Particle Mesh update — a note from the CEO

Because of my original orders, I managed to end up with 3 credits of $10, $20, and $30. Is it possible to combine them and use them on the same order?

If so, just out of curiosity, I added 3 Photons to my cart and found out your shipping cost would be $26 (to Canada). On my 3 total particle orders I’ve been hit with import fees every time averaging over $30. So that eats the entire $60 credit I’ve got. Considering I can buy particle hardware from digikey and get free shipping and no import fees, it will be impossible to get any value out of that $60 in credits you sent me. Is there anything Particle can do to help with that?

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Sorry, I meant exactly this.

Well, you are not bricking them yet but essentially after 2020, because they will be seriously disadvantaged. Anyone who wants to continue operating their Meshs will be stuck at firmware 1.6 without any further updates, because one will lose Mesh capabilities beyond 1.6. Furthermore, any device that would malfunction because of a hardware fault cannot be replace anymore from 2021 onwards. So basically, the state of any existing Mesh will be “frozen” at 1.6 at the firmware level, and in terms of Mesh configuration at the end of the year. So, technically you are right, you are not bricking them, but essentially locking them in the parking lot. Also, it remains unclear, to me at least, if functions like Particle.publish will still be available in Xenons after 2020 for those still-existing, unfortunate Mesh networks.

@zach, WOW. Talk about kissing your sister. I have just been reading all of the replies and still trying to digest the whole thing. I do not even want to think about the money I spent on developing my idea.

If you really want to get sick to your stomach, think about the hours wasted. @ScruffR, @rickkas7, @peekay123, the hours you guys have spent fixing problems and supporting the platform, THANK YOU.

All the frustration will not change the fact of what is happening. But maybe @will can explain something to me. I do not recall being sold on a “chance” this whole thing was going to work. It was billed as already working, even way back before you could buy the stuff. Even though you might have scrubbed your site, there is still plenty out there.

“In the six years we’ve been supporting IoT creators, we’re honored to have helped more than 150,000 creators bring their products online–and learned a lot about the toughest problems that innovators encounter,” said Zach Supalla, Particle co-founder and CEO. “We built Particle Mesh to address a gap in the market: building local networks to connect IoT products to each other without being a networking guru. We’re excited to see what problems our customers solve with this new technology.”

Then, when it did not work as advertised, we were told to be patient and that you would get it working. Now after all this time and all the money, you gave up. Well shame on you. I hope the next time I go to buy a car, they don’t promise me that the engine will run,only to find out it doesn’t. Then they next tell me they will fix it and finally they just pull the plug on my new car. But hey, at least I will get a credit to buy more of their stuff even though now I am not sure if I really want it.

You guys made some pretty tall promises and you took our money in the process. Just because you have now changed your policy does not change the past. I think you might find you could be on the hook for more then some crummy store credits.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
(Chinese Proverb)

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It’s great that you have a Product Lifecycle Policy, it would increase trust greatly to include a minimum amount of time that a lifecycle phase would have in depreciation before end of support and life.

E.g.:

  • Beta -> Deprecated -(minimum of a year)-> End of Support -(minimum of 6 months)-> End of Life
  • GA -> Deprecated -(minimum of three years)-> End of Support -(minimum of two years)-> End of Life

Also including what products are at what phase on the page would make it easier than trying to track down that information elsewhere.

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Hello @zach

I’m amongst the luckier ones, who didn’t invest that much into your mesh solution as others: we are iterating prototypes and there are a few test deployments with certain customers. But it is still the central part of our product vision…

You wrote:

We will continue to develop and support our flagship cellular (Boron) and Wi-Fi (Argon) product lines, and will continue to invest in our Bluetooth Low Energy support for local communications between devices.

On the other hand, the current BLE documentation (https://docs.particle.io/tutorials/device-os/bluetooth-le/) states:

Particle devices do not support Bluetooth 5 mesh.

Do you plan to support it? Or something equivalent? If yes, because now you have time to do it, how is the roadmap?
I’d like to get a clear answer here: 2 months, or 2 years, or it is not on the map. I need to know whether I can wait for you to provide it, or I’ll have to solve it for myself.

I know, that this will not allow OTA update, but at least the functionality of mesh data communication could be provided.

I wonder if the infusion of $20 million in venture funding changed the dynamics? I can hear the VC’s asking why so much money is being spent on MESH development when their finance spreadsheet doesn’t show a big impact on revenue and profitability as a result of providing this capability. New people in charge…

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I am torn by all the great support I received both on this forum and Particle. It expended my skill set and made me a better engineer. So I bought more devices.
Now it feels like Particle has less patience than it’s own customers. The Xenon has been out just over a year. I don’t have all the market data, but I imagine it takes more than a year to start making money with these products. Because that’s what it always comes down to.
Particle wants to make a “just works” product and is willing to lose the trust of all its users. Seems like a contradiction to me.
Why not lower the bar for getting revenue, such as 3 or 5 nodes on a Mesh instead of 10? How about less than 10 networks?
I value your cloud services. I agree you can’t make money on hardware with the market flooded by 8266 and esp32s. So why not leverage your cloud on other hardware, like others mentioned?
I hope you have done more research for the decision to kill the Xenon than you have done to introduce it. Maybe you are correct because after two days, there are only 80 replies to this thread. A few others have started, but I was expecting a flood. Hmmm…

I hope the presentation today focuses on what I will be able to do with the Xenon and also how it impacts the Argon and Boron. I think those other devices depreciated as well.

Glad to have a chance to address this; absolutely not the case. Particle has been venture backed since the very beginning; there has been no change of ownership or change of perspective that would change our opinion on how we build our business.

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Our devices are embedded inside products that will be in the market for many years, and we intend to stock and manufacture these devices as long as there is demand for them.

The differences between Gen 2 and Gen 3 are more significant than you might suggest. Besides a change in form factor, our Gen 3 products are powered by an entirely different microcontroller (the Nordic nRF52840) that provides more resources, a Cortex M4 processer (rather than a Cortex M3 in the Photon/Electron), and wider radio support (BLE and NFC).

We intend to maintain both the Gen 2 product lines (Photon/Electron) and the Gen 3 product lines (Argon/Boron) because both are actively deployed in real products. New products being developed today should use Gen 3 because it is the latest and greatest.

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You’re right that it would take longer than one year to build a business off of a product like this one. Which is why I hope it’s clear that this decision was driven by technology gaps – the challenge of fully abstracting the complexity of mesh networking combined with the fact that 2.4Ghz mesh networking was not the right fit for most customers – rather than monetization problems.

I’m glad you’ve gotten great support here in the forums and from Particle directly; I hope that convinces you to stick with us!

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This is a very important point. I have found that on occasion keys got corrupted or something else happened which required some kind of auth with the upstream Particle cloud. It would be good to get guarantees about this serviceability into the future.

I had similar thoughts. Thanks for articulating this so clearly. The mesh is very important to a core group of us, and while technically BLE might be able to satisfy our need we really don’t want to reinvent the wheel. If Particle can commit to minimum support to keep Xenons alive and kicking in their current form, and perhaps have a small lib so that <=v1.6 can still effortlessly communicate via BLE with >v1.6 that might provide 99% of the functionality for 1% of the effort.

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I have been an engineer and developer for more than 30 years in many industries and many embedded devices. I purchased my first Spark Core in 2013 when when I discovered they were onto something special. Building in all the pieces hardware, firmware, tools, services and a dynamic and responsive support group for one powerful little device. So too were the Photon and Electron milestone devices. It was with great expectations when the 3rd Gen with Mesh was introduced in the fall of 2018. The Mesh capability was the shining star that set Particle apart from all the others. During previous year I and many others were experimenting with nRF24L01 to build out our own low powered networks. Particle took the bold step and built an amazing Mesh family with the means to reach the last 100 meters of our distributed networks. As a young company there were teething pains and I’m sure they have grown a lot in the past couple of years. I am constantly impressed by the dedication of all the support people that respond almost immediately to the broad range of questions. It is incredibly difficult to handle questions from a broad range of developers from newbie hacker to experienced professional. No product can be all things to all customers. I know Particle realizes that there should have a great deal more testing with a range of customers both large and small. For the first six months of 2019, there was a lot of catch up to fix a lot of problems and stability issues. Then somewhere around June or July the stability improved, releases came more regularly, the bugs were getting squashed. I found my application uptime was consistency high. Everything was great. Then came the news from Zach and the Xenon deprecation. It hit me like a ton of bricks. What was wrong? They had surmounted the great obstacles. The finish line was in sight. I would really like to know why the Xenon was considered technically unsupportable. Was it because they didn’t think OpenSource was going to be a major standard? Were there complaints from customers that were expecting kilometer transmission ranges? My suggestion for what it is worth is that they should have defined as clear a specification as possible what Xenon will and will not do. Is it possible to use it in a noisy industrial application? Perhaps not. It is what it is for now. It would be better to iterate and come out with a version 2.0 in 2 years that addresses the problems that are discovered in the field. I too hope that Particle will do what is in the best interests of the many Mesh developers and maintain as much of the Xenon support as possible.

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My understanding is that yes, removing the mesh functionality will free up some user space. But I don’t currently know how much that is.

Your situation is similar to mine. My conclusion is identical to yours…

This was asked during the livestream but not answered.

“Xenon Mesh has a been totally successful technical solution for my application. Who are these customers that are having problems? Perhaps they have unrealistic expectations? Did Particle’s clearly specify what those capabilities and limitations are? Did they do the field testing to characterize the devices and ranges and environments? “It just works” is not a specification, it’s marketing speak. That’s Particle’s fault for not being clear. BTW - Expecting Mesh to work through a refrigerator wall (assuming it’s metal) is unrealistic and Particle needed to make it clear that the mesh does not support ALL use cases. That’s the problem with trying please everyone. You end up pleasing no one.”

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@zach attended the live Q&A. Thank you for hosting it.

There were a bunch of questions posted but it was mentioned that all questions were anwsered. I am assuming they were not seen and we also sort of ran out of time. Here are the questions I posted on the live Q&A stream.

  • With regards to “some of us may not be networking experts”, that is true. However, those who need mesh badly enough will put the time and effort to figure this out or companies may even hire specifically to implement this internally. This will definitely help those who want mesh and will probably help mesh mature in the event Particle revisits mesh in the future.
  • In addition, those who bought Gen 3 units are now paying for hardware that now cannot be used. To me this is a problem. Any considerations of a price adjustment with this feature cut? Now some may regret their decision and wished they bought an electron or photon instead.
  • With regards to it not being the correct technology, I honestly do not buy that. The wireless technology may have limitations and It may not fit some use cases but having the ability an option to do so is much better than having no option. Especially coming for a product that pitches itself as a platform. Not all users will use all features on a platform, only those that are needed. In addition, the mesh management techniques, user flow will probably carry forward regardless of what wireless technology is used. You brought up using BLE for small micro networks, this is fine but what if we now have applications that need both BLE and micro networks simultaneously? With the deprecation of an option you now hinder the flexibility of the platform in general.
  • I am an enterprise customer and I signed numbers for all 3 Argon, Boron and Xenon units. Now that mesh is gone, what will happen to my commitment numbers. Deprecation of mesh will now affect all numbers for all Gen3 skews.
  • Any comments on bundling mesh into a 3rd party particle library? I brought this up a few posts ago:

One more point I would like to bring up in the live stream. You also mentioned the main focus of mesh was creating large networks over large range and then short 10m range of 2.4Ghz was not sufficient. This is the “ideal” and perfect scenario I agree. However, I see mesh at the moment as more of a cost saving solution. In the event I want a small number of devices (e.g. 5-10) connected out doors in close proximity, mesh solved the problem. With out it now I would have to purchase 5-10 Argons and Borons which are almost double or quadruple the price in terms of hardware. Our goal was to perhaps sell bundled pre configured sets of meshed 2-5 units to customers as a cheaper alternative then buying each gate way skew of the product.

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This was kind of my thought of the Mesh implementation all along. For indoor use, if the area isn’t already covered by WiFI, it’s just not that hard or expensive to install a router. For outdoor use, if you’re talking about a small (up to 10) device setup with 5-10m range between devices, a single WiFi router will easily give you more range than the particle mesh would have.

So the only difference is cost as you say. But if we’re talking about a max $10 difference between a Xenon and an Argon and $100 for the router (if needed), it’s a $200 difference in hardware. That’s not even a rounding error on the installation cost for such a setup, let alone the R&D for the project. So IMO, the cost savings using Mesh is meaningless.

I also don’t understand why, if their goal was large networks over large range they would use devices with such radio limited range. Not to mention if they were talking about 100 node networks from day one of their pre-order announcement, they chose a chip that their earliest proof of concept test would have shown them didn’t realistically have the memory to go much beyond a 10 node network. If this was their end goal, they must have known they’d chosen the wrong technology before they ever announced the product.

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Yup this is the ideal and perfect scenario. For areas with bad connectivity. We have customers like this as well and we agree.

The cost between Argon and Xenons are the best case scenario. Yes its $10 USD, for Canadians its x1.3 so its about 13~14 and for other parts of the world it maybe more. In addition if you buy the trays, they do not come with an antenna which is needed for WiFi and Cellular. WiFi antenna being an additional $5.90USD and and cellular antennas around $9.80 USD. Installing a router is by no means expensive, and like I said is the best case scenario. Even looking at the base case scenario, certain routers have bandwidth capacity and can also only take up so many concurrent connections. If I am installing 100 of these devices with packages of 5 meshes, this gives me 25 simutanous connections verses 100. Now scale this up even more. 5 was an example but it could be batches of 10. In addition, if the customer is a corporate, business or company, additional WiFi router installations may also need to involve their IT services. Now if we take a look at the cost of cellular, where is close to $55-$60 USD per cellular device (excluding antenna), this becomes more significant when scaling over large numbers.

I agree cost savings may not be the main and absolute goal but to us it is another reason for mesh and another way to look into how it can be utalized.

And this is now another part of the huge problem people will have using particle at all in the future. Using Particle infrastructure for products that should be in use for many years means any company that relies on you is literally betting their entire existence on you. And you’ve now shown that you’re quite willing to pull the rug out from under people who have invest huge amounts of money and effort in your system.

You’re going to lose a lot of customers and potential customers over this, and the fallout will be huge for you. So even for a customer who is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and figure you’ve learned a lesson and won’t let it happen again, you also have to reassure them that particle will survive the fallout from this. Will there even be a Particle cloud at all in 3 years after the hit you’re going to take over this? You’re going to have to do a lot to convince people there will be.

And it’s a different market than it was 2 years ago when you launched mesh. There’s a lot more good alternatives than there were 2 years ago, and many have a lot more flexibility in terms of not being so locked into an ecosystem. All of which just raises more doubt in a company that has to be their survival on you.

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