Particle Mesh update — a note from the CEO

I agree!

seems like there is now an emphasis on giving customers “what they need” so maybe a 4g LTE modem that’s not Cat M1 /NB-IoT variant that works with t-mobile and/or at&t in u.s.a. 3g is eventually going to die.

I understand your frustration with this announcement and am not seeking to minimize it, but want to be sure to clarify that we will continue to support OTA for Xenons indefinitely for Device OS v1.6.X and earlier.

In other words, we’re not “turning off” features for Xenons but are stopping new device production and new Mesh network activation after Dec 2020.

That’s exactly right – we’re refocusing on our core cellular roadmap which includes creating LTE-compatible transition paths from 2G/3G in markets where LTE M1/NB1 is already reliably deployed. Expect new announcements to this end at our Spectra event in late April 2020.

Is the recording already available? If yes, where could I find it. If no, when do you think will it be available?

We are finishing processing the video early this week and will make it available via the forums and a blog post later this week if things go smoothly

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Quick Question: If I “claim” a Xenon and setup a network connection to an Argon/Boron with a Network selection and then wish to move the Xenon to another network (another Argon/Boron) will I be able to do this after the end of this year?

I get not being able to “claim” new devices past this year but what about moving current Xenons around.

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I’m an embedded and application software engineer, but have only used Particle’s products for various hobby projects. I’d like to comment on what’s happened here, and ask a few questions I’d like replied to from someone at the company.

Note that I have a handful of working systems running Photons, and had bought a bunch of Argons/Xenons in anticipation of exploring Mesh and Ble support, but hadn’t got around to using them yet (thankfully).

First off, let me say that I had been very impressed by the combination of functionality, stability, and ease of use, particularly with the cloud software and how it integrates with a user’s application, as well as the fact that it’s all open source, and reasonably priced hardware.

Up to now, Particle had done an excellent job of making developing IOT projects that connect to the cloud accessible for people that are not experienced embedded engineers, while charting a path to scaling that to enterprise level product lines.

However, two thing have happened that have really made me reevaluate their value proposition:

  1. The roll out of Gen3 it came with what appears to have been a major reduction in backward compatibility and stability. Trying to update some Photons with pretty old firmware has caused the boards to exhibit the most bizarre behavior, including apparent CPU lockups. After reviewing the support issues, I believe I was hitting the Wifi and/or EEPROM issues I see confirmed as issues. I’m waiting for these issues to be resolved before continuing.

This had never happened (to me) before on this hardware, and reading the root causes of these issues does not reassure me as to the underlying quality of the firmware, which seems to lack an overall architecture for handling concurrency and insuring atomic access to various devices. The approach to dealing with multiple threads in particular seems to have been designed in an ad-hoc way that is almost guaranteed to cause issues in the future.

  1. The cancellation of the Xenon and Mesh. As an engineer for over 40 years I understand how such decisions can be made, and what they typically mean. It’s clear that the rollout of Mesh networking was premature, and it was over-hyped, and is the mark of immature engineering and/or over ambitious management.

But the decision to completely abandon then entire system also seems to be sort sighted, and could very well indicate more problems at the company then is being communicated. Pointedly, I can’t help but conclude that this decision will be far more momentous than management imagines, and is really shooting yourself in the foot.

Simply put, this severely damages your reputation. While hardware stability issues can be fixed, they must be done in a timely manor, and I see many people complaining that that is not true. But canceling an entire product that comprised an essential differentiator for your company will perhaps be seen retroactively as a major mistake.

What this does is destroying your low-end market, and force anyone with any interest in doing mesh or Ble communications to look elsewhere, while at the same time making anyone with real commercial interests to reevaluate their reliance on both your hardware products or private cloud software.

What it does seem to indicate is that you are determined to focus on the higher end cellular in particular. But your system is tied to your hardware, and your cloud, and that I think is a real problem for a lot of enterprise level businesses. It’s a great deal for the hobbyist, and the small IOT business, but any serious company is going to have to have a backup plan since they cannot count on your continued support.

So the questions I have are:

  1. Why couldn’t the company of kept support for the Xenon and simply downgraded expectations of full arbitrary mesh support to something like a simple star configuration, which might have satisfied most peoples’ need for local communications?

  2. What assurances do we now have that Ble support won’t be disconnected at this point, since, in my understanding, it’s not really needed anymore for the market you’re aiming for?

Thanks for reading, and I do wish Particle all the best.

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Interesting update, very interesting comments.

  • Using Particle cloud in particular is a business risk. It would be good if Particle offered support for BYO Cloud, ie Google or AWS and then Particle could be connected as a pub/sub client for OTA etc. At minimum a way that you can remotely change a device’s cloud to be your own version of spark server, ie https://github.com/Brewskey/spark-server, as that may satisfy due diligence for exposure to strategic/technical/business decisions by Particle. Spark Server was originally maintained and positioned as the “don’t worry, you’re safeguarded” so it’d be good to see active maintenance of that and a way to dynamically switch devices remotely between cloud servers. That would engender some more confidence in the platform horizon.

  • I do worry just like mesh that chasing cellular is another shiny stone. It’s pretty high risk in a relatively congested overseas marketplace, so no doubt it’ll be go go go to achieve headway. There were solid comments re code stability of the core range of P1/Photons that have massively suffered in the haste to get gen3 going. I’d ask for serious consideration of Long Term Support trains for P1/Photon so the significant issues with code review and bugs don’t continue. It’s not a 3 legged race, the priority for deployed P1 IOT devices is stability.

  • It really isn’t clear who or what Particle’s customer segment is. There seems to be a disconnect with accurately servicing current customers in terms of logistics, customer support and platform stability. It was originally hobby’ists, then natural progression to folk who commercialise and sell ~1-10k devices P/A, then mystery use case mesh customers, and now another niche segment with folk who are happy to pay mobile network access fees for their device. I’d have thought a solid business could be built doing the basics well with servicing what I presume is a large P1 customer base. It’d be interesting to know the volume and use case characteristics that Particle are prioritising so prospective customers can make an informed decision as to whether it’s a mutual fit.

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So much for going to the moon with Particle

image

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Scale input: If a company is serving a chain of locations outside US with mobile devices, today Particle is out of the picture, as that last location loosing the contract is out of coverage of the one operator supported for that country.

You would loose the contract to those guys with the 4G Cat 1 + 2G/3G fallback solution, with an e-sim that actually cover most operators in most countries.

I’m not surprised at all about the decision to discontinue support for MESH. I don’t think the Xenon’s should be discontinued however, they could still be used as very inexpensive and very good BT and NFC devices. I have a small network of devices setup doing some home automation stuff. For the most part things have gone pretty well with a few kinks but nothing major. It did make me wonder how a company with a large deployment of mesh devices would faire with these same kinks and quirks? I’ve watched along in the community at the posts of different problems that folks were encountering. It’s obvious that the Mesh was not ready for PrimeTime yet. That, coupled with the analysis after being out for a while of how folks were using it and the amount of time, money, and resources that would be needed to over come the hurdles and really make it great… I could really see how that could be an even worse blow for Particle than the decision to call it quits. It’s unfortunately a business decision you sometimes are faced with. I can’t blame Particle one bit, although a bit disappointing, but I completely see their end of it. At least for me I have enough Argons and Borons already to replace all of my Xenons. I know those who have large scale commercial products are really going to suffer. I have a project going to make some digital machine counters and was going mesh but I can easily switch that up and do all WiFi with Argons. I wish everyone the best! I’m still a big particle fan and look forward to what’s in store for the future. :slight_smile:

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Please forgive but a silly off topic comment: I’ve always wondered what “… and do the other things” meant. I’m not even sure if I ever got an answer even from Google! I’m old enough to actually have heard this speech live but still don’t have a clue what the other things were…
:slight_smile: philly

@will Just checking in to see if the video of this webcast is available yet.

It is :slight_smile:

https://blog.particle.io/2020/01/28/mesh-deprecation/

Any chance of a guide for mesh to BLE code conversion?

Have you looked at this topic? Library for creating a local group of devices using BLE

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@armor Looks interesting, thanks for sending. But looks like there’s a limit of 3-4 devices per net, do you of any way of adding more?

You need to read to the end of the thread!!

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And the BLE connection seems devoid of any security?