The Internet of Things (IoT) is sure to fire up in the coming years. According to Statista, the global market for IoT could hit a whopping $1.6 trillion by 2025 for end-user solutions. Those who like to capitalize on its growth or dabble on wireless networking can benefit from a few cost-effective tools. One of these is ESP8266. 

What Is ESP8266?

ESP8266 Wifi Module
The ESP8266 is probably one of the most popular Wi-Fi microchips in the market today. It is the predecessor of ESP32, which already includes Bluetooth 4.0 support. The first series of modules equipped with ESP8266 was launched sometime in 2014 by a third-party company called Ai-Thinker.
 Although the module’s features already captured the attention of the IT industry, not much has been done because there’s limited documentation available. Whatever was there was also in Chinese. 
Today, Espressif Systems, which operates in Shanghai, China, produces ESP8266 modules. Its features have also been significantly upgraded for better capabilities.

 The microchip doesn’t have a lot of external components, so they’re easy to integrate into other modules and interfaces, as well as combine with other sensors. This also makes an ESP8266 module incredibly cheap. One can buy it for less than $10.

How Does ESP8266 Work?

As a Wi-Fi microchip, it has some essential components and capabilities:

  • Microcontroller
  • TCP/IP stack
  • Built-in flash
  • Integration with Arduino

The microcontroller functions as a small version of a PC’s microprocessor or central processing unit (CPU). It manages how the different components communicate with each other. 

The full TCP/IP stack, on the other hand, allows the system to connect to a Wi-Fi network and download, exchange, or transmit Internet data. The built-in flash means that a user can build single-chip devices that are capable of wireless connection.  

To illustrate how this works, picture a toy with a microchip and a smartphone that controls the toy. Both these devices can connect and communicate with each other through Wi-Fi. In this setup, the microchip functions as a bridge between the two. 

When a user wants to activate the toy through their mobile app, they send a request through the app’s servers. The ESP8266 sends an authentication code that should match that of the app. 

This data then goes to the servers, which confirms the match. The electronic toy receives the instructions from the mobile app and runs.

Integrating with Arduino

One of the biggest reasons the ESP8266 is a favorite among programmers is its compatibility with Arduino. This is an open-source platform that comes in two parts: 

  1. software kit called the integrated development environment (IDE) and
  2. hardware, which includes a board with a powerful microcontroller.
arduino uno
The ESP8266 already comes with its own development framework. It can also operate using a variety of SDKs. However, Arduino is the most preferred since it’s beginner-friendly. It works using a simplified C++ language.

Check out Arduino's blog for more advanced projects on ESP8266.

Features of ESP8266

  • Runs on a 32-bit L106 RISC microprocessor based on the diamond standard 106Micro of Tensilica Xtensa, a company popular for making customizable microprocessors
  • Memory (in RAM): 16 KiB ETS systems data, 32 KiB for instruction and instruction cache, and 80 KiB user data
  • Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n with WPA/WPA2 or WEP authentication
  • Power amplifier, matching network, and integrated TS switch
  • 16 GPIO pins
  • QSPI flash that supports up to 16 MiB
  • I2S and I2C interfaces
  • Operates at 3.3 voltage

 In this article, we looked at some of the most important features of the ESP8266.  Have you worked with these electronic parts and components? Share your experiences with us.

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