Particle devices are great for many applications. However, the there are some applications where the sensor nodes have to function on small batteries for months, if not years, or even be self-powered from ambient energy sources. Ultra low power BLE devices (such as Bluz, aka SparkLE) could address some of these use cases, but, still, they would not be a good fit for many others. For example, BLE is point-to-point protocol, thus has a limited range. BLE can’t form large mesh wireless networks (some proprietary solutions started to appear, but the standard BLE mesh protocol is yet to come).
On the other hand, Zigbee while successful in the M2M (Machine-to-Machine) applications, is not general enough due to siloed application profiles and is problematic for interfacing with the cloud.
This is where 6loWPAN mesh networking based on IEEE 802.15.4 fills the void. It’s ultra low power, provides robust, mid-range wireless mesh networking, and makes each sensor node individually IP-addressable. (For a good summary of 6loWPAN benefits, read this article: http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1278794).
I would like to get the community’s feedback about the usefulness of creating such 6loWPAN mesh “Particle compound” nodes. Specifically, the system would be composed of nodes which would self-form a wireless mesh network. The mesh would connect to the cloud via a IP gateway device, such as Photon or Electron (IP gateway could also be a non-Particle device, such as Rasperry Pi or Intel Edison). Each mesh node would show up in the Particle.io cloud as an independent core (just like a Photon) which could be interacted with and programmed over-the-air.
Each node could be powered by a battery or an energy harvesting board (configurable for solar, thermal, or EM field sources).
There are several versions of 6loWPAN implementation with the most dominant being Thread and Contiki. Since Thread is a closed-source implementation, I’d like to propose using Contiki which is fully open source and mature - it has had great traction in academia as well as in industry (via Thingsquare).
There are still a lot of technical questions and challenges to implementing such a solution since the two “operating systems” (ie. Particle and Contiki) would need to be fused together while preserving the overall functionality and system security. And, the wireless MCU’s we are looking have more constrained hardware resources than the Particle devices.
Please let me know if this new type of core would be useful to your projects and what would the the critical features you’d like to see.