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
beginning.

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.

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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
and shiny.

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.
(Dfrobot.)

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
Prices

Bolt IoT Platform

Spark Core (Particle
Photon)

Wi-Fi Chip

ESP8266 based

SimpleLink CC3000
(later changed to Cypress BCM3362)

Microprocessor

80 MHz Tensilica
Xtensa LX106
(Harvard
architecture)

72 MHz ARM Cortex M3 (later
changed to 120 MHz ARM Cortex M3)

Cloud Connection

Bolt Cloud

Spark Cloud

OTA Updates

Yes

Yes

Smartphone App

Bolt App

Spark App

APIs

Private API

Rest API

Remote Configuration

Yes

Yes

ML Algorithms baked
in

Yes

No

Work with Amazon
Echo

Yes

Yes

Compatible with
Arduino

Yes

Yes

SSL encryption

No

128-bit

Size

35mm x 35mm

36.5mm x 20mm

Crowdfunding goal

First campaign – $38,000
Second campaign -$10,000

$10,000

Pledged by backers

$48,420

$567,98

Price

$17

$19

 

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
horizon

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.

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

Bolt,
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).