The Photon, made by Particle.io, is a small microcontroller with built-in wifi. What makes the Photon unique as compared to many other MCUs is its integration with the Particle ecosystem. That ecosystem makes it exceptionally easy to develop, deploy, and communicate with any particle device that has an Internet connection. Particle provides for Internet and browser based management of its devices, supporting things like a cloud based IDE/compiler, over-the-air firmware updates, and simple HTTP api communication layers to and from devices.
All programming, compiling, and updates were done using the browser based IDE:
The particle SDK supports declaring certain variables and functions to be accessible from the particle web console. Particle provides a generic browser based UI to view these variables and functions, and the same functions are also accessible via a simple HTTP API for integration with other software.
In this case, the neopixel was connected for visual effect only. It is simply cycling through colors. The neopixel products are interesting because each LED can be individually addressed to display any RGB color and brightness.
Where’s my Internet connected toaster?
I started following Particle when it was still named “spark.io”, and I was fortunate enough to have a beer with their lead developer in San Francisco during their early days. I bought a photon soon after their first kick starter where they garnered ~$500k from backers. Since then they have released a similar cellular enabled device called Electron, making the platform accessible anywhere there’s cellular coverage. Very cool.
The Photon and Electron are great matches for Internet-of-Things (IoT) type ideas. IoT might be a buzzword, but even so, the related platforms and devices coming about to support IoT are opening up a whole new level of possibilities.