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Best Arduino boards for home automation

Best 3 boards from Arduino for your home automation projects

Arduino boards are often associated with electronic projects rather than IoT and home automation. You are totally forgiven if you think that way. Things have changed in recent years and these awesome boards have a lot to offer to anyone interested in IoT, automation or even machine learning. Thanks to Arduino, I get to talk about 3 boards best suited for your next automation project.

Why pick Arduino?

It’s understandable if you are strapped for money and you are looking for the best deal on the internet that you can find. That’s fair enough! But before you push the “buy” button on your next ESP based board, let me talk about why picking Arduino is great for your next project or your next learning experience and why it feels special.

The hardware cost is one of the things that you are paying for. Library support, tutorial, guides and project ideas along with great community support is factored into the price. Heck, you can even get hardware for free if you have a good pitch for a competition entry! It’s what bring makers together and with great numbers, the open source communities flourish.

It’s not something that many 3rd party manufacturers can say about efforts. Their support often ends once the board is sold and delivered. Each time you add an Arduino board to your basket, you are getting a nice little board for your next project and support the communities that were built around it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an attempt to bully your consumer choices, but a simple acknowledgement of what companies like Arduino, Raspberry Pi and others do to bring more people into maker spaces and promote STEM. Considering the size of their communities, it works!

Arduino IDE 2.0

Arduino IDE 2.0

It’s not new hardware that is on the horizon. A much-needed upgrade to wildly popular Arduino IDE is in beta and available for testing. If you haven’t tried Arduino IDE 2.0 – give it a go! Bringing the power of the proper debugging, better library and hardware management, Arduino IDE 2.0 brings this developing environment a step closer to perfection without overwhelming anyone who is just getting started.

3 best Arduino boards for home automation projects

While we were all focused on ESP8266 and ESP32 based IoT development boards, Arduino product selection flourished. Their store had filled with interesting boards, supporting libraries and their project hub got filled with home automation projects to take on. As their boards offer WiFi (and other protocols) connectivity, you can give it a go yourself!

I would like to introduce you to 3 best Arduino boards for home automation:

ARDUINO NANO 33 IOT

Arduino Nano 33 IoT

As the name suggests, this is a connected version of the incredibly popular Arduino Nano. I used the original Nano in my Staircase Lights project. Now I could easily upgrade it to a WiFi-compatible version of the board. Especially that both boards have the same form factor and share GPIO layout.

Arduino Nano 33 IoT merges the well known and familiar SAMD21 based CPU Arm® Cortex®-M0 32-bit and NINA-W10 – a low power WiFi 2.4GHz module. If WiFi isn’t enough, you can use Bluetooth and BLE as well. The combined power of Arduino and WiFi module brings an excellent GPIO specification for even the most demanding projects. Integrated IMU (accelerometer) could be used in robotics and other kinetic projects.

Hardware

MicrocontrollerSAMD21 Cortex®-M0+ 32bit low power ARM MCU
Radio moduleu-blox NINA-W102
IMULSM6DS3 
Clock Speed48MHz
CPU Flash Memory
256KB
Digital Input / Output Pins14
PWM Pins11 (2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 / A2, 17 / A3, 19 / A5)
Analog Output Pins1 (DAC 10 bit)
Analog Input Pins8 (ADC 8/10/12 bit)
External InterruptsAll digital pins

Arduino Nano 33 IoT is one of the smallest Arduino boards and it’s a staple of many electronics projects on the internet. From working with sensors to displaying data on screens, this board can do it all. Now, thanks to integrated WiFi, the board can share that information over the internet. It’s an ideal board for projects where size matters.

Thanks to existing integrations, you can quickly start with Arduino Cloud, AWS IoT Core, Firebase, or Azure. If the hosted cloud isn’t your thing, open-source libraries for MQTT, REST and Home Assistant integrations will keep you busy for days to come.

Before you start messing about with this board, take extra care. Arduino Nano 33 IoT uses 3.3V logic on their GPIO pins (unlike most Arduino boards) and connecting 5V inputs can be deadly!

Anyone tempted to try should check out the Getting Started guide, which walks you through every step to take your first step off the ground.

For a limited time, Arduino Nano 33 IoT is on sale for €12.80.

ARDUINO MKR WIFI 1010

Arduino MKR WIFI 1010

This is probably the most versatile Arduino board to work with right now. Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 combines the power of SAMD21 Cortex®-M0+ 32bit low power ARM MCU with WiFi hosted by NINA-W102. Thanks to the bigger form factor, the board is filled with additional modules like RTC and LiPo charger. Apart from WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 and BLE is also supported.

Hardware

MicrocontrollerSAMD21 Cortex®-M0+ 32bit low power ARM MCU
Radio moduleu-blox NINA-W102
Secure ElementATECC508
Clock Speed
32.768 kHz (RTC), 48 MHz
CPU Flash Memory

256KB
Digital Input / Output Pins8
PWM Pins13 (0 .. 8, 10, 12, 18 / A3, 19 / A4)
Analog Output Pins1 (DAC 10 bit)
Analog Input Pins7 (ADC 8/10/12 bit)
External Interrupts10 (0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,9, 16 / A1, 17 / A2)

You could look at the Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 as a bigger brother of the Arduino Nano 33 IoT providing similar functionality, but expanding the usability thanks to different form factors and extended shields support. Whatever your next project requires, Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 has probably a very useful shield to take your project off the ground and speed up the development.

Thanks to the integrated WiFi, you can quickly start with Arduino Cloud, AWS IoT Core, Firebase, or Azure. If the hosted cloud isn’t your thing, open-source libraries for MQTT and REST will enable this board for any connected project.

With an integrated LiPo connector and built-in charger, Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 could live at the heart of many portable and battery-operated projects, removing the need of thinking about the power requirement – an important factor for many automation projects.

Before you start messing about with this board, take extra care. Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 uses 3.3V logic on their GPIO pins (unlike most Arduino boards) and connecting 5V inputs can be deadly!

For a limited time, Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 is on sale for €20.90.

ARDUINO MKR WAN 1300 (LoRa)

Arduino MKR WAN1300 LoRa

If the standard WiFi isn’t enough, Arduino has a LoRa (Long Range) enabled board too. It’s a carbon copy of the Arduino MKR WiFi 1010 board with the aptly named CMWX1ZZABZ chipset responsible for LoRa connectivity. If you ever dreamt about automating farms or communicating with someone miles away (current record stands at over 430miles!!) thanks to custom hardware, this board has got your back.

It’s best suited as an end device, as the board itself doesn’t have a standard WiFi chip. Low powered LoRa IC can use AA batteries as a power source and run for extended periods of time thanks to RTC policies.

Before you start messing about with this board, take extra care. Arduino MKR WAN 1300 uses 3.3V logic on their GPIO pins (unlike most Arduino boards) and connecting 5V inputs can be deadly!

Hardware

MicrocontrollerSAMD21 Cortex®-M0+ 32bit low power ARM MCU
Radio moduleMurata CMWX1ZZABZ
Carrier frequency433/868/915 MHz
Clock Speed32.768 kHz (RTC), 48 MHz
CPU Flash Memory
256KB
Digital Input / Output Pins8
PWM Pins12 (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, A3 – or 18 -, A4 -or 19)
Analog Output Pins1 (DAC 10 bit)
Analog Input Pins7 (ADC 8/10/12 bit)
External Interrupts10 (0, 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16 / A1, 17 / A2)

LoRa protocol has picked up on popularity lately thanks to inspiring videos from makers like Andreas Spiess. Arduino MKR WAN 1300 brings LoRa to enthusiasts and they always find the next most inventive idea on how to use new tech in the most creative ways. Even at my work (we make industrial robots), LoRa became part of an interesting system (which is under NDA 😢) as it was the best protocol for the job.

Putting LoRa aside, MKR designation means that just like the Arduino MKR WiFi 1010, you can use a plethora of shields to add extra functionality without designing your own circuit. Thanks to Arduino support, it’s all professionally documented and supported.

Deep inside, it’s still the Arduino you love. Suited for robotics, automation and whatever crazy projects you could think of next. It’s best suited for taking your ideas outside, or far away from where you reside most while bridging your projects together thanks to the power or long-range WiFi.

Arduino MKR WAN 1300 is available for €35.00.

Arduino for other cases [Summer Sale]

Arduino for home automation
Arduinos chilling during the Summer Sale! Go check it out!

This is just the tip of the Arduino iceberg. This article focuses on boards best suited for home automation but the Arduino store is filled to the brim with interesting products. The honourable mentions are:

Arduino Nano RP2040 – Arduino take on RP2040 MCU made by Raspberry Pi (Raspberry Pi Pico) with the internet provided by Nina W102 module.
Arduino Portenta H7 – a professional-grade powerboard for industrial applications – with a beefed-up dual Cortex®-M7+M4 32bit low power Arm® MCU and a variety of shields that extend to AI, vision and automation.

Final thoughts

I’m glad to see a big variety of boards available from Arduino.cc. Have a browse yourself while the sales are on, and you might find the best Arduino board for your next project. I have 2 projects planned ahead that could use an Arduino board at heart. I’ve got an extremely fun toolbox with a fingerprint sensor, voltage regulator and built-in battery and made wicked plans for in-floor lighting. Yes, you are reading it right! Curious? You have a reason to follow me! Got questions or comments? Leave it in this Reddit post.

🆓💰 – See the transparency note for details.

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