Particle Mesh is shipping: everything you need to know

This Friday, at long last, we’re shipping Particle Mesh!


Over the last five years, Particle has shipped over 500,000 devices to more than 160,000 engineers and 8,500 businesses who trust our technology to help solve some of their most important problems. Through working alongside those customers, we’ve gained invaluable experience on the true challenges of building and deploying IoT products.

We’ve invested all those insights into the creation of Particle Mesh, our third generation of IoT hardware and the most ambitious project in Particle’s history. All our new development kits come supercharged with local mesh networking out of the box, benefit from Particle’s growing ecosystem of tools for IoT developers and administrators, and improve on our previous generation of hardware products in almost every way imaginable.

There’s a lot of content here, so I’ll start with the tip of the iceberg.

Particle Mesh highlights

  • Every Particle Mesh device can create and join wireless mesh networks that enable robust, low-power, device-to-device communications.
  • A new Feather form factor that enables compatibility with an entire ecosystem of hardware accessories from our friends at Adafruit.
  • Support for cutting edge IoT connectivity standards like Thread (all devices), Bluetooth 5 (all devices), and LTE-M1 (Boron LTE).
  • A brand-new Bluetooth-based device setup process that makes configuring devices and networks simple and straightforward.
  • End-to-end integration with Particle’s Device OS, Device Cloud, Console, IoT Rules Engine, and IDEs.

Hardware Changes

Hardware support for new connectivity protocols

Our third generation of hardware supports a much greater set of connectivity options than have ever been available previously via Particle. Together, they essentially double the number of ways that product creators can connect a Particle device to the Internet.

  • All Particle Mesh devices support 802.15.4 Thread mesh networking with OpenThread.
  • All Particle Mesh devices support Bluetooth 5 which features higher data throughput, longer range, and improved coexistence.
  • The Boron supports LTE CAT M1, a new cellular standard for IoT devices which provides enhanced battery life, improved signal penetration, and lower hardware costs.
  • The Ethernet FeatherWing adds Ethernet connectivity, which technically isn’t a wireless protocol, but adds a critical backbone of industrial-grade reliability in environments that need it most.

An upgraded ARM processor

All our new Particle Mesh dev kits are powered by the nRF52840 which contains a modern, Cortex-M4F 32-bit processor with 1MB of onboard flash and 256KB RAM. The new processor also supports hardware accelerated floating point unit (FPU) calculations and cryptography, as well as a bunch of new fancy hardware security features (ARM TrustZone CryptoCell security module).

Feather form factor

All our new development kits feature the Adafruit Feather form factor, which makes Particle Mesh hardware immediately compatible with an ecosystem of dozens of hardware accessories, including displays, relays, LED drivers, environmental sensors, power accessories, and more. Additionally, it means that every Particle Mesh device supports direct Li-Po power and charge management via the onboard JST connector.

Upgraded flash memory

We upgraded the flash memory available on each Particle Mesh device by adding a whopping 4MB of external flash which can be used for data logging, firmware backups, and future feature development. The flash is QSPI compatible and supports XIP (execution in place), enabling you to run executable code from external flash in addition to simply reading and writing to memory.

JTAG standard connectors for debugging

All Particle Mesh hardware includes mini-JTAG standard connectors which are compatible with our brand new Particle Debugger. Although not available at the launch of Particle Mesh, JTAG programming and step-through debugging will be supported natively with Particle Workbench, significantly improving the capabilities of the development tools available to professional engineers building products with Particle Mesh hardware.

External antenna connectors for improved RF performance

Want to get more range out of your mesh network? Every Particle Mesh device includes u.FL antenna connectors which make it easy to attach a high-gain mesh, Wi-Fi, or cellular antenna for improved RF performance when it matters most.


Firmware

New primitives for local mesh communications

We’ve added two new Particle primitives, Mesh.publish() and Mesh.subscribe(), which mirror the functionality of Particle.publish() and Particle.subscribe(), but within the scope of a local mesh network. This means that the Particle Device OS now officially supports local communications between endpoints in a Mesh network, a critical feature to enable development of low power, low latency, and downtime-resilient IoT systems.

Support for firmware OTA for endpoints in a mesh network

In addition to supporting local network communication primitives, we also built out firmware OTA (“over the air”) update support from the Cloud for both Device OS firmware as well as customer applications. OTA updates are enabled by the Mesh gateway and give every Mesh endpoint all of the same networking capabilities as our previous Wi-Fi and cellular devices.

Support for Bluetooth firmware OTA

With the introduction of support for Bluetooth 5, we’ve added the ability for users to update their Device OS from the Particle app using a brand new set of Bluetooth APIs for enabling OTA updates. This makes it possible for users to take advantage of the latest and greatest Device OS firmware every time they set up a new device and makes this feature available to product creators via a future release of our mobile SDKs for Mesh-compatible devices.

Completely rebuilt IP stack for all hardware

We’ve completely re-implemented our IP networking stack to create a more uniform architecture for each of our Particle Mesh devices. This will reduce the variability in networking behavior between Wi-Fi, cellular, and Mesh devices (a good thing!), and increase our ability to support future connectivity protocols and hardware variants with predictable and reliable networking performance.

Support for OpenThread and OpenThread embedded gateways

As a part of building Particle Mesh, we created the first known implementation of OpenThread border router functionality on an embedded device. This means that lower-cost microcontrollers can be turned into gateways for OpenThread mesh networks, increasing the number of use cases (and problems) that can be served by Particle Mesh. This functionality is available via our Device OS, and will be contributed back to OpenThread to aid in development of additional products using this impactful technology.

Encrypted Bluetooth communications and setup

Because we use Bluetooth to communicate sensitive information during device configuration and diagnostics, we improved on the out-of-box security for BLE by implementing application level encryption with mbed TLS. This continues our commitment to exceeding industry standards for IoT security and allows product creators building with Particle Mesh to sleep easy at night.


Everything Else

Radically simplified setup process

Our third generation of hardware is the first to benefit from a radically simplified setup process that is mobile-first and leverages Bluetooth connectivity for bidirectional feedback and simple pairing via printed data matrix codes to make device pairing as simple as scanning a code with your smartphone. This setup process will be extended via our mobile SDKs to product creators building their own products with Particle Mesh.

Support for managing networks in the Console

We’ve added support for managing newly created mesh networks in the Console, providing a concise overview of the number of devices, number of gateways, and types of gateways supporting your Particle Mesh networks.

Newly organized documentation

On Friday we’ll be rolling out a new and improved information architecture for our documentation which will make it easier than before to find information about your new or existing Particle Mesh hardware. The new information architecture will also ship with a new home page for the docs as well as product landing pages that make it easier to find information related to the Particle hardware or software product you’re working with.

More to come

Although the list of new features and improvements we’re delivering with Particle Mesh is quite long, there’s lots of exciting features left to come. Like every new Particle product, we expect our new generation of hardware to undergo rapid improvement in the upcoming months as we deliver your preorders, identify and fix bugs, improve reliability, and add support for new features.

We’re excited to hear your feedback! If you encounter an issue or have a question, join our online community and create a post. Want to dive a little deeper? Check out our open source hardware and firmware repositories on GitHub and submit an issue or pull request. If you’re working on a project with your new Mesh hardware, post it on Hackster – we’ll be sure to highlight our favorite projects in the upcoming months with our broader community.

Most importantly, thank you for your support and enthusiasm! This milestone wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting without you.

Author Bio

Will is the General Manager of Particle's developer tools team. He oversees the manufacturing of our development kits as well as software development for our IDEs, SDKs, and complete development experience.