While we have looked at the Particle Photon as a developmental platform for maker IoT projects, Particle has other boards that may be useful in maker projects. In this post, we will look at these different boards and see what they can be used in.
The Argon is a Wi-Fi development system just like the Particle Photon, but it also has the capability to be used in a mesh network. The Argon is powered by a Nordic nRF52840 SoC which has a 64MHz 32-bit ARM core, 1MB of flash, 256KB of RAM, Bluetooth, 20 GPIO, DSP instructions, and an FPU, which is more than enough for most maker projects.
The Argon uses the ESP32 as a co-processor that supports 802.11n up to 150Mbps and allows for the creation of mesh networks, which can provide internet connectivity to any device in a mesh, even if only one device is physically connected to the internet. If your project needs mesh capabilities and use the Adafruit Feather specification (dimension and pin-out), then this is the ideal board.
Similar to the Argon, the Boron incorporates the Nordic nRF52840 SoC, which includes 1MB of flash, 256KB of RAM, and an ARM processor running at 64MHz. But instead of incorporating an ESP32 for Wi-Fi connectivity, the Boron integrates a u-blox SARA R410 LTE modem that allows for cellular networking. This is highly advantageous in applications that require an internet connection but are mounted in a remote environment with no access to Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The Boron also incorporates 20 GPIO, UART, I2C, SPI, DSP instructions, FPU, and cryptographic modules that enable for the creation of secure IoT projects and products.
If cellular and Wi-Fi technology is too much for a project and only mesh networking is required, then the Particle Xenon is the board for you. The Xenon is identical to the Argon and Boron with the inclusion of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC, but it does not include any internet connectivity bridge. However, by only having mesh capabilities, the cost of the Xenon is significantly less than the Argon and Boron, which makes it ideal for use in monitoring stations that need to send data to the cloud through a gateway (such as a single Argon or Boron device).
Like the Argon and Boron, the Xenon also integrates built-in battery charging circuitry, which makes connecting to an external Li-Po battery that much easier. Like all the other Photon boards, the Xenon is FCC, CE, and IC certified, so integrating the Xenon into commercial production is significantly easier thanks to the reduced chance of failing EMC tests.
The Electron is a small, cellular-enabled Particle board that is powered by an STM32F ARM Cortex M3 processor with 1MB of FLASH, 128KB RAM, 28 GPIO, and UART. What makes the Electron stand out is its miniature size of just 2 x 0.8 x 0.3 inches, all while having internet capabilities through the use of 3G, which costs $2.99 per device for 3MB of data per month, with additional data costing $0.40 per MB.
The Electron integrated multiple hardware features for handling Li-Po batteries, including the BQ24195 power management unit and a MAX17043 fuel gauge. If your project requires internet connectivity in a remote location, and you are looking for a very small profile, then the Electron may be the board for you.
Particle has released multiple boards this year thanks to the success of their cloud-based IoT solution. They have quickly become hugely popular because of their easy-to-use, fast-prototyping platforms with over-the-air programming and Arduino-like IDE.