Why MetaWear Is The Best Wearable, Sensor, and Beacon Platform

Introduction

For makers building their own wearable, sensor, or beacon projects, there are several platforms to develop on such as the Arduino Uno, Photon, and Intel® Edison. Each of these development boards brings something different to the table, however MetaWear offers several advantages that make it the most attractive option. The MetaWear:

  1. Uses Bluetooth Low Energy for wireless communication
  2. Is easy to get started
  3. Comes with sensors already on-board.
  4. Does not require firmware development.
  5. Is powered by a Li-ion battery or a CR2032 coin cell battery.
  6. Has the smallest form factor
  7. Is the cheapest solution

We will explore these advantages one by one to see how the competition stacks up against the MetaWear RPRO and CPRO boards.

Feature Breakdown

Bluetooth Low Energy

In a previous post, we explained why Bluetooth LE is the best choice for a wearable, sensor, or beacon product. MetaWear is built as a Bluetooth LE platform whereas the competition, except the Edison board, requires a shield to get Bluetooth LE functionality.

Easy to Get Started

Here is the “Getting Started” guide for the Arduino, Edison, and Photon boards. To do something as simple as turning on the LED, both the Arduino and Edison require installing IDEs and locating serial ports, and the Photon board requires either a wireless network combined with a Particle account, or installing the particle-cli Node package.

MetaWear, on the other hand, only requires installing the MetaWear app on your mobile device to start using it.

On-board Sensors

MetaWear Sensors
The RPRO and CPRO boards come with a 6-axis IMU, ambient light sensor, barometer, and temperature sensor, with the CPRO also packing a magnetometer. None of the competitor boards ship with any sensors; makers need to spend extra money on shields or blocks to get the sensors they want.

No Firmware Development

MetaWearArchitecture
Another advantage of using the MetaWear is that no firmware development is required to use the board. We have provided a robust and feature rich firmware that lets you control the sensors, process sensor data on-board, log sensor data, and chain commands together. To instruct the board on what to do, you create an app that connects to the MetaWear and issues commands by writing to the MetaWear command characteristic. There are APIs available in C++, Java, and Objective-C that encapsulates the MetaWear protocol to streamline communication with the board.

Power

MetaWear and Coin Cell
MetaWear is designed to be powered by a single Li-ion or coin cell battery allowing you place a MetaWear board anywhere you want. The R series is powered by a Li-ion battery and has charging circuitry to recharge the battery with a micro USB cable; the C series holds a CR2032 coin cell battery. A single battery can power MetaWear for up to 6 months depending on use case.

On the other hand, the competition does not come with batteries, requiring them to be attached to a power source via a USB cable or a DC adapter. You can power them with a battery however if it is a rechargeable battery, you’ll have to disconnect the battery to recharge it as the boards do not have any charging circuitry. If this sounds like a hassle, you can purchase yet another shield that has all the necessary circuitry.

Dimensions

Board Dimensions
MetaWear CPRO (D) 24mm
MetaWear RPRO (L) 26mm x (W) 17mm
Arduino Uno (L) 68.6mm x (W) 53.4mm
Intel® Edison Breakout (L) 35.5mm x (W) 25mm
Photon (L) 36.58mm x (W) 20.32mm

By surface area, MetaWear (RPRO: 442mm^2, CPRO: 452.39mm^2) is the smallest board followed by the Photon (743.3056mm^2), Edison Breakout Board (887.5mm^2), and Arduino Uno (3663.24mm^2).
Shields vs. MetaWear
Keep in mind that the MetaWear already has everything you need packaged on-board. If you factor in the extra height of the expansion shields and blocks you need to match the MetaWear feature set, your end result is a board that is too bulky to function as a wearable, sensor platform, or beacon.

Cost

Component Arduino Uno Edison Breakout Photon
Base Cost $24.95 $49.95 $19.00
IMU $29.95 $34.95 $24.95
Battery Shield $24.95 $24.951 $12.95
BLE Shield $29.95 $29.95
Total $109.80 $109.85 $86.85

1Comes w/ 400mAh LiPo Battery

As mentioned in the previous sections, the other boards require additional shields in order for them to match MetaWear’s feature set. While the boards by themselves are cheaper, the costs of all the shields quickly add up and in the end, MetaWear, with its $65.00 price tag, is the cheapest platform. Furthermore, the aforementioned costs do not factor in the time spent getting started and writing the firmware.

Wrap Up

In summary, the MetaWear platform is the cheapest solution compared to the popular development boards mentioned in this post. It comes as in all in one package providing the features you want and need for building wearable, sensor, or beacon products. If this post has you convinced to try out our boards, head over to our online store and get the MetaWear platform today.