We all have devices other than phones
and computers which are connected to the Internet at home or anywhere. This is
because Internet of Things is here, and it’s only begun.

 

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. In 2017, Bolt
team had 2 crowdfunding campaigns after the first project funding goal was not
reached. Just after 2 months they were back in business, and now with a “faster”
version.

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Bolt v2 captured my attention, by being an IoT
platform with cloud, machine learning(ML) algorithms which seemed a valuable
tool that would make our lives even easier.

Bolt IoT platform is an Arduino compatible
IoT product that helps the creators, developers and people who are planning to connect
different devices and sensors to remote configure and control them from anywhere
in a “secure way”. This design resembles other IoT products that are
already on the market, so to make a comparison and an analysis of the design
and the performance I have used another IoT product called 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).

 

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 v2

Spark Core (Particle
Photon)

Wi-Fi Chip

ESP8266 based (ESP-12S)

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 (backed
in)

Yes

No

Works 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 was unsuccessful)
Second campaign -$10,000

$10,000

Pledged by backers

First campaign – $32,000
Second campaign -$48,420

$567,968

Price

$17

$19

 

As we can see, Spark Core despite being
5 years older than Bolt v2, has a very similar specification. A major difference
of Bolt IoT Platform v2 from other IoT kits such as Spark, is that the Bolt
Cloud, which has incorporated the machine learning (ML) algorithms providing the
ability to automatically learn different operations, which help delivering faster
and more accurate data.

 

Not everything is new
and shiny, and it might appear like a Bolt Cloud on the horizon

Looking back at 2013 a
company called Spark IO has launched the “Spark Core: Wi-Fi for Everything”. (Spark IO.) They have used a different Wi-Fi chip, but the main characteristics
are very similar features that will be shown in the table from above.

 

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 mentioned above the Bolt’s ESP-12S chip, is
lacking things like secure boot and flash encryption, a side effect would be
that the chip can be updated over-the-air (OTA) without any security checks.

 

With such a high dependence
on the Cloud, this being the most intriguing feature and the most worrying
aspect. The Bolt team believe 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. Looking at what the Spark team said, “Developers who create apps for the Spark Core or for Spark-powered
products may choose to charge for them, by selling those apps through the
iPhone App Store, Google Play, or on their own websites.” (Spark IO.), the Bolt
team might follow the same principle, and this could help cover some costs.

 

Conclusion

It might seem I have been a bit sceptical about
Bolt IoT Platform and, to an extent I am. Despite the new implementations such
as ML Algorithms and inbuilt functions, by looking back at their second
campaign where they used the same low-cost ESP8266 based module which lacks
security makes me wonder why they used the same Wi-Fi chip which does not supports
SSL, flash encryption and secure boot.

Comparing Bolt and Spark, both are very advanced IoT
platforms which have some good aspects and some not so good ones. Bolt is that
platform that offers you the ML Algorithms and the inbuild function that can
make our life easier, but a big drawback is the security. Spark (or Particle) despite
of not having the same build-in functions, offers “the security” that is needed
for the IoT environment.

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).

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