Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Sensor Kit - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Sensor Kit

Author: dixonselvan

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?: There ain't a comparable Mesh ecosystem like Particle available, as far as I am aware. However, the individual endpoints/ gateways/ repeaters (Xenon, Argon) can be compared with Arduino MKR Wi-Fi 1010, ESP32.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Device Cloud communication - An application firmware which was under development (by me) is suspected (not confirmed/ investigated) to be the cause of a disconnect of Argon from the cloud. This disconnected the entire Mesh network ( 2 Xenons + 1 Argon) from the cloud. Thus making it impossible to communicate and flash the devices from the Web IDE. I reached out for support but before their help could arrive (though the support took a day or two to get back), the issue was fixed after a local flash from Particle WorkBench (By connecting the Argon with a USB cable to the computer).

Detailed Review:

Table of Contents

 

Introduction - Particle Mesh

     Particle announced a new IoT Connectivity added to their portfolio (read the press release by clicking here) on February 13, 2018. It's the Mesh apart from Wi-Fi and Cellular. With Particle Mesh, developers can create low-power, low-cost, resilient local device networks. The Particle Mesh devices are the third generation devices. They changed the IoT game from ‘the need for every device requiring cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity to connect to the cloud’ to ‘devices communicating with one another and then data/ message being cascaded or sent back to a single Wi-Fi or LTE connected gateway to the cloud’. Thus forming a local Mesh network of devices with a gateway to connect with the cloud. The three important features making this generation of devices intelligent are,

    • Local communication
    • Resilient networks
    • Extended device life

 

     Having seen the local communication, let's see what does the resilient network mean. These are self-healing networks which help you protect from lost data and downtime. So if one endpoint fails the network automatically self-heals to the nearest device. The ultra-low power consumption enables long-living battery-powered endpoints.

 

     So, what are the mesh-ready third-generation of Particle devices? They are,

    • Argon
    • Boron
    • Xenon

 

     Let's now quickly run through what these devices are capable of. The Argon is a powerful Wi-Fi enabled development kit which can act either as a standalone Wi-Fi endpoint or Wi-Fi enabled gateway for Particle Mesh networks (Wi-Fi + Mesh + Bluetooth). It is priced at $27 (click here) and also comes in a kit version which is priced at $35 (click here). The Boron comes in an LTE version supported only for North America and 2G/ 3G version supported for a list of countries given here. The Boron LTE is a powerful LTE CAT-M1/NB1 enabled development board that can act as either a standalone cellular endpoint or LTE enabled gateway for Particle Mesh networks. The Boron GSM is a powerful 2G/3G enabled development kit that can act as either a standalone cellular endpoint or 2G/3G enabled gateway for Particle Mesh networks. LTE version is priced at $53 (click here) and also comes in a kit version which is priced at $59 (click here). The Boron 2G/ 3G kit is priced at $78 (click here). The Xenon is a low-cost mesh-enabled development board that can act as either an endpoint or repeater within a Particle Mesh network (Mesh + Bluetooth). It is priced at $15 (click here) and comes in a kit version priced at $21 (click here).

Source: https://www.particle.io/mesh

    

     Apart from the hardware, Particle offers Device Cloud - a powerful set of tools to build, connect and manage the mesh-ready third-generation Particle devices (Argon, Boron, and Xenon). It is available for prototyping with a group of 10 total devices up to 1 Wi-Fi or cellular gateway. Device Cloud access is free for the first 10 devices. Some other notable features are,

    • Over-the-air firmware updates
    • Integration (Azure IoT Hub, Google Cloud Platform etc)

 

Source: https://www.particle.io/mesh

 

    There is one last thing but also an important one, the Device OS. This was previously referred to as system firmware. It is a low-level firmware code that supports Particle device's basic functions. Similar to an operating system for a computer, Particle Device OS provides a foundation for other applications to run on (application firmware). True that Particle Device OS abstracts much of the complexity away from the traditional firmware development experience. Some responsibilities of the Device OS include,

    • Secure Communication
    • Hardware Abstraction
    • Application Enablement
    • Over-the-air updates

     What's more? Device OS is an open-source embedded operating system. Read more about the Device OS here - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-os/device-os/

 

     Some other features to mention are,

    • Adafruit feather form factor - Particle Mesh is compatible with Adafruit's feather form factor, providing access to 50+ FeatherWing hardware accessories.
    • OpenThread - Particle Mesh is built on OpenThread, an open mesh networking standard released by Nest.
    • Open Source Hardware - Particle Mesh development kits (schematic and board layout) are fully open source.

 

     To get started with Particle Mesh, check out the quickstart documentation and example projects from Particle. In order to grab a quick overview, check out this Element14 webinar - Accessible IoT: Rapid Prototyping to Scale with Particle. Click here if you would like to know more about me. Thank you , Element14 Community and Particle for providing me this wonderful opportunity to road test the Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Starter Kit.

 

RoadTest Plan

Schedule -

     Week 1 - Unboxing, Out of the Box Demo/ First Impressions

     Week 2 & 3 - Simple Project

     Week 4 - 7 - Complex Project

     Week 8 - Summary and  Conclusion

 

Simple Project -

    • Use Argon, Xenon kits to build a simple Mesh network
    • Collect data from the connected Grove Starter Kit components - Temperature & Humidity Sensor, and Ultrasonic Ranger
    • Display the values from the above sensors in the 4-Digit display.

 

Complex Project -

     A project to make an IoT system for commuters and for home automation. One of the Xenon kits will be placed in my bike which will collect data while commuting like traffic (using Ultrasonic Sensor) and when I return back to my parking after my commute, it will share the collected data with the Argon kit in my home. This Argon kit will then instruct the other Xenon kit in my home to turn on the light and fan automatically after a minute (the time it takes for me to enter into my house from the parking). Also, either a Xenon or Argon kit will be connected to the temperature and humidity sensor which will monitor and collect the room temperature and humidity whose value will be displayed in the 4-Digit display.

 

Stretch goal -

    • To create a UI to view all the collected values.

 

Unboxing & First Impressions

     The road test bundle/ kit package arrived safely in a corrugated/ cardboard box and the contents inside were cushioned by paper. Thanks to UPS and . This time, I will not be doing the unboxing of the package. Thanks to for providing me the assistants, the Element14 blue men. They will be doing the unboxing with the help of some more friends!

 

 

     The road test bundle/ kit contains the following,

    • Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle
      • Argon Kit
      • Xenon Kit
      • Particle Debugger
      • Particle Featherwing Tripler (Expansion Header)
    • Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh

        

     Below is the unboxing video of Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Starter Kit.

 

Software - Developer Tools

     Apart from Device OS and Device Cloud, Particle offers a wide range of developer tools. They are as listed below.

    • Device Console
    • Web IDE
    • Particle CLI
    • Particle WorkBench (VS Code Extension) - Desktop IDE
    • Mobile Apps (Android and iOS)
    • SDKs, Libraries, RESTful API

 

     Let's see the installation or how to access some of the above developer tools briefly below,

 

{tabbedtable} Tab LabelTab Content
    Web IDE

Link - https://build.particle.io/build

 

The Web IDE is an easy to use tool with powerful features like programming, compiling and flashing your Particle devices with the developed application firmware. You can access it from any device which can support browser. For instance, you can program the Particle device from your smartphone browser! It also has a list of devices added to your account. It has quite a wide range of libraries, example apps and app explorer (where you can manage your apps.

 

Below are the steps for accessing the Web IDE.

 

Accessing the Web IDE:

  • When you click the above provided link, you will be directed to the Particle login page.
  • Enter your account credentials and click 'Login' button or create a new account by clicking 'create account' link and then log in.

  • Once logged in, you will be directed to the below page which is the Web IDE which can be used to program your Particle devices.

    Particle WorkBench

Link - https://www.particle.io/workbench/

 

The Particle WorkBench is a Professional IoT development environment on Windows, macOs, Linux, powered by Visual Studio Code. You can build, debug, and deploy code from a local environment with zero setups. It is like the Web IDE installed in your computer and available offline and with more functionalities. You can flash your Particle devices locally from WorkBench. It has all the tools, libraries, and extensions you need in a single, easy-to-install package. It utilizes Microsoft's Visual Studio Code as an editor because of which you get a lightweight, yet powerful experience with your Particle-powered products.

 

Some salient features of Particle WorkBench are,

  1. One-step install
  2. Managed toolchain
  3. Libraries included (3000+ Device OS libraries)
  4. Fully customizable.

 

Source: https://www.particle.io/press/

 

If you need help with the Visual Studio Code, here is the getting started documentation - https://code.visualstudio.com/docs?start=true

 

Installing the Particle WorkBench:

  • When you click the link given above, you will be directed to the Particle Workbench software page.
  • Click 'Install Now' button and the page will scroll to the bottom where you can click the button corresponding to your OS and install accordingly. My computer's OS is Windows 10, so the remaining steps will be for the same.

  • Once you click the button, the 'ParticleWorkbenchInstaller.exe' file of size ~35MB * will begin to download.

  • Once the download is complete, double click it to run the installer.
  • The next steps are shown in the image gallery below.

 

 

{gallery} Particle WorkBench Installation

Click Continue to proceed.

Click Next to proceed after you read the license terms.

 

Please note I had Visual Studio Code already installed on my computer, but still continued with the process of installing from the beginning to see how the installation process reacts to already installed Visual Studio Code. The verdict - it is smart enough.

Choose the optional components if you want to install them or simply leave it unchecked and click Next.

Installation in progress ...

Installation in progress ...

Installation Complete

 

Once the installation is complete, open Visual Studio Code. A pop-up will appear asking to install Particle WorkBench dependencies. Click Install.

 

The total size of Microsoft Visual Studio code after Particle WorkBench installation is around 200+MB.

 

    Mobile Apps

Link -

Android - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.particle.android.app

iOS - https://apps.apple.com/us/app/particle-iot/id991459054

 

Simple Project

 

 

References:

  1. IO - https://docs.particle.io/reference/device-os/firmware/argon/#input-output
  2. Pin Info - https://docs.particle.io/reference/hardware/pin-info/?m=table&sort=num
  3. Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh - https://docs.particle.io/datasheets/accessories/mesh-accessories/
  4. Ultrasonic Ranger - Grove - Ultrasonic Ranger - Seeed Wiki

Complex Project

 

References:

  1. Ultrasonic Sensor (HC-SR04) - https://www.electronicwings.com/particle/ultrasonic-sensor-hc-sr04-interfacing-with-particle-photon
  2. https://community.particle.io/t/getting-an-ultrasonic-sensor-to-work-with-a-xenon-board/48793/14
  3. IoT Mesh - https://www.particle.io/mesh/
  4. https://www.jaredwolff.com/how-to-location-tracking-using-particle-mesh/#!
  5. Serial Communication - https://docs.particle.io/reference/device-os/firmware/xenon/#serial
  6. Cloud Functions - https://docs.particle.io/reference/device-os/firmware/xenon/#cloud-functions
  7. Mesh - https://docs.particle.io/reference/device-os/firmware/xenon/#mesh

Summary/ Conclusion

    Particle serves as a one-stop-shop for all IoT needs while serving for all levels of expertise - from beginners to experts and for all stages of the product life cycle - prototype to production. There are numerous possibilities with this kit and the Particle team has made the getting started experience nice and smooth with all their documentation and support. Here are some of the Pros and Cons identified after two months of road testing the bundle/ kit - 'Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Starter Kit'.

 

Pros

  • Simple, beginner-friendly programming. Programming is similar to Arduino.
  • Lots of example code, documentation, and videos. Particle 101 videos give you a quick start.
  • Integrations process are simple and opens new possibilities.
  • Easy Cloud monitoring, control of the Mesh devices.
  • Use cases for real-time scenarios.
  • Best kit for learning Mesh and IoT and at the same time has the capacity to be developed as product that you can sell.

 

Cons

  • 5V intolerance makes few components like Ultrasonic sensor, Relay depend on external power supply for power and for functioning properly.
  • Could have added Serial Monitor in the Web IDE.
  • The reset and mode buttons located in the middle of the board makes them difficult to press.
  • The setup process could have been reduced/ simplified further since it consumes a lot of time waiting for it to complete. The user will not hesitate to do the setup for the first but when something bad happens it becomes an annoying and frustrating activity to complete again.

 

    This is one kit which does not allow you to stop making/ building. With all the amazing capabilities and integrations available, hope to see you again in another project. This marks the end of the road test review (however you have some useful links/ reference below this). Please leave your valuable comments and suggestions in the comments section below.

 

DescriptionLink
Road Test PageParticle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle + Grove Sensor Kit
WebinarAccessible IoT: Rapid Prototyping to Scale with Particle
Particle Store - Product Pages

Particle Mesh Wi-Fi Bundle - https://store.particle.io/products/particle-mesh-wi-fi-bundle

 

Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh  - https://store.particle.io/products/grove-starter-kit

Particle Docs - Getting Started

Setup - https://setup.particle.io/

Argon - https://docs.particle.io/quickstart/argon/

https://docs.particle.io/datasheets/wi-fi/argon-datasheet/

Xenon - https://docs.particle.io/quickstart/xenon/

https://docs.particle.io/datasheets/mesh/xenon-datasheet/

Particle Debugger - https://docs.particle.io/support/particle-tools-faq/jtag/#particle-debugger-1

Particle FeatherWing Tripler - https://docs.particle.io/community/feather/

FeatherWing - https://learn.adafruit.com/adafruit-feather/featherwings

Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh - https://docs.particle.io/datasheets/accessories/mesh-accessories/

Tutorials - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/hardware-projects/hardware-examples/argon/

 

Particle Workbench - https://docs.particle.io/quickstart/workbench/

 

Troubleshooting - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-os/led/argon/

Remote Diagnostics - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-cloud/remote-diagnostics/argon/

Particle Software

Web IDE - https://build.particle.io/build/new

Particle Workbench - https://www.particle.io/workbench/

Particle CLI - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/developer-tools/cli/

Web Console - https://console.particle.io/devices

Mobile Apps:

Android - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.particle.android.app

iOS - https://apps.apple.com/us/app/particle-iot/id991459054

 

Others:

Device OS - https://www.particle.io/device-os/

Device Cloud - https://www.particle.io/device-cloud/

IoT Rules Engine - https://www.particle.io/iot-rules-engine/

Developer Tools - https://www.particle.io/developer-tools/

SDKs - https://docs.particle.io/reference/SDKs/javascript/

RESTful API - https://docs.particle.io/reference/device-cloud/api/

Libraries - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-os/libraries/

Useful Blogs, Videos/ Reference Projects

https://makezine.com/projects/diy-swarmbots/

https://www.cnx-software.com/2018/11/03/particle-mesh-iot-development-kit-review-unboxing/

https://community.particle.io/t/circuit-python-on-argon/46115

https://blog.adafruit.com/2018/11/27/particle-mesh-iot-development-kit-unboxing-and-review-xenon-and-argon-feather-parti…

https://dzone.com/articles/the-ultimate-iot-hardware-comparison-guide

https://www.hackster.io/taifur/urban-noise-air-pollution-monitoring-d14088

https://blog.particle.io/2019/05/17/learn-how-to-build-this-cellular-asset-tracker-with-a-particle-boron/

https://community.particle.io/t/example-code-xenon-collects-temp-humidity-data-sends-to-argon-which-then-outputs-to-4-di…

Particle Official Pages

Home - https://www.particle.io/

Store - https://store.particle.io/

Docs - https://docs.particle.io/

Blogs - https://blog.particle.io/

Community - https://community.particle.io/

Particle Studios - https://www.particle.io/particle-studios/

MakerSpace - https://www.particle.io/offers/makerspace/

FAQs - https://docs.particle.io/support/particle-devices-faq/finding-device-id/

GitHub - https://github.com/particle-iot

Pricing - https://www.particle.io/pricing

Certification - https://docs.particle.io/datasheets/certifications/certification/

Press - https://www.particle.io/press/

Support - https://docs.particle.io/support/menu-base/

Particle Official Videos

YouTube Channel - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpYjkSkGOXAMXeZjZkbb-PQ

Paritcle 101 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T5rFu-9JAI&list=PLIeLC6NIW2tKvC5W007j_PU-dxONK_ZXR

Particle Mesh Intro - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwifCetjoFU&feature=youtu.be

Particle Integration

Google Cloud Platform - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/integrations/google-cloud-platform

Google Maps - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/integrations/google-maps/

Azure IoT Hub - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/integrations/azure-iot-hub/

InfluxData - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/integrations/influxdata

IFTTT - https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/integrations/ifttt

Particle Contestshttps://www.hackster.io/contests/particle-iot

 

 

 

 

* Information/ content provided in this road test review is as-is obtained during the time of writing this review and is subjected to change when the respective body owning the product/ service/ application, changes the information/ content. So please refer the official pages (links available in the 'Useful Links/ Reference' section at the bottom of this review page) for the latest information/ content.

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