Review: Getting Started with the Particle Photon

Photon, particle, IoT

Today we will be reviewing the Particle Photon. Particle introduced the Spark Core on Kickstarter in 2013 as an internet enabled micro controller that you could program over wifi. Since then they have moved to general production with the Photon. On the surface the Photon is like an Arduino integrated with a Wifi module. This allows the device to interface with the Internet of Things(IoT). It also has some pretty cool features that might make your next project simpler. Follow along as we open and connect this device to the internet!

We got our hands on a Particle Photon kit that you can find on the Particle’s website store. I couldn’t find anything even close to this price on Amazon, so your best bet for the kits are to order directly from the Site. At $29(plus shipping) for the kit this is on the steeper side to other similar options, but the presentation is remarkable.

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Everything comes in neatly packaged box including

Particle, Photon, Parts, Arduino, IoT

  1. Photon
  2. Breadboard
  3. LED
  4. 2 resistors
  5. Photo Resistor
  6. USB micro Cable
  7. Card-paper cutout for part placement

This is a very beginner friendly kit and, unlike other kits we’ve reviewed, uses this card-paper for easily placing the components for the Demo Projects.

Particle, Photon, IoT, Arduino, Spark, Paper, Review, Tutorials

This paper goes right on top of the breadboard and placing the Photon onto the breadboard keeps it in place and aligns all of the markings with it’s pins. This makes it very easy to get setup and make sure your Photon is working.


After unpacking everything, we setup the parts into the breadboard using the card-paper.

Particle, Photon, Arduino, IoT, kit, assembled, Review, Tutorial

This is why this kit is so beginner friendly. As you can see above it shows you exactly where to place the components around the particle.


Now it’s time to get the Particle Photon online. The first step is to download the Particle app to your smart phone device.

Particle, Photon, Arduino, Review, IoT


It will have you create an account on particle.io. Then you add a “Photon” device and go through the steps in the app.

Particle, Photon, IoT


The app will have you do 3 simple steps:

  1. Connect to your home WiFi,
  2. Connect to your particle using your phone
  3. Input your home WiFi password so your particle can connect to it

After that it will tell you in the app if this is successful. The app met all of our expectations for a device like this. It was very straight forward and easy to go from step to step. Along they way it gives you feedback on the success of each step which is important for the confidence of beginners.

One of the most useful functions of the Photon is that the IDE(Where you program and write code) is all on the Particle website. This is a big benefit as the code itself is not only stored on a cloud for you that you can access from any computer, but you also program the Photon over the air using WiFi. This makes it a lot easier to update home projects already installed in your house as you won’t have to touch or disassemble the device to flash it, you just find it on your particle account and update the code to the device.

To access the IDE go to www.particle.io/build and sign into your account. You should see the Particle devices that are associated with your account. The Photon setup name you used before should be in this list. Also, don’t worry. The Particle IDE uses all the same libraries as the Arduino IDE so if you are familiar with the Arduino, the coding is exactly the same.

As with most new Arduinos, we chose to run the Blink LED to make sure everything was working correctly on the Photon. You can check the code online by pressing verify and then flash it by pressing the flash button in the top left of the page.

Particle, Particle IDE, ARduino, Photon, IoT


It will take a couple seconds, but you will see your Photon start blinking its lights when it begins flashing, then it will quickly begin the program flashing on and off the LED.

Particle Photon, LED, BLINK, IOT


All in all we were very impressed with the Photon Particle from it’s ease of use. It may be a little more expensive than some other IoT devices, but this is the perfect device for any beginner wanting to do a project involving the IoT. For more advanced users, I’d suggest to not to get the Photon Kit but just get the Photon by itself. From a cost standpoint its not worth the extra $10 for a breadboard, LEDs, resistors, and a photo resistor as you most likely already have these parts. If you have an amazon prime account you can actually get this cheaper off Amazon as ordering directly from Particle will charge you a shipping fee that makes the $19 photon go over the $25 photon price on amazon. Particle has done a great job with the Photon, and we are excited to review more Particle devices in the future!

 

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