Future Product suggestion(s): Wifi + LTE

Particle team… congrats on the latest Mesh products. They look interesting for sure.

I’d like to make a suggestion for a future product if I may. I’m intending (one of these days) to take my Black Friday purchase and turn it into an Asset Tracker for some high value “toys” that if they grew legs… I’d be out way too much money.

Anyway, I love the Cellular modem and GPS options but I also want Wifi options on the same device. My thought was:

  1. While the device is save and sound at my location… the “particle” pings on off our Wifi service - using zero Cellular data.
  2. If I take it on the road (or if it grows those legs I fear)… it’d start using Cellular data when Wifi is no longer connected to my home network

I’m kind of surprised the team hadn’t considered this… or maybe there is a FCC limitation with having multiple transmitters.

Anyway; thanks for your time - and consideration.


To sum it up, you want your device to have cellular capabilities while on the road, with the option to connect over WiFi when it’s in a fixed known location? Sounds as though you’re looking for a product that has Cellular as well as some kind of technology to connect to an existing Gateway.
If only there was some technology out there with which you could mesh together certain radios, and allow them to connect to the internet using a gateway.

So summarize, you want a Boron (cellular) which would allow you to Mesh to an Argon (WiFi) which would connect it all to the Cloud? As an added benefit, it you’re using Mesh VS direct wifi, you can save on Energy/cost on the embedded device, as well as profit from the Self-healing, Multiple gateway, co-existence, expanded range that Mesh offers?

Sounds like this is exactly one of those use-cases Mesh would be perfect for?


I think he just wants Wifi & Cellular with one main MCU on one board and is not concerned with the Mesh.


I remember a question the day / night before the launch - why were people excited about the prospect / possibility of a Particle device with an ESP32 on-board. I didn’t answer at the time with my desires but here’s an example along the same vein.

Sure, the use case can be handled with meshing two boards together. For hacker solutions, that might work fine. For productizing it’s less desirable than having one integrated, FCC-certified solution.

I will admit I was hoping for board that’d let me gather data via Bluetooth and pump that to the cloud via wifi if available, cellular if not. Since it’d also have the Arduino pins, sweet! Hardwired sensors or GPS receivers available too.

Particle has done cool stuff here, no doubt, just targeted not in this direction. I think.

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I was certian they were going to launch the ESP32 for Wifi and Bluetooth along with 3G cellular. I was excited for that but I’m still happy with the surprise direction they took since it’s beneficial also.

The ESP32 Bluetooth was not nearly as low power as the NRF solution they are providing and low power is beneficial to me.

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Agreed. I am not meaning to rain on a parade here. I’ve seen industrial IoT applications where this tech will be able to reduce the cost of each instrumentation point by an order of magnitude. Awesome.

Also hard to argue with Nordic as a choice. I’ve been using some sensors built around their chipset for the last several months. Useful data is being returned several times a minute and it looks like the battery life is going to approach the shelf life of the cell powering the sensor. That’s just insanely good.

I’ve just got a personal project in mind that doesn’t appear to be served by the mesh approach. Now, the hardware looks likely to be able to do the BLE + cellular job. So maybe the SW will come. Dunno.

In the meantime, I’m looking to enjoy what’s been produced and think on use cases.

Honestly I was a little surprised that everyone jumped to that conclusion based on the job listings. That post was barely taken down a few weeks ago… If that was already done, I was thinking…(s)he needs to be working for NASA or SpaceX on experimental propulsion…

From what I understand from the post there’s a use-case he’d like a solution for. Mesh is a valid solution to that use-case. Seeing as you’re not going to be connecting over WiFi when you’re out and about, that radio is only useful when you’re in a known, fixed location. If that’s the case, then why not Mesh to a fixed Mesh gateway?
Mesh to cloud shouldn’t be all that different from Router to cloud? It’s just that you’re taking an additional component away from the embedded part which would save on size, cost, and energy.
In the way that WiFi connects all current hardware, Mesh could do that for low-power IoT hardware.

“On the road, get back -> wifi connected” VS “on the road, get back, Mesh connected”, I don’t see the issue with this specific use-case?

Normally you’d do the same with WiFi, it’s just that you’re then “meshing” it with a router, which seems to be more accepted. Cellular would be the better use-case, since you’d forgo any additional middlemen.

I personally didn’t see the need for a WiFi/Cellular board yet, but with Mesh out, there’s a valid working solution available to have the best of both worlds. I can’t think of many scenarios (different from the one pictured above) when WiFi + Cullular would be a must. Since Wifi is only good at locations you know, you might as well stick a mesh gateway in between if it’s for commercial applications. (This is not to circumvent the ‘problem’, but has additional benefits as mentioned above as well. Extra range, extra ‘healing’ capabilities, etc.)

Just to be clear, I’m not dismissing anyone’s ideas on WiFi + cellular, it’s just that I personally haven’t yet thought of a scenario where Cellular + mesh could offer an equally good alternative (if not better). Please do prove me wrong :wink:

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We didn’t end up doing the project, but I had a potential client who wanted this exact thing. Basically WiFi status monitoring with 3G fail-over in case of a power outage or service outage. Pretty much just to save costs on 3G data (and more bandwidth for fine grain health monitoring).

We could have done this with the new mesh products, but it would basically involve packaging both an Argon and a Boron in the same box.


Your right, it is a possible solution.

It’s just not as efficient or cost-effective as a single MCU with Cellular & Wifi Radios on one board.

He does loose Wifi connectivity options when he leaves home though unless he setups another wifi mesh node connected to Wifi, so having Wifi built in could be beneficial in that respect over Mesh.

I have products that send data over wifi to a Dashboard for status monitoring. Some clients use the products in remote locations and need cellular to send the data to the web. Having Wifi & Cellular with one MCU allows the product fit both use cases.

The mesh is not really beneficial in this situation other than being able to pull in data from other accessories that also are using the Mesh network, but that’s usually not needed but it is something that I’m excited to be able to do in the future. Up until now, I planned on using RFM95w radios to accomplish this local wireless network with up 1-mile range.


Y’know, capability-wise I think you’re right. It covers the bases. From a product point of view, it’s as above - either two transmitters in one box, in which case the module-level FCC cert no longer applies or two physical boxes to build and ship and support.

Yes, mesh can do it. Just don’t think I’d design it that way given a clean sheet of paper for these use cases.


Now we’re getting somewhere :slight_smile:

Given that there was more than one ‘thing’ to monitor, wouldn’t a single Cellular Gateway have sufficed as an back-up for the WiFi nodes?

If all your products have to have an additional radio for the off-chance you might need the second one at some point, I’d rather have a base-station with said gateway, using a protocol that was in the MCU to begin with.
Agreed, for single units it might not be as cost effective to have a cellular and wifi board separated, but as soon as more devices could be making use of a single base-station, you’d be saving out on the radios on all embedded devices, along with cost/battery/etc. It’s cheaper to stick a low-cost/low powered radio in each node + a base-station, than it is to stick a costly, power hungry one in each node foregoing a base-station.

It’s essentially the same a WiFi is to cellular. It’s cheaper to stick a wifi chip on every board + a router than it is to stick a more power hungry/more expensive cellular board on each board. Sure, a single Cellular device is cheaper than a Wifi one + router, but that diminishes for every device you connect to the router.

He then also lost control over said item, wouldn’t know where it was, or what WiFi network to connect to, and would not be able to use WiFi anyhow. that’s why I mentioned the “you need a known location” for WiFi to offer benefits.

If all they need is cellular, then why pay extra for an additional WiFi modem they won’t be able to use anyhow? Swap the controller for a cellular one, and the product should work just the same?

I don’t have all the answers, and some of my points could be invalid, but consider me “the devil’s advocate” in this regard. The better counterarguments you can give me, the better arguments there are for maybe making Cellular + WiFi happen? I’m also just genuinely interested in what kind of projects are being made :slight_smile:

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There was only one ‘thing’ per client location. The device would have just used the client’s* existing wifi rather than managing and paying for our own land line.

*my client’s client

It’s the same scenario, two things packaged up in the same installation. Since he wanted to use the Particle infrastructure, I suggested using a 3G module as a backup ‘emergency help’ call that went through a side channel if we couldn’t figure out how to route Particle traffic over the extra modem.

Since that design pitch, I’ve learned about the extra difficulties of certifying a multi-transmitter system, so maybe we would have ended up going to a co-installed 3G gateway anyway.

Correct. Mesh is nice… and I might be able to use that ability… but for an Asset tracker, one “device” which does both Cellular and WIFI. I’m thinking WIFI as primary channel with Cellular as a fallback connection.

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An external Cellular node would work with this new mesh technology but it does increase the overall cost to implement cellular connectivity if the client wants it.

Building the WiFi / Cellular modules in using a single MCU just keeps things cheaper and simpler IMO.

We will earn a small monthly income stream off the dashboard monitoring service so we want to make sure its easy for customers to use it via WiFi or Celluar when needed.

Usually, only the main product would have the Cellular installed and accessories would not need cellular radios only the Mesh connectivity to interact with the main product.

The main product cost ranges from 1K to 7.5K so the modem cost is not really a big issue but dealing with dual MCUs and the communication between them is more of what I want to avoid having to deal with when considering using Photon & Electron together at the same time.

These products are mobile so they can be used at home and then taken out away from Wifi for some time also so having both connectivity options even though they not be needed all the time is ideal. It makes the product more flexible and it allows the client to keep using the web dashboard and receiving alerts even when away from WiFi access.

To me, it just seems a single surface mount board with Wifi & Cellular and a single MCU that was pre-certified would be ideal for this.

That being said using the new Mesh boards with an LTE cellular is something that could offer this same flexibility at a higher cost and slightly higher complexity. We just have to see this all plays out of time as far as reliability goes.

I was just assuming he had a way to enter a new Wifi access point when he changed to a new location that offered Wifi to save on cellular data cost. If the wifi is not built in then he has to use a different Mesh access point or take the one from the house along with him.

Either option is viable, personally, I would like Wifi built in so I don’t have to deal with a 2nd device node to power.

I’m more than happy to pay for a Wifi + Cellular + a single MCU surface mount board.

It allows me to have a single circuit board design vs needing to manufacture a single board for Wifi and another for Cellular when what I really want is Wifi & Cellular with a single MCU.

I do understand the new Mesh products can allow this at a higher cost, and I’m happy to have the new options to work with in the near future.

LTE cellular is the future anyway considering 3G is on its way out so there is something else to consider.

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I got to wondering about cost. The ESP32-S0WD already on the Argon can do Wifi and Bluetooth. It’s available in small quantities for $2.35; one would guess less for bulk orders. So it looks at least possible have all three radios (cellular, wifi, Bluetooth) on one board at not much of a price premium over cellular + Bluetooth alone.

I have a similar need although it is not in Particles main iot thrust. I have a medical data logger that will use 3G/LTE to report summary data in real time but need to download the full data files once back in the lab.

I will explore the Bluetooth option once devices/documentation becomes available but wifi is an option I know will work.

@Will @Zach

I’m sure you guys have thought about this combo before but can you shed some light on the possible reasons you have not decided to offer a Cellular + Wifi with a single MCU for people who need both technologies?

I just skipped over the following posts to address this direct.
That might be true for the customer side, but Particle also has to keep an eye on the other side. I do agree with @Moors7 and also see limited numbers of actual use-cases for that and hence little potential for such a device being a best-seller for Particle but with the big dev/cert cost and performance/power impact on the final product.
BTW, which cellular network? There are already two versions of the Boron, so you’d need two more devices developed and certified just to fill a (IMO rather small) niche.

Not necessarily.
Depending on the default use case (which might not be what I imagine with your description), I’d go for a Boron by default (assuming the outdoor and theft protection being main interest) and sell the Argon or Xenon+EthernetWing based “home station” which can upling multiple such toys as extra option. If one person would happen to own more than one of these “toys” the per device cost would be lower than having multiple devices which wouldn’t need a WiFi module each.

Noone has yet seen how transparent the mesh communication layer will be kept by Particle - but they are pretty good in making things easy for end-users. So judgeing the development cost of the mesh communication on the customer side before we have seen any of it seems premature.
One thing is sure, the mesh communication will be not nealy as “complicated” as the inter Photon/Electron communication was/is - and that wasn’t that complicated to start with, was it?

If it turns out that the “lack” of a WiFi/Cellular/mesh combo is a big obstacle and there - against all expectations - is a considerable (!) demand for such a device, I’m sure Particle would consider that option.

Please let Particle make decisions as to what they will or will not do without the community “experts” chiming in on what they think the market is…
Others have spoken here that they also desire this feature and how many of Particles users frequent the forums?

Simply put; Unless Particle comes back and says “no” officially… I don’t see the value of a few guys telling the rest of us that the request is silly or of little value.