must understand that any cloud service almost completely depends on an account being linked to the service.

A noticeable difference across mobile platforms

I own both an Android phone (Galaxy S8 running Oreo 8.0.0 and Samsung experience 9.0.0) and an iPad (5th generation, running iOS 11.3.1). Because I had such different experiences when it came to setting up the network connection for the board on each of the operating systems (Android, iOS), I found it pertinent to talk about each one of them separately.

 

The Setup: Android

As many other Android users out there, I was pleased to find out that GraspIO had made the effort to make the application available. After reading the reviews of my fellow RoadTesters, I would like to point out that the problem I am about to describe might (or might not) have been a problem that was specific to either my android version, my device model or my network connection.

 

When you first turn on cloudio you need to create a sort of "link" between the board, the wifi, and your mobile device. This can be done in two ways: Wifi

  • Wifi twinkle: you plug your mobile device onto the board with a USB cable and your network info is sent to the board via the cable, or;
  • Hotspot twinkle (a bit more complicated): if the first option fails to work, you are then prompted to create a wifi hotspot with your phone. In said hotspot, you will configure a specific password that the board will give you, and then the board connects to your hotspot using that password.

 

Basically ~45 minutes trying to configure the "Wifi twinkle" on my Android. It wouldn't work, and I tried with many different type C to USB cables, even tried to see if my OTG adapter was of any use in this situation. As nothing worked, I eventually gave up, accepted that my data usage might become higher for the month, and resolved to option no. 2: hotspot twinkle. I finally get the board up and going on my Android, but not without a lot of frustration and the use of my mobile data instead of my home's wifi.

 

 

The Setup: iOS

...WiFi Twinkle worked on the first try on my iPad.

 

Note that I even retried the wifi twinkle on my android on future occasions, and it never worked. So this is a disturbance for (at least) my case.

 

 

Rest of the setup

 

Once the network is set up, you get a little tutorial/tour of the app. I found said tutorial very easy to follow and think most users, with or without previous knowledge of programming should be able to follow fairly well.

 

I personally found the tutorials could have been a bit longer. This is not because the UI is hard to understand, but I find that there were quite a lot of features that I did not know whether or not exist for the app that I ended up, later on, finding out existed or didn't exist. In other words, I had to play with the app for a while to get a comprehensive view on how to do this, but then again this might be totally normal for the type of device in question.

 

User interface: the "drag and drop" experience

 

After a few days of playing with the board, I got the hang of how the projects worked. I made the following video with some of the projects I made, running simultaneously with the block coding (in the last minute of the video, I tried to imitate Google Home's "Good Morning" routine a little):

 

 

Here are screenshots of some of the projects I have made from the app, to give an idea of what they can look like;

 

 

 

Some remarks from running projects

  • Just like in programming, running a loop infinitely will make the program crash. Basically, if you don't make your code properly with a "break/stop" command somewhere, the board might "crash" - this will make it impossible for you to "stop" the project, reboot the board or even press the GIO switch on it. The only way to restart the board is to physically unplug it and plug it again.
  • The "voice command" block does not work well on Android, but it does on iOS. Pressing and holding the microphone on Android usually gives out error messages.
  • Like other RoadTesters have pointed out, the thermometer on the board, although accurate in its readings, is awkwardly placed and gives wrong readings.
  • "Advanced blocks" which include monitoring, scheduling, voice control and IFTTT require an ongoing internet connection, which is only possible if the mobile device through which you have connected the board is also connected to the WiFi the whole time and doesn't disconnect.

 

...The latter remark leads me to my next point;

 

Where my fig plant falls in all of this

 

Although I had some problems with the Android app, everything was going well as long as I used my iPad to connect the board to the internet and control it. After having played with the board for a couple weeks I decided to finally put it to test with the monitoring of my plant, alongside my mini arduino board.

It w

I set up a project that monitored both light and temperature (there is a maximum of two sensors that can monitor at the same time. Note that monitoring means keeping track of the measures taken by the sensor at a given interval of time). The project showed the measures of the sensor on the OLED screen and sent me a notification and light up a light whenever the room would get too hot.

 

I pressed "start" on the project, left the house that day for school, and when I came back, the monitor had disappeared, with no signs of readings at all. So I thought maybe I had done something wrong.

 

I restarted the project and pressed "start" again. This time, I went to sleep, woke up the next morning, saw that a graph had been traced of the temperature readings overnight, and left for school. And, yet again, when I came back, the graph had disappeared again.

 

Turns out that you need to have your mobile device in the same wifi as the board when the board is monitoring something.

 

To Conclude

 

With this restriction, along with the inaccurate temperature readings, this board did not really serve the purpose I wanted to use it for. Although the board will, for sure, serve its purpose for many people, it sadly did not work for what I had hoped for.

 

Do not confuse this with me not liking this board. I loved it, and would go as far as calling it the "electronic version of a Lego set". I come to hope that maybe a future update will make it possible for the board to connect to wifi by itself instead of depending on mobile devices.

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