Friday, December 12, 2014

Bluetooth or WiFi

Ever since I started the engine monitor project, I've had this nagging feeling in the back of my head about using Bluetooth for the engine monitor. Sure there are a lot of things that use Bluetooth for diagnostics and such on a smart phone. I rarely see anything permanently connected except car audio.

Bluetooth's biggest problem for this application comes with the idea of pairing. The only one (sometimes two) device can be paired with a tablet or phone. If you want to listen to audio from the tablet and get engine monitoring inputs to the same tablet, Bluetooth isn't the answer.

I've often thought that WiFi or USB might be a better solution. USB OTG is very common on most Android devices. OTG means the phone or tablet can be a host as well as a client. As a host, the phone can have a USB keyboard and mouse plugged in, and be useful (not portable though). Having the tablet or phone talking to the Arduino could be done for monitoring things, and using a USB hub, probably even charge while displaying engine settings.

USB's biggest drawback for this application is wire. There will need to be about 12 feet of USB cable from the front of the aircraft where the tablet would be to the back of the aircraft where the engine monitor would be (I have a Cozy that is a pusher). Putting a USB hub in the middle of the airplane would give me 2 six foot runs, but it still is inconvenient, and another point of failure.

WiFi, until recently, was a financial challenge. With Aurduino boards costing under $20 for what I want to do, and WiFi shields costing about $40 (sometimes they can be had for $30) it just didn't make sense. I am still trying to come up with a budget device that anyone can put in anything from a $10,000 homebuilt to a $500,000 production aircraft.

Recently a Chinese manufacturer has starting selling $3-5 wifi modules that will talk SPI and will run on the Arduino and other systems. The ESP8266 is available today for about $5. There are tutorialslibraries and sample applications for the Arduino. The module has an onboard processor that people are taking advantage of to make standalone projects, no Arduino required. It could be the thing that makes IoT a reality for many more consumer applications.

The module supports WiFi Direct (P2P) meaning I don't need a WiFi hub in the aircraft. The tablet or phone can talk directly with the module. If there is a hub in the aircraft, then that will work as well. It makes the whole wireless modules in the aircraft more of a reality.

I've ordered one of these modules, it may be a couple weeks before I get it. It will probably be a little while before I integrate it in the engine monitor as well. I'll keep you up to date on my progress.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,

    I need to run ESP8266 to WiFi Direct (P2P) mode too

    my project is connect two MCU together with two ESP8266 and I need modules working such as my serial cable, what can I do?

    may you help me?

    best regards - Sh. Nourbakhsh Rad