Particle moved its desktop IoT developer tool to Microsoft Visual Studio Code allowing for a more common platform to develop, program, and debug applications. It also updated some of its hardware components that make up its full IoT stack.
The free IoT developer kit is dubbed the Particle Workbench. It’s a desktop tool that uses the Microsoft platform to provide developers in the prototyping stage of development with direct access to device programming.
Will Hart, a general manager at Particle’s prototyping team, said Particle Workbench offers a more fully developed coding environment compared with the company’s internet-based Web IDE tool. Both tools are part of the company’s developer tools for IoT software.
“We are more and more developing these products with different intent and audiences in mind,” Hart said.
He explained that Web IDE does not require installation or tooling, while Workbench is built for a more hands-on approach. “It’s really for going line-by-line of code and doing so while connected directly to the hardware,” Hart said. “That is something that is just not possible through the web environment.”
The Workbench product is an update to Particle’s previous Desktop IDE platform that relied on the open source Atom software code editor. Hart said that the Microsoft Visual Studio Code had a lot of components embedded that needed to be added to its Atom-based product.
“We did need to redo some things with Visual Studio, but at the core it provides a much more solid developer experience,” Hart said.
The Microsoft platform is a free, open source code editor initially released in 2015. It was recently ranked as the most popular developer environment as part of the Stack Overflow 2018 Developer Survey.
Free Biz Model
Hart explained that both the Workbench and Web IDE services continue to be free to allow its customers to more easily scale their hardware deployments, which is where Particle can derive more revenues.
“Those customers are going to scale and can now do so more quickly and that is where we make our money,” Hart said. “This really smooths the process from stage-one prototyping to large-scale deployment.”
Particle launched via Kickstarter in 2013. Its “full-stack” IoT platform includes hardware, software, and connectivity. The developer tools are part of the software component that also include cloud access through its Particle Cloud, which itself runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), and a device operating system. The IoT hardware includes microcontrollers with embedded connectivity that include options for WiFi, cellular, and low power wide area (LPWA) standards like LTE-M and narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). It also offers a SIM card to support cellular connections.
The IoT platform has been adopted by gas stations, oil rigs, storm water drains, and in manufacturing equipment. According to the company, about 50 percent of S&P 500 companies are using Particle for IoT.
The company has scored nearly $36 million in funding, with its latest Series B last year led by Qualcomm Ventures and Spark Capital.
Hardware, Connectivity Updates
On the hardware side, Particle updated its WiFi and cellular connectivity options with a mesh networking service using the Thread protocol developed by Google’s Nest division. Hart said the mesh connectivity can link together several devices in a confined environment and then connect to a single cellular or WiFi device to backhaul all of the data traffic. This provides lower power consumption for each of the individual mesh-connected devices, lower costs because only one device needs to have a cellular connection, and can self-heal should one of the mesh devices go offline.
Particle handles the cellular connectivity through reseller agreements it has with established operators. An IDC report from earlier this year included Particle in its list of IoT connectivity providers alongside AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei, Orange Business Services, Sierra Wireless, Telefonica, Telit, Verizon, and Vodafone.