Darian Johnson's Newt Aims to Be Your Go-To Device for Low-Power All-in-One IoT Display Projects

Designed for ultra-low-power operation, this always-on display includes Wi-Fi connectivity, capacitive touchpads, and is sunlight-readable.

Darian Johnson is preparing to launch a low-power always-on display designed for the Internet of Things (IoT) and driven by an Espressif ESP32-S2 module: the Newt.

Newt is a battery-powered, always-on, wall-mountable display that can go online to retrieve weather, calendars, sports scores, to-do lists, quotes... really anything on the Internet," Johnson writes of the device. "We consider Newt to be the next step in the evolution of low-power display boards."

The Newt is a low-power IoT display built around an ESP32-S2 and a Sharp memory LCD panel. (📹: Phambili Tech)

The heart of the Newt is an Espressif ESP32-S2-WROVER microcontroller module, which includes Wi-Fi connectivity, 2MB of pseudo-static RAM (PSRAM), and 4MB of flash. Connected to this is the display, a 2.7" 200x400 Sharp Memory-in-Pixel LCD — an alternative to ePaper displays that offers full sunlight readability and a low power draw but without the slow refresh rate of electrophoretic technology.

There's a real-time clock for timing applications — or even simply to turn the display into a clock — along with 10 capacitive touchpads for interactive projects. A USB Type-C connector includes data and power, while a JST connector allows a lithium-ion battery to be added and charged.

"Newt was designed to operate 'untethered,' which means you can mount it in places where a power cord would be inconvenient — like on a wall, refrigerator, mirror, or dry-erase board," Johnson explains. "With the optional stand, desks, shelves, and night-stands are also good options."

The board, which is programmable in the Arduino IDE, CircuitPython, or ESP-IDF, is to launch on Crowd Supply in the near future. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but interested parties can sign up to be told when the campaign goes life — or check out the schematics and design files on GitHub where they're made available under the permissive MIT license.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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