Top 10 IoT Development Boards for Building IoT Projects in 2019

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We live in a connected world where things are becoming smarter day by day. Today, I can control almost all appliances like fans, and lights of my home remotely from anywhere using my mobile phone. Or I can even connect my Amazon Alexa to make everything voice-activated. All this is possible with the amazing development in IoT. We have compiled a list of top 10 IoT development boards you can use to quickly prototype your IoT ideas.

With the ever-growing popularity in the IoT domain and competition to build ready to use IoT development board which requires minimal effort to build an end-to-end IoT product is also growing very fast. In our earlier article on Building Block of IoT Product, we had discussed various core components in building an end to end IoT product. In this article, we are covering the top 10 IoT development boards that can be used to build IoT prototype very fast. These boards are designed for the purpose to ease IoT development for beginners. Below is the list of popular and top 10 DIY boards for building IoT projects.

10. Onion Omega2

Onion Omega is an ultra-affordable, modular IoT development board. The newest and most popular version Omega2, which runs Linux, is so tiny that it can easily fit into your DIY project or commercial product. It is less than 1/4 the size of the Raspberry Pi, and less than 1/3 the size of the Arduino Uno. The Omega2 has integrated Wi-Fi and on-board flash storage. This means that it springs to life the moment you power it on. You don’t have to worry about buying Wi-Fi dongles or installing operating system images onto external SD cards. All this at a cost of $5.

omega-onion-pinout - Top 10 IoT Development Boards 

9. RAK Wireless WisLink Cellular BG96 Shield

RAK wireless is gaining immense popularity by offering a wide range of IoT development boards along with middleware and cloud service. Not just development boards but they also offer OEM ready products as well which can be embedded into any commercial IoT product. WisLink cellular BG96 is an Arduino compatible shield with Quectel BG96 and Qualcomm MDM9206 LTE modem chipset at its core. It simultaneously supports the tree cellular standards – 2G/EGPRS, 4G LTE Cat-M1, CAT-NB (NBIoT) as well as GPS. 

Rak Wireless WisLink BG96 - Top 10 IoT Development Boards

8. Raspberry Pi 4 Model B

A new addition to Raspberry family, the Raspberry Pi 4 Model B is another popular development board for learning computers and building IoT projects. It offers ground-breaking increases in processor speed, multimedia performance, memory, and connectivity compared to the prior-generation Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+, while retaining backward compatibility and similar power consumption. For the end-user, Raspberry Pi 4 Model B provides desktop performance comparable to entry-level x86 PC systems.

Pi 4 Model B key features include a high-performance 64-bit quad-core processor, dual-display support at resolutions up to 4K via a pair of micro-HDMI ports, hardware video decode at up to 4Kp60, up to 4GB of RAM, dual-band 2.4/5.0 GHz wireless LAN, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, and PoE capability (via a separate PoE HAT add-on). The dual-band wireless LAN and Bluetooth have modular compliance certification, allowing the board to be designed into end products with significantly reduced compliance testing, improving both cost and time to market.

Starting at just 35$, this one of the best boards to start learning electronics and programming. For beginners, it is highly recommended to use a raspberry pi board for your first IoT project. It is easy to use, affordable, has very good documentation, and immense support from large communities around the globe.

raspberry pi 4 model b - Top 10 IoT Development Boards

7. Intel Edison

Intel Edison is a small-sized compute module capable of running a full Linux distribution that intended to empower the next generation of wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, where size and power consumption are important factors to consider. Intel Edison comes with a dual-core dual-threaded Intel® Atom™ CPU at 500 MHz and a 32-bit Intel® Quark™ microcontroller at 100 MHz. The available memory is 1GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. Onboard WiFi and Bluetooth are present. It has 1 USB OTG controller and all the interfaces that a maker can dream of, including UART, I2C, SPI, I2S, GPIO, and SD Card support which makes it ideal for building any IoT project.

Intel Edison comes in a package with a 70 pin connector, this is difficult to use directly. For easy prototyping, Intel has made two breakout boards available to developers. One breakout board is compatible with Arduino and another one is smaller than the Arduino although slightly larger than the Edison module itself. The first board has I/O pins compatible with Arduino Uno (except 4 PWM instead of 6 PWM), 20 digital input/output pins (including 4 pins as PWM outputs). It offers 6 analog inputs, UART (Rx/Tx), I2C, ICSP 6-pin header (SPI), and a Micro USB or dedicated standard size USB host Type-A connector. The second board has a minimal set of features including exposing the native 1.8 V I/O of the Edison module, 0.1-inch grid I/O array of through-hole solder points, USB OTG with USB Micro Type-AB connector and a USB OTG power switch. There are a battery charger and a USB to device UART bridge with USB micro Type-B connector.

Apart from this Intel has offered a wide range of libraries, software, and IDE to support the developer community in building IoT projects using Edison using their language of choice. 


6. Adafruit FONA and Adafruit Feather M0 IoT Boards

Adafruit FONA is a $39 cellular board for IoT development. The great thing about FONA is – this module measures only 1.75″x1.25″ but packs a surprising amount of technology into its little frame. The GSM cellular module uses the latest SIM800 and supports Quad-band 850/900/1800/1900MHz for global cellular connection. It has an Onboard LiPoly battery charging circuitry so you can take your project on the go. Use any 500mAh+ LiPoly or LiIon battery and recharge over the MicroUSB when necessary. This board requires a microcontroller to drive it. An Arduino with a UART can send and receive commands over the RX/TX pins.

Adafruit Feather M0 WiFi w/ATWINC1500 is the new development board from Adafruit, and like its namesake, it is thin and lightweight. It is ‘all-in-one’ Arduino-compatible + high speed, reliable WiFi board with built-in USB and battery charging. At the Feather M0’s heart is an ATSAMD21G18 ARM Cortex M0 processor, clocked at 48 MHz and at 3.3V logic. This chip has a whopping 256K of FLASH (8x more than the Atmega328 or 32u4) and 32K of RAM (16x as much)! This chip comes with built-in USB so it has USB-to-Serial program & debug capability built-in with no need for an FTDI-like chip. 

5. ESP8266

ESP8266 is a low cost, Wi-Fi enabled system on chip (SoC) module developed by Espressif system. It is one of the most used boards for the development of IoT projects. It integrates a 32-bit Tensilica microcontroller, standard digital peripheral interfaces, antenna switches, RF balun, power amplifier, low noise receive amplifier, filters, and power management modules into a small package.

It provides capabilities for 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n, supporting WPA/WPA2), general-purpose input/output (16 GPIO), Inter-Integrated Circuit (I²C), analog-to-digital conversion (10-bit ADC), Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI), I²S interfaces with DMA (sharing pins with GPIO), UART (on dedicated pins, plus a transmit-only UART can be enabled on GPIO2), and pulse-width modulation (PWM).

The processor core, called “L106” by Espressif, is based on Tensilica’s Diamond Standard 106Micro 32-bit processor controller core and runs at 80 MHz (or overclocked to 160 MHz). It has a 64 KiB boot ROM, 32 KiB instruction RAM, and 80 KiB user data RAM. (Also, 32  KiB instruction cache RAM and 16 KiB ETS system data RAM.) External flash memory can be accessed through SPI. 

ESP8266 is essentially an embedded module but it comes along with a wide range of development boards. The most common in the NodeMCU development board.

4. Pycom IoT Boards

Pycom is a new age development board for building IoT solutions. It is MicroPython enabled IoT development board, originally created by Fred de Haro, which became popular during a Kickstarter campaign. Pycom is the only company that has put IoT communication at the center of its development. Pycom has launched 6 IoT development boards in total from its first launch of WiPy in late 2015 which had only wifi and Bluetooth support. Today Pycom has FiPy IoT development board which supports a total of 5 communication options in a single board. FiPy is the only available IoT development board in the market today which has 5 selectable communication options – Wifi, LTE-CAT M, Bluetooth, Sigfox, LoRa. 

Pycom also provides software and cloud services like the PyMakr plugin for sublime, atom, visual studio, IntelliJ, etc. IDEs. PyBytes, a middleware platform available for all Pycom development boards, modules, and IoT products based on those. PayMate, a widget-based mobile app for managing all Pycom board from mobile.

FiPy development board

3. Particle IoT Boards

Particle is also a new age IoT company which is building end to end solution for IoT domain. Particle provides development board, OEM modules, IoT Sim, connectivity suite, and cloud services all under one umbrella. 

Particle has built a wide range of IoT development boards namely – Photon, Electron, and Particle Mesh (Argon, Boron, and Xenon). Photon is a Wifi board consists of an STM32 microcontroller, Switches, I/O ports, and LEDs. Electron is a 3G cellular board electronics which has an STM32F205 ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller and 1MB Flash, 128K RAM. It comes with a Particle SIM card with service in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Particle Mesh is backed by the Argon (Wifi, Bluetooth, Mesh), the Boron (LTE, Bluetooth, Mesh), and the Xenon (Bluetooth, Mesh), which allow you to create a powerful network of mesh over cellular connectivity gateway or wifi connectivity gateway. Xenon acts as the mesh device which is connected to sensors. Multiple Xenon devices form a mesh network that runs on an open mesh networking standard released by the Thread Group. Finally, the mesh network is connected to either Wifi (Argon) or Cellular (Boron) gateway to take it online.

particle mesh

Particle Mesh (Argon, Boron, Xenon)

2. Arduino Nano 33 IoT

Out of all new boards launched by Arduino at Maker Faire event, Arduino Nano 33 IoT is specifically designed for IoT use cases in mind where form factor is a concern. The new Arduino Nano 33 IoT is based around a Microchip ATSAMD21 Arm Cortex-M0+ processor, with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE provided by an onboard Espressif ESP32 in the form of a u-blox NINA-W102 module. The board also comes with 9-axis IMU and a crypto chip to securely store certificates and pre-shared keys and is compatible with the new Arduino IoT Cloud. Also, it only costs around 18$ and available for order at the Arduino store.

Arduino Nano 33 IoT

Arduino Nano 33 IoT

1. Arduino MKR Series IoT Boards 

Arduino, the most used and most popular board for electronics development has killed it with its MKR family board. Arduino has launched 5 new development kits with in-built connectivity to ease the development of connected hardware products. These include Arduino MKR 1400 with cellular, Arduino MKR Fox 1200 with SigFox, Arduino MKR WAN 1300 with LoRA, Arduino MKR WIFI 1010 with Wifi and Arduino MKR NB 1500 with NB-IoT. 

MKR GSM 1400 combines the functionality of Arduino Zero and global GSM connectivity. The GSM module attached to the board supports GSM’s range 880/915 MHz. MKR FOX 1200 combines the functionality of Arduino Zero and SigFox connectivity. It is the ideal solution for makers wanting to design IoT projects with minimal previous experience in networking having a low power device. MKR WAN 1300 combines the functionality of Arduino Zero and LoRa connectivity. It has been designed to offer a practical and cost-effective solution for makers seeking to add Lo-Ra connectivity to their projects with minimal previous experience in networking. MKR WIFI 1010 combines the functionality of Arduino Zero and Wifi. It has an ESP32 wifi module made by U-BLOX which provides a significant improvement over MKR WIFI 1000 board in terms of prototyping and low power consumption. MKR NB 1400 adds Narrow Band communication to your project. It’s the perfect choice for devices in remote locations without an Internet connection, or in situations in which power isn’t available (e.g., field monitoring systems). This board is designed for global use, providing Cat M1/NB1 deployed bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 20, 28 (Vodafone, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Telstra, Verizon).

With various in-built options such as LiPo charging circuit, RTC, etc in all the boards and various shields such as MKR Term Shield, MKR ENV Shield, etc has made is even easier to quickly and easily build IoT projects with this board.


Arduino MKR Family

Other Notable Boards for IoT development Apart From Top 10 IoT Development Boards –

Apart from the above-listed boards, there are other companies building really good development boards for IoT applications. Some of the notable boards are – 

This is an opinion post by the author based on his evaluation of various IoT development boards for prototyping. Stay tuned for more such articles!


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