On reading our earlier post on Thingsquare Mist, some readers had doubts on the scope and components of the Thingsquare platform, how it compares with Contiki, etc. So, here are more details…
Thingsquare is a whole platform that enables you to connect your products to the Internet of Things (IoT), easily and swiftly. Thingsquare, the company, was started in 2012 by the creator of Contiki, Adam Dunkels, and is understandably based on the open source Contiki operating system. As far as the business model goes, we can probably understand it to be like what Red Hat is to Fedora. It logically pools together a lot of open goodies, and adds support and service – with a price tag, of course.
What it does
Thingsquare basically gives everyday objects a unique identity and connects them to smartphone apps, so that they become part of the IoT.
Basically, the manufacturer of a device just adds to it a programmable wireless chip that runs the Contiki-based firmware called Thingsquare Mist. The wireless chip and the Thingsquare firmware securely connect the device to the Thingsquare cloud backend server. The cloud backend provides an API for smartphone apps.
Thingsquare works with a range of wireless chips from several different chip manufacturers, and also supports different types of wireless radios. So, manufacturers have multiple options, both systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) solutions and standalone microcontrollers with radio transceivers. Both 2.4 GHz radios, for fully internationalized products, and sub-GHz radios, for increased wireless range, are supported.
With the cloud-based, easy-to-use development platform, developers can come up with a range of applications to put the ‘connected’ device to good use!
The wireless mesh: Thingsquare builds a resilient wireless mesh network where one router provides seamless Internet access for all mesh nodes. The super-efficient self-forming and self-healing mesh network works with many types of radios and low-cost wireless microcontrollers. It is based on the IETF RPL IPv6 mesh routing protocol, and boasts of the world’s smallest IPv6 stack. With Thingsquare, devices relay messages for each other to extend range and increase reliability. Plus, the mesh uses Thingsquare’s new sleepy mesh technology, which puts the radios to sleep when not in use.
The router: Thingsquare mesh devices reach the Internet through a small, lightweight router that runs on a tiny, low-cost microcontroller, and connects the wireless mesh to the Internet via Ethernet or WiFi. The router is transparent; that is, the devices do not know it is there. All they see is the Internet. The router firewall policy is also simple: allow traffic out but no traffic in.
Cloud services: Through the router, devices can connect securely to the cloud, be it Thingsquare’s cloud services, or private backend servers. The Thingsquare online development environment also runs in the cloud.
Software and Development kits
For the wireless mesh: Thingsquare runs on a number of wireless development and evaluation kits from several manufacturers including Texas Instruments CC2538dk (2.4 GHz) and CC1120dk (Sub-GHz), and STMicroelectronics STM32W108C-SK (2.4 GHz) and STEVAL-IKR001V4 (Sub-GHz).
For the router: To connect Thingsquare mesh nodes to the Internet, a lightweight router devkit such as the Redwire red-io Ethernet router (2.4 GHz) is needed.
For the apps: Thingsquare is based on open standards and uses their distribution of the open source Contiki operating system. They also provide Thingsquare Code (beta), their online development environment on the cloud, and the Thingsquare Mist open source firmware, which is 100 per cent modifiable. You can also download and use Instant Contiki.
Thingsquare is backed by several industry giants including Texas Instruments and ST Microelectronics, and has been used in a few successful products including Tado smart thermostat and LIFX Wi-Fi LED bulb.
Read their tech whitepaper to learn more about how the IoT platform works.