The internet of things is here and it just keeps growing. One key to helping this growth though is to make it easier to put your things on the internet. The release of the ESP8266 chipset made it cheap to do so but there are lots of steps required to get started and for someone not familiar with electronics, programming, data storage solutions, it can be daunting. The Bolt WiFi module and their accompanying environment makes getting started with IoT easy and fast.
The Bolt board is really just a carrier for an ESP8266 that breaks out pins to simple headers. The real magic is in the software and the interface they have created. To get started with the board, plug it in and download the Bolt IoT app to your Android or iOS device. The app will find your device and guide you through the steps to add it to your network. After that all interactions are done through the boltiot.com website. Once you create a login and login to the site, a quick tutorial will show you around the different areas of the site and allow you to get started. The process to get your first device online could use a little refinement, I found myself hitting errors as I tried to get things setup and while they helped me figure out what I was missing, I would prefer they just told me what I needed to do from the get go. Basically you need to add a device, then a product using that device and then code to that product.
The code Bolt uses is Java Script, something that will probably please lots of web devs out there but it felt a little alien in an embedded environment. Hopefully in the future they will expand the language options to allow those getting started to pick a language they might be more familiar with. Deployment of all the code is done over the wireless connection with the USB needed for nothing more than providing power to the board.
The Bolt Wifi board, has a single analog input that can be used to hook up a sensor. Data can be collected from this sensor and is not only stored for you in Bolt’s cloud but they even make it easy to create graphs from that data. No need to host your data on another platform and pull it into other tools to look at it in a visual way.
If I had one complaint about the platform it would be the price. It’s a pretty limited board utilizing a known cheap chipset so at $22 it seems a bit over priced. You get a lot in the back end software but I think at half the price this would be a huge hit.