A new internet of things (IoTs) device has recently come to market that looks like it could be an ESP8266 killer. For those of you not familiar with the ESP8266 it’s a super cheap (approx. 3USD) and extremely versatile Internet of things platform. Its more than just a simple serial to WIFI gateway, it’s a fully functional microcontroller with a bunch of general usage I/O pins. The ESP has many applications – it can be used to connect an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to the internet over WIFI or it can be used as a standalone microcontroller. Applications as a standalone controller include basic data logging, weather logging, fuel usage monitoring, home automation, gardening automation and monitoring (For a more comprehensive list of applications checkout the list of Hackaday projects that are tagged with ESP8266 – https://hackaday.io/projects/tag/ESP8266)
When the ESP first arrived on the scene it was not known that it could be used as a standalone device but it was still highly praised for its functionality and price. Once word got out that it could be used as a standalone microcontroller all by itself it became the king of the Internet of Things movement and it is difficult to see how it could be ousted from its throne.
The ESP8266 does a lot of things really well but there are some chinks in its armour. First off there was a lack of documentation when it came out. This has largely been patched up as the device has gained popularity amongst the hacker community. The second is that it is not breadboard friendly. Normally this wouldn’t be much of an issue – just solder some wires the device to make it fit. This is where one of the ESP8266’s pros becomes a con, the ESP is tiny! Soldering pins to it is very difficult. Some varieties of the ESP are breadboard friendly but they are much more difficult to find than the more common ESP-01 and ESP-03.
Enter the challenger: EMW3165
The EMW3165 is a very similar device to the ESP. It is a small, powerful, low cost (about 5USD) microcontroller. It supports 5V as well as 3V6 – a plus for the Arduino community. Its real killer functions are the FCC certification and the powerful ARM® Cortex®-M4-based CPU at its core. Link – http://www.st.com/web/en/catalog/mmc/FM141/SC1169/SS1577?sc=stm32f4
Will this device take the ESP’s place on the throne? – that remains to be seen. It has taken some time for the ESP to become as popular and readily available as it is today and presumably it will take some time for the EMW to gain traction. Hopefully if it does the price will drop a bit too.
The EMW3165 is made in Shanghai, China and most of its documentation is also in Chinese. If the makers can get English documentation into the hands of makers and build up a solid international community then it would really bolster its arsenal.
No matter who comes out on top the real winners are the makers and hackers. More competition means lower costs and better products. There is still a lot of overblown buzz and hype about the Internet of Things at the moment but with great devices such as these appearing at such a low cost it is only a matter of time before we can expect to see some amazing, innovative products and actually useful internet connected devices on the shelves.