We all have devices other than phones
and computers which are connected to the Internet at home or anywhere. This is
because of the IoT (Internet of Things) which is here and it’s only the
As Jeremy M. Williams of Vyudu Inc.
believes that “The physical world and the digital world are merging together as
one every day; and the more our physical products sense and react to our needs,
the more alive they become” (Issac T.)
Based on this idea a company called Inventrom Pvt. Ltd based in Bangalore,
India designed a product called Bolt IoT Platform.
Bolt captured my attention the most, by being an
IoT platform and a machine learning seemed a perfect tool that would make our
lives easier. The design resembles other IoT products that are already on the
market such as Spark Core (later changed to Particle Photon) which has very
similar features that later will be shown.
In short, the two devices can perform similar
actions such as (Home Automation, Temperature Monitoring and many others).
Looking at what the team Bolt claim:
“Bolt IoT Platform is a complete solution for IoT projects” and that Bolt is a
combination of “hardware-cloud” service where the users can control their
devices by collecting data in a secure way. The platform consisting of three
main components: hardware module, cloud, and analytics.
Hardware module, low-cost but any good?
For the two crowd-funding
campaigns, the company used the same low-cost Wi-Fi chip, the ESP8266-based module,
while it is cheap and capable, the ESP8266 might not be the excellent choice
and you will soon find out. I am saying that because while the ESP8266 module
can join WPA2 networks and supporting HTTPS connection as a client – even here
have been some problems – when running a secure web server. (Anteph.)
Some other security
capabilities of the chip also lack such as secure boot and flash encryption.
Not everything is new
Looking back at 2013 a
company called Spark IO has launched the “Spark Core: Wi-Fi for Everything”. (Spark IO.) They have used the SimpleLink CC3000 Wi-Fi Chip and later changed to
Broadcom BCM43362 (“the one that can be found in Nest
Protect and Amazon Dash”) alongside a STM32 ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller.
For a quick and easy comparison between the two products, I have created
a table where you can see some of their features, crowdfunding goals and the price
for each device.
Features, Goals and
Bolt IoT Platform
Spark Core (Particle
(later changed to Cypress BCM3362)
80 MHz Tensilica
72 MHz ARM Cortex M3 (later
changed to 120 MHz ARM Cortex M3)
ML Algorithms baked
Work with Amazon
35mm x 35mm
36.5mm x 20mm
First campaign – $38,000
Second campaign -$10,000
Pledged by backers
As we can see that Spark Core (now
called Particle Photon) despite of being 3 years older than Bolt, it had very
similar specification. A key differentiation of Bolt IoT Platform from others IoT
kits such as Photon, is the Bolt Cloud, which has machine learning algorithms
helping the users to run on their sensor data.
A Bolt Cloud on the
Starting with what the
founder and CEO of Bolt IoT is claiming “…the main strength of Bolt comes from
the Cloud. The Bolt Cloud lets you remotely configure and initialise the pins
on your Bolt Wi-Fi module, write code and update the firmware of all your
device codes over the air. Bolt cloud brings scalability to your IoT projects
as it lets you configure and code thousands of devices simultaneously within a
few seconds.” (Pranav P. V.)
A worrying aspect
would be that the Bolt Cloud can update the firmware via over-the-air (OTA). As
I said before the Wi-Fi chip that was used is
lacking things like secure boot and flash encryption, meaning that the chip can
be updated over-the-air (OTA) without any security checks.
With a heavy reliance
on the cloud, this being the most intriguing feature and the most worrying
aspect. Bolt team is gambling that the maintenance costs for the cloud will be
low and the cost will be covered by the number of customers that will buy their
product. And looking at Particle Cloud we see that some costs will be covered
by the apps that the developers will create and by selling those apps they
could cover some costs of the cloud.
It might seem I have
been a bit sceptical about Bolt IoT Platform, and to be honest to an extent I
am. Despite of the new implementations such as ML Algorithms and inbuild
functions, by looking back at their first campaign where they used the low-cost
ESP8266 based module and the price would have been $9, and for the second
release using the same module setting the price for $12 in the end by almost doubling
to $17 makes me wonder why, and what is that difference between the two versions.
such as Photon, is primarily aimed towards makes, developers and people planning
to build IoT products with (ML Algorithms baked in). In my opinion a smart option for
the second release of Bolt would have been the EPS-32 Wi-Fi microcontroller, a
younger version that supports secure boot and flash encryption, but also
1024-bit One-Time Passwords (OTP) and Over-The-Air (OTA).