Build exciting projects with your ESP8266 and open up the whole world to the Internet of Things! These microcontrollers are inexpensive, fit (in the Amica version, more on this below) on any breadboard and can often replace an Arduino – even if you don’t really need an internet connection.
ESP8266 and Internet
The best argument for an ESP8266 is its Wi-Fi module, because with it you are no longer limited to your workshop: It’s easy to connect your project to the Internet and open up completely new possibilities!
- These include, for example:
- Send, collect and evaluate sensor data online
- Load and parse JSON data from APIs
- Control projects remotely
The advantages are obvious: The ESP8266 is inexpensive and actually very easy to program via the Arduino IDE. You will learn how to do this on Pollux Labs. Also you can implement many project ideas without too much effort, as there are already libraries for many problems that you can easily integrate. If you need more power and maybe even Bluetooth, then big brother ESP32 is probably the next candidate on your list.
The ESP8266 has a similar number of pins as the Arduino. You have the option of connecting a whole range of sensors, displays or other components via I²C (Inter-Integrated Circuit). Communication via SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) is also no problem. In addition, there are a number of digital inputs and outputs and a pin to read analog signals.
So nothing stops your creativity: How about a weather forecast? Or a counter for your followers on Instagram? Or get an e-mail sent if the air in your study is too thick. :)
Prototypes made easy
If you are familiar with the pins on your Arduino, you will have no trouble experimenting with an ESP8266 project. The controller provides you with numerous pins for digital communication. You can also read out analog data, because an analog-to-digital converter is also on board!
SPI and I²C are also no problem. So you can connect several components without having to use lots of pins and cables.
All in all, with the ESP8266 you have a microcontroller that can actually do more than a “normal” Arduino and which you might prefer soon.
Amica vs. LoLin
If you are looking for an ESP8266 on the internet, you will usually come across two versions: the NodeMCU Amica (v2) and the NodeMCU LoLin (v3). Although a v3 is actually an improvement, this is not necessarily the case. On the contrary, the LoLin version has a serious disadvantage: It fits on your standard breadboard, but then you won’t have any space left to put cables next to the pins of the ESP8266.
This circumstance makes building prototypes unnecessarily complicated. On the other hand, the advantages of v3 over v2 – the Amica version – are marginal and not so important for most makers.
We therefore recommend buying an “Amica” for your ESP8266 projects.
NodeMCU & ESP8266
These two names sometimes appear together, but sometimes only the last one. Also we at pollux labs usually only use “ESP8266”. This means always the same microcontroller.
But to be exact: NodeMCU is the operating system of this board and was developed in 2014. The ESP8266, on the other hand, is the microcontroller on which this operating system runs.