The Arduino Create platform was announced three years ago on Arduino Day, and rolled out to the public later that year at Maker Faire Bay Area. However while not much was visible externally, behind the scenes there have been some big changes to the Arduino toolchain since that initial release. The introduction last year of the Arduino Command Line Interface (CLI) was the first visible signs of this change, which led directly to the release of the new Arduino Pro Development Environment last week.
Another really visible signs of this extensive overhaul to the tool chain is today’s announcement by Arduino of third-party board support in the Arduino IoT Cloud, the next step along this path to bring the Arduino development environment, kicking and screaming at times perhaps, into the modern era.
The Arduino IoT Cloud allows you to connect your Arduino boards both directly to the internet, and to each other using MQTT.
“The Arduino IoT Cloud was… developed around the Arduino MKR series of boards featuring Microchip’s ATTECx08, an encryption chip capable of elliptic-curve cryptography. These boards store the bits necessary to authenticate with a server in a very secure way, guaranteeing your board is connecting to the real server and exchanging data over TLS.”
Due to the reliance on the MKR boards' encryption chip, until the latest release there was no support for third-party boards to stream data into the IoT Cloud. However, this announcement adds support for boards based around the Espressif ESP8266, which can now be added as a ‘Cloud Thing’ to your IoT Cloud dashboard.
“When it comes to boards that don’t have enough RAM and do not feature such cryptographic elements, we had to enable a secondary way to get in. Data transfer will still be encrypted over SSL, but the server authentication part will be a little less strict… third party boards without a crypto chip, we [extended] our API and [allowed] the creation of a device-exclusive unique identifier (which will be used as a username) and the generation of a Device Key, providing the final user to access the platform using a username: password pair.”
The down side? If you want to use the third-party boards with the Arduino IoT Cloud you’ll have to upgrade your plan from the ‘free’ plan to their ‘maker’ plan, which costs $6.99 per month. The upgrade also gets you some other perks, including unlimited compilation time, and increased retention of data. But if you’ve already bought into the Arduino cloud environment, this announcement gets you the new third-party support for free.
Today’s announcement is also the first of presumably many as Arduino says support for “more and more hardware” is coming soon. Presumably support for the Espressif ESP32 which does support similar encryption hardware to the Arduino MKR boards on-chip could be the next third-party platform to be supported the Arduino IoT Cloud.