Particle had a pretty darn exciting announcement this week — their latest series of devices available for pre-order have mesh networking built in! Here’s a summary of the new devices, along with some questions Zach Supalla, founder and CEO of Particle, was kind enough to answer for us!

The Particle Mesh board range and Zach Supalla

The new Particle Mesh board range and Zach Supalla, CEO and founder of Particle!

Particle’s new mesh devices create a local wireless mesh that other devices can join. They work together to “ensure that messages get where they’re going, and power products that aren’t possible or economically feasible with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity”. They actually use OpenThread, an open source implementation of Nest’s Thread® technology, as the foundation of their own Particle Mesh.

Particle Mesh features

Their devices are:

  • Able to focus on local messaging — got data you want to send between devices that doesn’t need to go over the web? Their mesh technology means it’ll be fast and reliable as it doesn’t need to go to the web! (I know some of my tech demos are going to really appreciate this)
  • Low powered — power devices with a battery without needing to worry too much that it’ll drain it like crazy.
  • Low cost — their devices are cheaper, so it’ll be easier for devs to buy a bunch and spread them around. No point in a mesh network of devices if they’re super expensive and Particle’s mesh boards are reasonably priced and provide a range of different feature sets, so you can buy a few with Wi-Fi connectivity, then a bunch with just BLE and connect them via mesh.
  • Still able to access the Particle cloud — all the devices come with Particle’s cloud network access, so you’ve got a solid way of connecting your devices to the net — a rather important part of the “Internet of Things”, right?
  • Compatible with Adafruit Feather — that’s Adafruit’s open-source ecosystem of dev kits and accessories.
  • All Bluetooth enabled!

The new device range

Particle Argon board

The Particle Argon

Argon

The Particle Argon is their Wi-Fi connected, Particle Mesh Gateway option and has:

  • 802.11 b/g/n support
  • 2.4 GHz up to 150 Mbps
  • Integrated onboard 2.4GHz antenna

Boron

Particle Boron Board

The Particle Boron

The Particle Boron is their LTE or 2G/3G connected, Particle Mesh Gateway option (similar to the Particle Electron). It comes in two variations, the LTE one and the 2G/3G one:

The LTE one has:

  • LTE CAT M1/ NB1 module with global hardware support
  • LTE M1 SIM support via Particle MVNO (US/Mexico only)
  • Dual SIM support (Nano 4FF and MFF2)

The 2G/3G one has:

  • HSPA/GSM with global hardware support
  • Global SIM support via Particle MVNO
  • Dual SIM support (Nano 4FF and MFF2)
Particle Xenon Board

The Particle Xenon

Xenon

Finally, the Particle Xenon is their mesh endpoint and network repeater option. You’d want a bunch of these low cost ones connected to sensors everywhere. It has:

  • On-board 2.4GHz mesh antenna
  • U.FL connector for external antenna

A few questions!

I had a few dev-focused questions for Zach Supalla, founder and CEO of Particle, here’s the info he had for us!

What’s the API like for the mesh boards? Is it just a few more calls to manage the mesh?

Zach: “Our 3rd-generation hardware builds upon the same foundation as our existing products – a foundation we call our Device OS & Device Cloud. That means the same programming style and APIs will be available on the Particle Mesh boards, with the addition of the newer mesh-related APIs. That includes things like local communication, dealing with battery-powered/partially offline devices, cloud network management (think your Wi-Fi’s admin portal) and more. So yes, same standard APIs + new ones for mesh accessible in the same calls Particle developers are already familiar with.”

Are there any new scenarios in particular you’re especially excited about that weren’t possible for developers to do with the non-mesh boards?

Zach: “Absolutely, mesh networking technology tackles some major challenges with building connected products — from reliability issues to network growth to power consumption to creating networks in places that before wasn’t possible. For example, when scaling a network across something like a park you would before have to place Wi-Fi or cellular gateways to capture sensor data at specific locations which can start to be costly with hardware, connectivity, and power consumption.”

“With Particle Mesh, you can extend your network through low-cost, low-power nodes that send the sensor data back to the gateways and then to the cloud.” — Zach Supalla

“Or, you can leverage the power of local network in places where connectivity is a challenge such as an industrial mine. You could build a sensor network that measures air quality and sends the data reliably to your above ground cellular gateway for mission critical information. If any node fails, the data stays safe and the network self-heals itself to the next nearest node.”

Will the new devices be appropriate to replace existing Particle Core/Photon/Electron boards? Or would developers likely want to use both in tandem?

Zach Supalla says that the Photon and Electron will still be sticking around:

“The new Particle Mesh family is the most advanced version of Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, built to be the next generation of Particle products. The Particle Photon and Electron will continue to be supported and manufactured.” — Zach Supalla

Is the API backwards compatible with older boards?

Zach: “Device OS makes it easy so that existing Wi-Fi and cellular products will require minimal configuration changes.”

A huge thank you to Zach Supalla for taking the time to answer some questions — and for all the amazing work he and the Particle team have done to bring developers some fantastic boards to begin their projects. If you’re keen to get your hands on some of these new Particle Mesh devices, head over to their website and put in a pre-order!

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