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Particle Cloud IoT platform adds Raspberry Pi support

Nov 17, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 2,213 views

Particle announced Raspberry Pi support for its Particle Cloud IoT development platform, and has launched a $100 starter kit based on the Raspberry Pi 3.

Particle is opening its Particle Cloud IoT development platform to integrate Raspberry Pi-based endpoints, expanding its lineup of prototyping hardware from MCU-based devices like the Internet Button to more advanced Linux-driven devices. The first 1,000 developers to sign up for the Raspberry Pi beta will be offered a first wave of access on Nov. 22.



Particle Internet Button (left) and Raspberry Pi 3

Any version of the Raspberry Pi can be used as a prototyping device for the platform. However, Particle has also launched a $99.95 Particle Pi Starter Kit with Raspberry Pi 3. In addition to providing an RPi 3, the kit includes an 8GB microSD card with NOOBS 1.9, as well as a case, breadboard, and an 8-channel, 10-bit ADC with an SPI interface.

The Particle Pi kit is further equipped with a 5V 2.4A switching power supply, a photo cell, a potentiometer, LEDs, various cables, and assorted resistors and capacitors. There’s even an IR receiver sensor and mini remote control.

San Francisco based Particle also announced it has secured a second round of funding totaling $10.4 million. CEO Zach Supalla told CRN that more than 90,000 developers and engineers at companies including Keurig and Briggs Healthcare are already building new products using Particle Cloud, making it “the most widely-used IoT platform.”

Launched on Kickstarter in 2013, Particle made a splash with its Particle Internet Button, which acts as an all-purpose sensor endpoint that can be controlled by its enterprise-focused Particle Cloud platform. Particle Cloud is available in a free version for prototyping up to 25 devices, after which you pay a tiered rate, depending on volume and messaging events.



Using Particle Cloud in conjunction with Google Cloud Platform services (left) and data storage
(click images to enlarge)

Particle Cloud offers real time events, automatic cross-platform OTA firmware distribution and management, self-healing module introspection, and secure and efficient messaging, says Particle. There’s also a device management console for managing a fleet of devices. In addition, the company offers low-cost, low-bandwidth cellular SIM cards and data plans.

The development platform consists of a “Build” IDE for the web, which integrates the open source Wiring development tool for MCUs, letting you easily generate Arduino code. There’s also a “Dev” IDE for the local environment based on GitHub’s open source Atom project, “so you have access to hundreds of plugins and customizations out of the box,” says Particle. Both IDEs are available for Linux, Mac, and Windows PCs.

Other components available from Particle include a command line interface, as well as mobile SDKs for Android, iOS, Windows, and Javascript. Developers can call upon batch script execution, remote data collection, OTA updates, and integrated support for IFTTT, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. At the device level, the Particle firmware is written on top of a hardware abstraction layer (HAL).

 
The Internet Button and other Particle hardware

Particle offers several MCU-based development boards, including the WiFi-enabled Photon series. Based on a 120MHz STM32F205 Cortex M3 MCU with 1MB flash and 128KB RAM, the Photon uses a Cypress BCM43362 WiFi chip and the Cypress WICED architecture. It’s available in four form factors, including the Photon SBC, P0 and P1 modules, and a manufacturing ready “Photon in Trays” product.



Exploded detail view of the Internet Button
(click image to enlarge)

The P0 module features a Broadcom BCM43362 WiFi chip instead of the WiFi module. It forms the basis for the Internet Button, which acts as a general purpose, IFTTT connected sensor endpoint. The Internet Button adds 4x tactile buttons, a speaker, an accelerometer, and 11x individually controllable RGB LEDs.

Particle also sells a cellular-equipped Electron board with the same STM32 chip, a U-Blox SARA 3G or 2G radio, and a Telefonica global SIM card. The Electron forms the basis for an Asset Tracker cellular gateway for aggregating IoT data. The Asset Tracker adds a GPS module and accelerometer, and is housed in a waterproof container.



At left: Photon board, P1 module, and P0 module. At right: exposed view of the Asset Tracker
(click images to enlarge)

Finally, there are several MCU-based “Compound” boards from third parties that can hook into Particle Cloud. These include the Bluz BLE controller, the WiFi- and BLE-ready RedBear Duo, and the SparkFun Photon RedBoard, which incorporates Particle’s Photon P1 module.


Particle Electron board (left) and RPi-based security camera

To get Raspberry Pi developers started, Particle has released documents for developing a Particle-connected security camera based on Raspberry Pi. The project controls a PIR sensor, Neopixel LED ring, and a RPi camera “to watch for intruders, snap a photo, and upload it to the web via Dropbox,” says Particle.

 
Further information

Sign-ups are now available for the first 1,000 Raspberry Pi developers to join the beta-level Particle Cloud development platform. More information may be found in the Particle Cloud Raspberry Pi announcement. The Particle Pi Starter Kit with Raspberry Pi 3 sells for $99.95, and is available here. The kit ships in 2-4 weeks, with orders made now delivered before Dec. 25. Purchasing a kit guarantees a spot in the beta.
 

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