Options for Production


#5

Hi @armor – thanks that’s very helpful!

Is this the guy: https://store.particle.io/products/p1

Any idea if the wifi antenna comes with it? That looks like an excellent option for making a production board.


#6

Yes. There is an antenna built in and a uFL connector for a compatible external antenna. External antennas are not supplied with the P1. As you see the P1 is out of stock. It also requires surface mounting. I have not used one of these since the bulk cost difference between the P1 and Photon doesn’t justify using the P1 unless you are talking 000’s - IMHO.


#7

Hi @armor – thanks for that, super helpful!


#8

In reply to your For 1: For WiFi devices like the Photon and Argon the first 100 devices connected to the cloud are free whether setup as a product or not. The advantages of the product approach is that the console allows for easier fleet management and OTA updates. Over 100 devices you need to pay $0.39 per device per month [edit: as quantities go up you then need to talk to Particle Sales - a commitment to big volumes can bring big discounts on the published prices!]. If you have the time to manage the infrastructure and update it then DIY is an option. I have found managing the device application code and the web app enough and I am happy to have Particle ensure the secure transportation and cloud APIs work. There isn’t any customer differentiator in the the cloud API. I agree the customer value model is a tricky one. We have had to work hard to get customers signed up to a software agreement which provides them with the benefit of a connected product that is maintained and updated. Either you can ask for a monthly subscription or an up front 1 year or 3 year contract. Alternatively you could decide to roll the cloud cost into your purchase price of the device!


#9

If you’re already thinking about scaling that big, reach out to the sales team who can tell you more about potential contracts as opposed to the self-service tier. Might be worthwhile.


#10

Take note that the P1 is currently unavailable and has been for some time.


#11

The P1 makes more gpio pins available as well as jtag which might be the justification one needs.


#12

Hi @jiskandarshah

Even though I am not nearly close to 1000’s of units yet, I am faced with the same challenges. I support what @armor and @ScruffR said, they make good points.

From my perspective (as a newbie) I do not really see the need to upgrade to P1 just yet. I have multiple Photons in commercial and light industrial environments and they seem to do just fine, with the added bonus of being able to easily swop them out should something go wrong. I mount them on custom designed PCB’s (in headers or surface mounted depending on the profile) which eliminated the need of any wires and connections which already is a huge improvement for me.

I am not sure whether there are any downsides to using Photon and Argon modules instead of production boards, maybe someone more familiar with Particle can assist with that.

Due to the huge difference in our exchange rate vs US$, the cost per device is a huge challenge here as well. As @peekay123 mentioned, if you are looking at possible 1000’s of units I would most certainly recommend speaking to Particle sales team, well, at least, this will be my approach if our prototypes pass the test and we need to go into production :slight_smile:

Regards,
Friedl.


#13

@friedl_1977 – thanks so much for all the commentary. It’s great to hear all that!

I also had a question about Argon vs Photon for production – all I really need is the wifi component and the Photon seems to have that bit. If anyone has anything to say about picking the Argon over the Photon I’d love to hear it. The price difference is substantial. Other things I’ve looked/looking at include the NodeMCU (available for ~ 6 bucks and does wifi) and the TI MSP432 MCUs. Both of those options of course require one to roll their own cloud solution.


#14

Hi @jls

If this is all you are after, I would go with the Photon for two very obvious reasons:

  1. Smaller footprint which in turn will allow you to build a smaller IoT device :slight_smile:
  2. As you correctly observed, substantial price difference.

My opinion then is to seriously consider Photon unless of course;

  1. You require these devices to connect as a Mesh network (in which case you will require Argon and Xenon),
  2. Require cellular connectivity in which case you would have to go wit Electron on Boron OR
  3. You need the increased capacity of the Argon as apposed to the Photon (more RAM, more pins and speculated superior ESP32 WiFi performance, suppose it depends on what you need)

This is exactly the internal discussion we recently, also do to costs. I persisted that we go with Particle products for various reasons.

  1. Support… Support and did I mention Support :slight_smile:
  2. If you are going to scale that large, availability is a key factor. I would hate to have to buy via 3rd party vendor in these QTY’s.
  3. Fleet management included in Particle solution.
  4. OTA updates - This for me is crucial. I know it can be achieved with NodeMCU, but not nearly as seamless as Particle.
  5. In my humble opinion, superior performance to the other devices you mentioned.

I do not have a problem with all open source as it is, but scaling at the size you mentioned, I would hate have to troubleshoot and get support from open source forums. Coming from Arduino and NodeMCU environments, I can tell from my experience, I will not consider anything other than Particle when building products for clients :slight_smile: Lessons learned…

Might seem biased, but I always try to build products that require the least possible end user support, both for my sanity as well as customer satisfaction. My first project I mentioned here (the RFID reader) started with NodeMCU. I very quickly recalled the scanners and changed to Particle Photons :slight_smile:

I hope this helps,even though it might be less technical and more user opinionated advice. Have you thought of how you will display your data? Maybe have a look at Ubidots, very easy to get going.

Regards,
Friedl.

@mariahernandez


#15

Hi @friedl_1977 – this is a great discussion, I appreciate you taking the time to chat about it.

The photon would perfectly meet my requirements as I do not require mesh or extended pins.

This was my suspicion as well. Out of the two options (nodemcu or ti) I was was favoring TI because their support is also excellent and TI is a very experienced player to say the least. I’ve ordered some NodeMCU evaluation boards but who knows what the consistency in these boards is – I’ve never heard of any of the suppliers.

However, for the reasons you have mentioned, I am probably still strongly pro-particle. Before the bluetooth support was released I had to actually dump the firmware and write a small test application that relied directly on the internal APIs. My experience with this was pretty excellent and the tooling seemed fine; also the engineers I interacted with were super helpful (I found some committers on github who were helpful finding all the bits I needed). In general I prefer to just write the application in C++, so I wish that process were generally a little smoother (eg, OTA updates when working like this), but I’m hoping it gets better in time.

Again, this is excellent feedback. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it!


#16

hi @jls

No problem. There are some gentleman in this forum, that has bent over backwards to help me. I am sure I have put their patience to the test, nevertheless, they persisted and remained very helpful, so I am glad if can help someone in return.

I do not have experience with TI’s MCU’s, but whenever I am looking for some sort of IC, I find myself first seeing whether I can find one of theirs. I have had pleasant experiences using their IC’s. Having said that, in terms is MCU’s… I like the fact that this is a focus area of Particle.

I honestly don’t think you can wrong using either Photon or Argon. Depending on the setup, you might even consider setting up a Mesh allowing you to use Xenon’s which is priced ±US$5 less than Photons. Of course in this case you will need at least one Argon to act as the Gateway. I am busy with such a project designing some Automation for our Coffee Roastery (referred to in my original reply). Here we will have a fruit salad of devices, Argon, Xenon and some Photons all having to work together :see_no_evil:

In my experience, consistency is not great. It is fine for projects at home where you can restart the device if stops responding and fiddle with it to get it back up again, but where I had to scan 100+ RFID cards consecutively and posting to MQTT server, it was a disaster. I also built a Bluetooth reader to connect to an iPad, but if inactive for ±2 minutes, we have to restart and pair again.

So I am deathly allergic to the ESP 8266 chip… :grin:

Side note: One more reason (outside of the ones mentioned before) I am also considering Argon is it seems the footprints and pin-outs of Xenon, Argon and Boron is similar. If I am correct, this is a huge advantage if you are having custom PCB’s designed as it will give you some flexibility to use either at any given stage. Please confirm though, just had a very brief overview of the footprints.


#17

Question – can one still get 2nd gen devices (Photon/Electron)? I don’t see them in the Particle store anymore. I can find some on-line, but many are at below list price, which I take to mean that these vendors are dumping their remaining supplies (because they can’t get new stock from Particle?).

I’s love to see Photons continued to be manufactured and offered for sale by Particle. Some additional advantages of Photons over 3rd gen devices (if you don’t need mesh) are:

  • 5 volt tolerant pins.
  • diode connected USB power (so that you can apply +5 volt power to the VIN pin without worrying about someone connecting a USB cable (for signals) and causing a power short).

I really miss these Photon features on the Argon (which is otherwise an excellent product).


#18

Hi @BobG -

Photons are most certainly still available. I could not find any mention that this would be the case, but I guess I cannot speak on behalf of Particle :grin: I am sure they will give a heads-up. With regards to the on-sale Photons, it might be due to increased popularity of the Mesh devices?

I actually just bought some Photons from Particle store recently and just double checked now, they do still appear there. Having said this, we buy from the wholesale store section, not that I think make a difference :slight_smile:

When Mesh is not needed, Photon remains my MCU of choice.

Best of luck.
Friedl


#19

@jls Hmm, depends what you need. Just connectivity to some other platform (PC/Mobile)? MQTT is the way to go if you use AWS you do not need to host anything and it is cheap! If you need device-management similar to particle, yes you will need to do this yourself (but again, don’t underestimate what you can do quickly in AWS)


#20
  1. You must have gotten some quality support :slight_smile: I wish I could say the same.
  2. Photon’s and P1 are originally BroadCom, then Cypress now made by USI, not by Particle. I would rather buy directly from the source, no middle man.
  3. Fleet management from Particle is nice and has value if you need it.
  4. OTA comes with lots of other platforms and in some cases is better implemented/supported than Particle’s.
  5. Superior performance only relates to what is needed. The Photon/P1 is a 120Mc ARM cortex M3, the TI and Node chips are slower but that matters only if you need computational speed. Get a TI CC3220 which compares pricewise with Photon and you’ll have an ARM M4 at 80Mc and more RAM/FLASH.

Not denying your experience nor opinions, just showing that there are better options than Photon/P1 for a given problem - it is always best to spend time to research your platform because you’ll be sinking in lots of time to make it all work and it is nasty to find out much later that there are … issues…


#21

Hi Joost -

Thank you for the comprehensive feedback;

I have indeed, both from Paticle directly as well as this forum. There are some users in here that has helped me a lot and I am sure I really pushed their patience to the limit :smiley: I am sorry to hear you have not had the same experience.

Hmm… Have you dealt with OEM manufacturers before? I my previous ±20 years of experience in IT (hardware) dealing with parts manufacturers abroad, especially OEM which it seems in this case you mentioned, is not ideal. That is, If they will even deal with you as and end user. I recall us trying to work with several, Foxconn being one of them as they manufactured the ECS boards and some other components we used at the time. In short, we had much more joy in dealing with ECS. Suppose if you are going to order 10 000’s of units on a very regular basis, it might be worth your while.

I fully agree…

I am aware of this yes. The original post though was choice between NodeMCU and Photon if I recall correctly. For me at least, the way I had to handle OTA was not as seamless as it is with Particle. Coming from Arduino and NodeMCU, I can only offer my humble opinion and that is that I am having much better success with Particle Photons, Xenon and Argon (on all fronts) than I have had over the last couple of years with NodeMCU (more specifically with ESP8266 chipset). Also the way the 3rd Gen devices handles mesh is far more stable than what I was able to achieve when using NoceMCU. I have to admit I did not try the NodeMCU with ESP32 chipset. Again, only my humble opinion and experience :slight_smile:

I appreciate the advice. As I mentioned, I am relatively new, so in my opinion, the “step up” from Arduino/NodeMCU to Particle was a good one for me. I have not explored any further than Particle as the modules seem more than capable of carrying the weight at the moment. I also prefer sticking to a single brand for as long as possible and can honestly say nothing but good things form my experiences in dealing (and using) with Particle.

Thanks @joost enjoying these discussions and and very eager to learn more… these help a ton!!


#22

The forum has been great, quite a few are absolute great contributors…

Hmm… Have you dealt with OEM manufacturers before? I my previous ±20 years of experience in IT
Ah yes you could say that :slight_smile: Been all over Asia, Europe as well as the USA for parts and manufacturing. For low quantities, nobody should do anything difficult with an OEM of course. 10K might not even be a good break for some parts. What I was pointing out is that the Photon platform is not made by Particle and can be directly obtained from a distributor such as AVNet, Digikey, Mouser - you name it. Getting it from Particle means the part has been ‘registered’ in their system. But if you need no fleet management or cloud functions, you could just get the part “directly” from the distributor.

I am working with the P1 and since Particle has had issues delivering this and IMHO has been unclear about what the delivery issues are, I have been considering other ways to get this part. I need no fleet management nor cloud functions.

I can only offer my humble opinion and that is that I am having much better success with Particle Photons, Xenon and Argon (on all fronts) than I have had over the last couple of years with NodeMCU (more specifically with ESP8266 chipset).
True, I have had not much joy with my (short brush) experience with the ESP8266. But the Photon has been a rocky road too; WiFI connectivity, memory limitations and WiFi noise creeping into analog input to name the most uncomfortable issues (for me).

The new devices have mesh and that is very interesting and compelling to work with - but the role out has been painful and I have wasted just too much time on making it work (year ago) - things may be much more stable now but I am no longer willing to try that all out.

I appreciate the advice. As I mentioned, I am relatively new, so in my opinion, the “step up” from Arduino/NodeMCU to Particle was a good one for me .

Completely understandable and recognizable - I had the same experience going Photon after Arduino, RedBear and some TI platforms. And I would probably still grab a photon if I need to do something quickly for a project whereby the device doesn’t matter much. But the platform is very limited in memory - try connect to AWS with TLS and there is just enough FLASH left to do not much more than temperature measurements. Some of the latest OSes gobble up so much RAM too, running an 2K FFT is difficult. But if any of that is not needed, the particle firmware is generally easy to get into as long as WiFi issues do not rear their ugly head again.

I also prefer sticking to a single brand for as long as possible

I left that a long time ago, been burned by that loyalty too much (sticking to Motorola CPUs/MPUs being the most painful experience in my life). But I would not swap out chips lightly either, they come with an entire infrastructure that is much more than just the chip. So writing code in the most portable way possible and documented for future self & team is my survival tactic. Changing chip sets is never easy and fun but easier with good coding habits.

Anyway, for now, you’re having a good time with the Photon - chears to that, and I will drink a good Belgium ale on your health tonight :smiley:


#23

@joost

Ah ok, I was not aware of this. I have been getting most of my components from DigiKey and RS Components, aside from Particle products that is. Good service so far in delivering products, but I must say, I think I would prefer dealing with Particle when it comes to returns etc. It took me about a month to get RS to understand they left out a component in one of my orders… they finally acknowledged and then sent me the wrong one instead :laughing:

I hope this has been resolved as I built couple of prototypes using Photon’s but if the project takes off I was considering P1 instead.

Fortunately I only recently acquired the 3rd gen devices for a project. ±10 Xenon’s and couple of Argon’s that need to work together to manage our mixing system in our Coffee Roastery. So far much smoother ride than when we tried this with NodeMCU+ESP8266 combo.

I am mostly posting data to Ubidots and seems to be without incident so far. I would guess the most strain I have put on a Photon was with a current sensor project where I am taking ±800 readings per second, calculating average and then publishing to Ubidots (1 per second) to get as close to “Real time data” as I can. Not sure if I can push it even further, but this seems to be sufficient for now.

I still have to learn this… haha. Being in tech for quite a bit of time I know there can be teething problems which I am ok to go through. I guess as long as I have an honest relationship with the supplier, I value that enough to stick. I agree with the rest… doing my best to learn C in a proper manner to avoid future challenges. Just so much to learn… C, Eagle, Fusion… :exploding_head:

As I mentioned I am quite new to IoT but an eager learner and enjoying this a lot, much more than IT. My responses to posts are in the hope to help ‘fellow newbies’ with some of the challenges I faced when starting. As you mentioned, nothing worse than waiting time on trying to make something work that just won’t do.

hahaha… thanks!!! Enjoy :beers:


#24

Can someone from Particle comment on this?