Arduino Nano 33 IoT Embedded Dev Kit - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Arduino Nano 33 IoT Embedded Dev Kit

Author: momo1234

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?: Apart from other Arduino boards, I had the Microchip AVR IOT WA board in hand to compare performances and features.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: i) The numbering on the pins aren't done on the top side of the board. So one must remember them, or keep a sheet with the specs handy. ii)This is a personal one, but the metal contact rail below the uBlox radio module was loosely held by a small dab of hot glue, and came off rather quickly.

Detailed Review:

If you are an electronics enthusiast, hobbyist or maker, it is unlikely that you have not come across the Arduino Nano. A versatile product with a highly versatile form factor, it is the go-to choice for a programmable PCB by many. And the Arduino Nano 33 IoT takes the capabilities of its predecessors up a notch.

 

i) Overview, form and factor:

The Arduino Nano 33 IOT strikingly resembles the Arduino Nano 33 Every in make and form-factor. Unlike the regular Nano, the Nano 33 IoT (like the Nano Every) has no components or obtrusive soldering on the underside, making it suitable to be used flush on breadboards, stripboards, and even can directly soldered to projects.  Markings for the pins, like the Nano Every, are on the underside of the board, so make sure to note them down or refer the manual when building a project.

The flat bottom is excellent for rapid testing and prototyping -just pin it down onto a breadboard with the header pins and you are good to go. No soldering hassles. I had no patience (and did not want to mark the pretty board) so I did not solder the pins -and the flat bottom design is a godsend for such situations. It gave me a convenient 'plug and play' option.               

 

Despite the similar form factor, Nano 33 is much more powerful than the Nano and Every, thanks to the SAMD21 Cortex M0 MCU on board, which is more capable than the 8-bit ATMega4809 in the Nano. The SAMD21 also has a built in USB port, eliminating any external peripherals for USB-to-Serial conversion. Functionality wise, the Nano 33 IoT is more or less an Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 (without the charger shield) in a tinier footprint. We will look into the other features of the Nano 33 IoT in the further sections.        

 

Out of the box, you'll get the Arduino Nano 33 IoT, two rows of header pins, some paperwork, and a file of cool stickers. (Kudos to UPS for a top notch delivery service.)

The following list gives a quick overview of the spec sheet:

  • MCU: SAMD21G18A 32 bit Low power ARM MCU (Cortex-M0+, 48Mhz, 256KB Flash, 32KB SRAM)
  • WiFi/BLE: uBlox NINA W-102 (Based on ESP32)
  • Crypto-chip (for security): ATECC608A
  • IMU: LSM6DSC (6 axis)

A thing worth noting is that the Nano 33 IoT, by default, only supports 3.3V I/O. To enable the 5V I/O, one should bridge the two points at VUSB (solder it, basically) at the bottom of the board, as shown in the figure below:

The power supply to the board is controlled by the MPM3610 DC-DC , same as the Nano Every.

 

i) Configuring the Arduino IDE to use the Nano 33 IOT:

Since the 33 IoT uses a SAMD MCU, the same must be configured into your Arduino IDE to program the board.

Go to Tools > Board > Board Manager, and search for 'Arduino SAMD Boards' (or just type Nano 33 IoT if you are lazy like me), and install the correct package:

Once the correct package is installed, you can check it by going to Tools > Board > Arduino SAMD and select the Arduino Nano 33 IoT:

Select the correct serial COM Port, and check the connectivity by uploading the 'Blink' sketch from the example sketches provided. Arduino Nano 33 IOT also uses a regular USB (2.0), so the USB wire from your phone charger should work just fine.

 

(Note: Consider changing the connecting wires, and re-checking whether you have selected the correct COM port, if you face trouble connecting the board to Arduino IDE.)

 

ii) Nano 33 IoT: the power of connectivity and IoT in a comfortable form-factor:

From the previous steps, your Arduino Nano 33 IoT is app set up to do any work you can expect from a regular Arduino. But the fun with this board is the connectivity capabilities to harness the power of IoT.

To get started, go to Tools > Manage Libraries and search for the WiFiNINA library and install it.

 

With this package, an example sketchbook is also installed, which can be used for quick prototyping and testing the Wifi capabilities. The example sketches are a great way to explore the connectivity capabilities of the Arduino Nano 33 IoT.

For example, go to File > Examples > WifiNina, and select the ScanNetworksAdvanced sketch. Compile and upload it to the Arduino Nano 33 IoT.

 

Once the sketch is compiled and uploaded, open the serial monitor. And voila! Your Arduino can detect nearby wifi signals, even the encrypted ones. It also shows some other information other than just the name, as shown above.

  (Note: It listed the 2.4 GHz networks, but it did not list any 5 Ghz networks. So that is something to be kept in mind.)

 

iii) Getting started with IoT:

(Users new to this board are encouraged to explore the example sketches provided, as it provides a sufficiently large number of codes to get familiar with this board)

 

One of the main benefits of the Nano 33 IoT is its ability to rapid prototype IoT applications. Now, using its inbuilt capabilities, many applications can be developed. But a simple way to test it is to use the inbuilt libraries. Locate the ‘SimpleWebServerWiFi’ (hint: Same library as previous one). This simple web server application will open up on your browser, and let you control an LED wirelessly!

Now although new users are encouraged to try it out, it must be noted that by default, pin D9 houses the LED connection, if you are using an external one. To use any other pin, modification to the code must be made.

Once the code is uploaded, open the serial monitor, enter your Wifi credentials, and toggle your LED (or the one on-board) on and off wirelessly.

 

  Similarly, the ArduinoBLE library can be installed to test the Bluetooth capabilities of the board. A comprehensive introduction for the same can be found on the Arduino official site here.

 

iv) Arduino 33 IOT vs the AVR IoT WA Development board:

I got the opportunity to compare the Arduino Nano 33 IoT to another remarkable board -the AVR IoT WA development board. The latter is one of the many excellent development boards from Microchip's AVR lineup, and to me, felt closest to home with the Arduino Nano 33 IoT.

 

The AVR IoT WA houses the ATmega4808 MCU, an ATECC608A CryptoAuthentication IC and ab ATWINC1510 WiFi network controller. Now from the picture above, it is evident that the AVR IoT WA is bigger in form factor, and has the cladding for the pin rail pre-soldered -a design choice that is appreciated. All you need to do is grab a pair of male jumpers and hook them up to these -simple.

The board also has a light sensor (TEMT6000) and a temperature sensor (MCP9808) -a good combination of sensors, given that one of the primary areas for its application is remote health monitoring. Also, a mikroBUS header makes it easy to add a plethora of additional sensors and peripherals.

 

So, how does it stand against the Nano 33 IoT?

 

To start with, I really liked the variety of sensors pre-loaded onto the board. This does comes at a steeper cost, but opens a wide field of applications for rapid prototyping. Out of the box, the preloaded firmware image makes the initial steps to connect this board to the internet a breeze, and it took me less than a minute to connect the board to the sandbox environment, and could see the readings from both the on-board sensors via Amazon Web Services effortlessly. Connecting it to WiFi was also as easy as it could get. And the overall build quality, to me, seems a little sturdier than the Nano 33 IoT (not by a substantial margin though).

 

So, what makes me still choose the Arduino Nano 33 IoT over this for my daily projects?

 

Well, Arduino has a good amount of support document. And 'good' is probably an understatement. It is expansive. Most of the problems you might encounter with the Arduino Nano 33 IoT can be self troubleshooted with the help of online forums. Compared to that, I felt that the AVR IoT WA had a rather 'scarce' docimentation, comparatively.

 

Setting up the AVR IoT WA outside the sandbox is much, much trickier, as compared to anything you need to do with the Arduino 33 IoT. Don't get me wrong, it is not difficult, just more complicated. Although once you are done, you can find the full potential of the Amazon Web Services to be tapped in using the AVR IoT WA -making it possible to use this board in practically endless ways.

 

But again, having worked with Arduinos for a long time, I would still prefer the Nano 33 IoT. Arduino has done a great job with their Arduino IoT Cloud, and compared to the setup of the AVR IoT WA, this was a cakewalk. It is simple, easy and intuitive, and even a beginner will find it relatively easier to start and navigate his cloud journey with it. You can explore the Arduino IoT Cloud here.

(We were midway through exploring the Arduino IoT Cloud and testing a rather complex project with the Arduino IoT cloud adn the Nano 33 IoT, so will be posting about that once it is done. )

 

The tinier form factor of the Nano 33 IoT also gives it a slight edge over its Microchip counterpart, as I found it to be much easier to be used for remote and portable projects.

 

iv) Conclusion:

The Arduino Nano 33 IoT is a neat and easy to use device -something I'd highly recommend anyone to try if they wish to explore the world of IoT and connectivity. With a wide array of features, it is a perfect match for IoT applications.

 

 

I would like to thank [mention:55e535b498a841ed8f2949266bc56dc3:e9ed411860ed4f2ba0265705b8793d05]for giving me an opportunity to explore this board and element14 for doing these cool RoadTests and Reviews that help makers around the globe to get familiar with awesome tech regularly.

 


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Anonymous
  • Enrique,

     

    That's an impressive game. A good use of the orientation sensor as well as a realistic 'ball'.

     

    Dubbie

  • I've been playing with both the Arduino NANO 33 IoT and the Arduino NANO33 BLE.

     

    I love the Mbed RTOS Real Time Operating System used in the Arduino BLE but for beginners I recommend the Nano IoT.

    Less trouble compiling code and faster compilations from the Arduino IDE. In my experience with the BLE, any flaws in your code can cause problems loading the next code.

     

    In any case by pressing the reset button quickly twice you can put them in bootloader mode, then check what virtual com port has been assigned to the bootloader and load your code through that port.

     

    In this project I use the Arduino NANO33 BLE

     

     

    https://www.hackster.io/javagoza/sound-spectrum-visualizer-with-arduino-nano-33-ble-3c6261

     

    This one is part of the project I'm making for the next Design Challenge with the Arduino NANO 33 IoT

     

  • You definitely should explore it more! The Nano 33 IoT is a deceptively capable device for its form factor. The applications you showed your interest in can be handled by the Nano 33 IoT quite well.

  • I have a Nano 33 IoT which I have played with a little. I think I will have to go back to it and try it out again. I quite fancy a network scanner as well as making an embedded web-server. I have tried these things before using a PC but not with an Arduino. Should be fun.

     

    Dubbie