ESP8266 – Cheap WiFi for your IoT

About a month ago, hackaday.com broke the news of a new Wifi chip called ESP8266 that costs about $5. This wireless system on a chip (SoC) took all the IoT heads (including me) by surprise. Until now if you wanted to integrate wifi to any DIY project you had to use more expensive solutions. To put this into perspective, my first wifi Arduino shield was about $99!

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So I ordered a few of them (I think I’m up to 10 now!) and went to test the possibilities. I came up with a simple Instructable to show how can you log a room temperature to the Cloud. I used an Arduino to do this, but one of the most amazing things about this chip is that you can use it as stand alone! Right now documentation is sparse, but I was able to compile the source code using a gcc compiler toolchain created by the new esp8266 community.

But why is this important to you even if you haven’t dabble with DIY electronics? Well this chip comes from China and even though it doesn’t have an FCC stamp of  approval (yet), it signals the things about to come. This is what I call the Internet of Things r(evolution). Prices of these chips are at a historical low, and soon we will see more and more products connecting to the Internet/Cloud. From light switches, light bulbs, to washer machines, dishwashers. Anything that needs to be turned on or off could potentially have one of these. Anything that can collect data like thermostats, smoke detectors etc. could also potentially have it.

So you scared or will you welcome our new internet overlords?

4 comments

  1. I am curious whether it will be mandatory to alert consumers when purchasing devices/appliances/etc which connect to the internet? Will consumers be aware that their dishwasher usage patterns are being collected by Whirlpool? Or that their energy usage can be tracked by GE?

  2. @Joyce: The appliances still need to connect to a wifi network, presumably the homeowner’s. So, it’s opt-in, not opt-out.

  3. @Jake: How secure/unhackable will these devices be? Also, I remember reading somewhere about how photocopy machines have a way to alert the government/track someone who is trying to photocopy/counterfeit US currency. I wonder if something similar will be implemented in appliances so the gov’t can be alerted if you are using your appliance for an illegal activity? To use BB as an example, if you are using your trailer home to cook meth?

  4. @Joyce: No simple answer, given the myriad of applications. The ESP chip won’t be the only failure point.

    Re. surveillance, yeah, that’s a thing. Privacy is a myth anyway.

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