Wireless techniques have always fascinated me – having been a radio amateur in my youth days and not really liking the standard wiring of model railroads, see the photo below from our club layout.

Therefor I always followed new wireless techniques – and there are quite a lot of them, like

  • 468/868/915 transceivers (for example RFM22 or JeeNode)
  • blue tooth and BLE
  • 2.4GHz wireless transceivers like nRF24L01+ and the like
  • XBee’s, ether as additional Xbee modules or integrated into µC like ATmega128RFA1
  • Wifi, based on different modules
  • the Pololu Wixel (2.4GHz)
  • Z-wave

And except for Z-wave, which needs an initial 5k€ investment), I experimented with most of them (and I’m currently building an XBee wireless throttle).

The first Wifi modules I actually used for controlling a model railroad layout are the spark.io “Spark Core” modules. They offer  several advantages over the others:

It uses standard Wifi, i.e. is not a proprietory, standalone system, and thus is really “open” – you could easily expand a Spark wifi-based system with modules of completely different make like a raspberry PI with an USB wifi dongle. The Sparks are not too expensive (although not the cheapest system) and much easier to program than anything else in the market (similar to Arduino’s). No need to learn the details of a new microprocessor and install cross-compilers on your PC or have JTAG for programming!