The unPhone: an ESP32 with sugar and a cherry on top for the IoT

Developing for the Internet of Things is a bit like trying to change a light bulb in the dark while standing on a three-legged chair with your shoelaces tied together. By the time you’ve configured your development environment, assembled the libraries your hardware demands, fixed the compatibility issues and figured out how to burn new firmware without bricking your circuit board you’re all ready to discover that the shiney new networking function that you bought the board for in the first place doesn’t actually work with your local wifi access point and the fact that you now have less memory space than Babbage and Lovelace’s analytical engine means you have to program in an antiquated and error-prone systems language.

Hey ho.

The unPhone is an IoT development platform from the University of Sheffield, Pimoroni and BitFIXit that builds on one of the easiest and most popular networked microcontrollers available (the ESP32), and adds:

  • an LCD touchscreen for easy debugging and UI creation
  • LoRaWAN free radio communication (plus the ESP’s excellent wifi and bluetooth support)
  • LiPo battery management and USB charging
  • a vibration motor for notifications
  • IR LEDs for surreptitiously switching the cafe TV off
  • an accelerometer
  • an SD card reader
  • power and reset buttons
  • a robust case
  • an expander board that supports two featherwing sockets and a prototyping area
  • open source firmware compatible with the Arduino IDE and Espressif’s IDF development framework
  • all the features of Adafruit’s Feather Huzzah ESP32

Untie your shoelaces and let’s get cracking 🙂

Texts without Telcos?!

Phones are great… except when you walk full on into a lamppost with your head down and you realise you haven’t looked at anything but a screen for the last six months and your thumbs are covered in blisters and your best friend is a collection of pixels on a social media site. Um.

IoT tech has the potential to support lighter weight communications, especially now that The Things Network is helping spread (effectively) free radio support around the world. The unPhone supports LoRaWAN, and predictive text… perhaps we can develop a free texting engine that can do just enough communications to help us leave our phones at home now and then?

And then maybe we’ll start smelling the flowers a bit more often 🙂