Arduino IoT hardware

For IoT developers, choosing the right hardware is always a critical concern. A dependable device must have dependable hardware components — from routers to sensors to SIM cards. Because there are so many IoT hardware pieces and providers out there in the current market, you might find vetting them an overwhelming task. That’s where this guide comes in — we’ll take a tour of some of the best IoT hardware platforms available in 2022 and look at considerations to keep in mind when you’re choosing the right one for your IoT development process.

Recommended reading: What is an eSIM and how is it used?

What to look for in an IoT hardware platform

When considering IoT hardware platforms, start by defining your goals for the IoT device you’re developing. Account for details such as performance requirements, timeline and expected number of prototypes, and the use case and operating environment where your devices will be deployed. Here are a few questions to think about during this early planning stage:

  • What is the purpose of the device, and how will it acquire and control data?
    There are a huge variety of IoT products in development today, from soil moisture sensors to computer vision video security systems. Define the objectives for your device and how it will gather and manage data at the edge.

  • How will the device process and store the data — and how much data are we talking about?
    A water meter will need to process much less data than a smart video system. Consider the hardware needs of your specific device and how much processing power and storage it will need on-board.
  • What kind of connectivity will your device require?
    If devices will be deployed in urban areas and not moving around, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth may be viable choices. Cellular connectivity will provide better mobile coverage for devices on the go, such as fleet management devices, while low-power wide area network (LPWAN) cellular options are great for devices deployed in remote areas that need to limit their power consumption.

Recommended reading: Top development boards and shields for IoT projects

Top 8 IoT hardware platforms and prototyping kits

Let’s take a look at some of the best IoT hardware providers currently in the market:

  • Raspberry Pi
    A single-board computer that runs Linux, the Raspberry Pi is one of the most popular and accessible IoT development platforms out there.
  • Arduino
    Well-known in the IoT development arena, Arduino makes many different kinds of microcontrollers, open-source development tools, kits, and software.
  • Pycom
    Pycom is known for their WiPy and LoPy boards, which pack a ton of functionality into a tiny package. The company offers modules with flexible connectivity options, including Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi, and cellular LPWAN.
  • Particle
    With a variety of development kits and connectivity modules, Particle hardware is designed to work with the company’s software platform, Particle IoT Device Management, which includes tools to help you build and connect your IoT device.
  • SODAQ
    SODAQ’s durable, solar-powered IoT tracking and sensing hardware is designed for B2B and large-scale deployment. They also offer engineering services if you need help with your IoT designs and prototyping.
  • Adafruit
    An open-source hardware company, Adafruit offers a variety of IoT development boards and kits with varying features and capabilities.
  • SparkFun
    SparkFun’s microcontroller development and breakout boards allow you to create and test IoT device prototypes, and they sell additional hardware items such as cables, LTE antennas, and more.
  • Espressif
    Espressif’s microcontrollers are popular among IoT developers. The company specializes in creating chips with a high level of integration, helping you design IoT devices that are easily manufactured and deployed.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi makes single-board computers, microcontroller boards and chips, and personal computer kits. Well-known and revered for their accessibility, Raspberry Pi products are popular among younger users but also useful for IoT development projects. There are plenty of active online communities where developers can share successes, ask questions, and collaborate on projects, helping to fuel rapid growth in the development of new IoT solutions.

Here’s how Raspberry Pi products measure up in the key areas discussed in the first section:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Standard Raspberry Pi boards come with multiple data input options and built-in memory. The company’s products have a good reputation for dependability. Rating: Strong 
  • Data processing and storage
    Depending on the product, Raspberry Pi boards offer a range of data storage and processing capabilities, with more able to be added on. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    All Raspberry Pi boards can be connected via Ethernet cable, and most also enable wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Cellular connectivity can be added on with the Raspberry Pi cellular adapter and a cellular modem. Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    Raspberry Pi products lack power management capabilities such as sleep or suspend mode. If you need these functions, you’ll want to look at other hardware options. Rating: Weak

Arduino

Arduino is well-known and respected as a creator of DIY prototyping products. Because it’s an established brand, there are a lot of support resources available along with community support similar to what you’ll find around Raspberry Pi’s products. Arduino also designs their own open-source software that can be used with their products.

Here’s how Aruduino products measure up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Arduino boards can be great for data acquistion, with a little design know-how. Data acquisition through Arduino products can be managed through data logging into an SD card, using Wi-Fi to send data to the cloud, or in real-time through the hardware’s serial port. This process is generally simple. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    Arduino hardware generally saves data onto a connected SD card or by sending it to a connected computer. Most pieces have built-in RAM that’s used to temporarily store data. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    Arduino products allow a lot of options for adding wired or wireless connectivity, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Some boards, such as the MKR family’s form factor, include support for NB-IoT, LoRa, and SigFox. Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    At least some of Arduino’s products have sleep modes for saving power, including options for standby, idle, and power-save modes. Rating: Strong

Pycom

Pycom has created an ecosystem of products with the goal of helping IoT developers get their ideas to market quickly. Their hardware offerings include development boards, low-power modules, and expansion boards and shields. The company also has a full line of software, supports a number of networking options, and offers community support such as events and an online forum for developers.

Here’s how Pycom products measure up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Because Pycom’s products are designed with IoT developers in mind, there are lots of options for data acquisition and control, including a data acquisition tool integrated with their software. Expansion boards and shields include sensors that detect light, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and more. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    Pycom hardware generally saves data onto a connected SD card or by sending it to a connected computer. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    Pycom products support a range of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, Sigfox, LTE Cat-M1, and NB-IoT. Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    At least some of Pycom’s hardware can function in Power Saving Mode, allowing you to choose how often your device will connect to the network and how long it will remain connected. This saves power and helps regulate data flow. Rating: Strong

Particle

Particle hardware offerings include industrial-grade connectivity modules and development kits created for IoT developers. The company also has its own platform for building and managing IoT devices. Their starter kit includes a Wi-Fi-enabled development board and several modules that gather different types of information, such as light and ultrasonic range.

Here’s how Particle IoT hardware measures up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Particle hardware is designed for easy data extraction and control. You can direct data to flow into your own business system, and the hardware is compatible with many of the top cloud management systems. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    Particle’s IoT starter kit and other development boards include on-board flash drives for data storage, and SD cards can be added on easily. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    Particle products support several connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, cellular (2G/3G/LTE), and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    Particle’s hardware includes “stop mode,” a sleep function that can be configured based on when and how you want your device to wake up. Rating: Strong

SODAQ

SODAQ provides low-power IoT solutions using alternative energy sources. Their hardware focuses mainly on asset tracking and is designed to withstand heavy-duty industrial use. SODAQ also makes and sells IoT development boards.  

Here’s how SODAQ’s hardware measures up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    SODAQ’s main line of asset tracking devices provide up-to-the-minute geolocation information via cellular and Wi-Fi. Their IoT development boards also include sensors that are helpful for tracker development, including GPS, accelerometer, and magnetometers. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    Data processing and storage capabilities are limited at the edge, but in most asset tracking use cases they are not needed. SODAQ’s line of IoT developer boards and microcontrollers can process incoming sensor data and send it to storage hardware or the cloud via a variety of connectivity types. Rating: Strong 
  • Connectivity
    Depending on the product, SODAQ hardware supports Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, including LTE-M on their Locator One tracker. IoT boards also support NB-IoT, LTE-M, LoRa, and more, depending on the model. Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    SODAQ’s IoT hardware is designed to be low-power. Not only do the sensors and boards function in ways that conserve power, but they also typically rely on solar panels as an energy source, making them excellent and long-lasting solutions in remote areas where changing a battery could be problematic. Rating: Strong

Adafruit

Adafruit’s open-source hardware provides newbies with an easy entry to the DIY electronics space. The company sells IoT hardware from other companies along with their own Adafruit Feather line of products. The Feather allows engineers to create IoT projects of all kinds, including remote monitoring and control, pet tracking, and air quality detection. The board is ideal for embedded development, and it’s a low-energy computer that can be put into “sleep” mode to save power.

Here’s how Adafruit’s products measure up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Adafruit’s Feather line of development boards makes datalogging easy, and you can add on different sensors and shields (called “wings”) to collect different types of data, such as GPS geolocation. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    Adafruit’s Feather boards include some built-in storage, depending on the model, and some have spots to add on SD cards for additional storage capabilities. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    Adafruit sells boards that include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LoRa, and radio connectivity options. They did offer one option (Adafruit Feather 32u4 FONA) that’s cellular capable, but unfortunately, it’s now discontinued.  Rating: Moderate
  • Power management
    The Feather can get power either from a computer via a MicroUSB cable or with a lithium battery. The hardware is configurable to go into a power saving mode, especially when connected to Wi-Fi (which can drain power quickly). Rating: Strong

SparkFun

SparkFun is on a mission to make the world of electronics more accessible and has opened up a whole subcategory dedicated to cellular IoT products and accessories. Everything from LTE antennas to their own cellular IoT board is available for purchase through their online store. SparkFun’s guides, forums, and support are ready to help you get your IoT projects up and running smoothly.

Here’s how SparkFun’s products measure up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    SparkFun’s IoT development boards and starter kits are often simple but include everything you need for adding on data acquisition components. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    SparkFun offers a range of data processing and storage add-on components, including the MicroMod nRF52840 processor, which also adds Bluetooth and Zigbee connectivity.  Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    SparkFun’s boards can be augmented to support Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular — including LTE Cat M-1, NB-IoT, and more.  Rating: Strong
  • Power management
    SparkFun also makes power management add-ons that allow you to run your prototype in power-saving mode. Rating: Strong

Espressif

Espressif makes microcontrollers that enjoy a lot of popularity among IoT developers. Their all-in-one approach allows you to get one product and acquire a number of capabilities without having to purchase as many add-ons as some other boards require. For example, Espressif’s entry-level development board, the ESP32-S3-DevKitC-1, includes a built-in module for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

Espressif’s microcontrollers are popular among IoT developers. The company specializes in creating chips with a high level of integration, helping you design IoT devices that are manufactured and deployed easily.

Here’s how Espressif’s products measure up:

  • Data acquisition and control
    Espressif’s IoT boards are designed for acquiring sensor data and transmitting it to an add-on MicroSD card or the cloud via cable or wireless connectivity. Rating: Strong
  • Data processing and storage
    As noted, some of Espressif’s IoT kits include MicroSD slots, and all are equipped with port-to-USB bridges and wireless communication capabilities. Rating: Strong
  • Connectivity
    Depending on the model, Espressif’s boards support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. At this time they do not support cellular connectivity. Rating: Moderate
  • Power management
    Espressif emphasizes its low-power IoT hardware solutions, and most hardware includes several sleep mode options: light sleep, modem sleep, and deep sleep. Rating: Strong

Recommended reading: Your 2021 user guide to IoT protocols and standards

IoT Cellular Connectivity with Hologram

No matter what kind of hardware you choose to build your IoT device, you’ll need dependable connectivity. Deploy and manage your IoT devices with Hologram’s secure, future-proof IoT SIM cards, global network, and a cloud-based dashboard. 

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