Pimoroni Enviro Indoor Review: Senses and Sensing Capabilities

Barely the Raspberry Pi Pico W been announced that a UK-based official Raspberry pie Retailer Pimoroni has unveiled a range of products based on Pico W. We have already reviewed Inventor 2040W, and it received the coveted Editor’s Choice award. This board introduced us to “Pico W Aboard”, which is Pimoroni’s line of boards that features a soldered surface mount Pico W at its heart.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

For its latest Pico W add-on kit, Pimoroni introduces Enviro Indoor, a platform of miniature sensors capable of detecting temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, air quality and light levels. Smaller than a Pokemon trading card and with an easy-to-use setup wizard, Enviro Indoor could be the sensor platform for your citizen science project.

Is it easy to use and what can we do with it? For that, we have to put it on the bench and test it.

Indoor Enviro Specifications

SoCs Raspberry Pi Pico W
RP2040 Arm Cortex M0+ Dual Core 133MHz
RAM 264 KB of SRAM
Storage 2MB flash
Connectivity Infineon CYW43439 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi with integrated antenna
Connected via SPI
Sensors BME688 4 in 1 Temperature, Pressure, Humidity and Gas Sensor
Light sensor (luminance and color) BH1745
GPIOs 1 QwST port (Qwicc / Stemma QT compatible)
User/Activity LED
Warning light
User button (poke)
Reset button
Real Time Clock (RTC)
Power / Data Micro USB for data and power
JST-PH connector (2 pins) to attach the battery (input voltage 2.5 V – 5.5 V
Dimensions 36×69mm
Price $35 (£36)

Using Enviro Indoor

There are two ways to use Enviro Indoor. If you just want to start logging data, you can use the provisioning wizard to quickly set up your device. While turning on Enviro Indoor, press the poke button to set up a temporary Wi-Fi hotspot. Connect to the hotspot and the wizard walks you through the process of naming the device, setting up Wi-Fi, and then pointing Enviro Indoor to an online service such as MQTT, Adafruit .IO, etc.

It’s smooth. The process is easy to follow and at the end we get a device sending data to the service we have chosen. We really liked this process, and since it’s out of the box, we can see many manufacturers opting for this low-friction approach.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

We configured our table to send data to a public MQTT broker and after a short pause saw the data appear in our MQTT client. The data is sent as a JSON object, very similar to Python’s dictionary data type, which provides clear and easily usable data.

What if we wanted to forge our own project? Enviro Indoor can also be used as a typical Raspberry Pi Pico W device with your own code. For our recent How to use Raspberry Pi Pico W with Node-RED tutorial, we used Enviro Indoor as a sensor. With very little MicroPython code, some MQTT magic, and a Raspberry Pi 4 running Node-RED, we quickly had a web application giving us the latest environmental data in our home. Pimoroni has created a great MicroPython module that encapsulates the complexity of the sensors, giving us a clear and easy way to get the data for our project.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The sensors at the heart of Enviro Indoor are the BME688, a four-in-one temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity and volatile organic compound (VOC) sensor, and the BH1745 luminance and color sensor. The BME688 is a solid choice. Covering temperature, pressure, and humidity is normal in a temperature sensor, but VOCs are a hot topic given the pandemic.

VOCs are an indicator of air quality and gases in the air. The BME688 even has some Basic AI which can be trained to refine gas detection. The BH1745 can detect basic light levels and determine colors, made up of RGB values. If you need your Enviro Indoor to react to darkness, the BH1745 is the tool for you.

We are not limited to just two sensors. The built-in QW/ST port provides access to a plethora of Stemma QT / Qwiic / Breakout Garden sensors. Normally we’d test with a BME688, but since this board already has one, we dug deep into our box and found an MSA301 three-axis accelerometer. It’s not a natural fit given the card’s use case, but it only took us a few moments to get live accelerometer data from the sensor, data that could also be sent to a service on line.

The Qw/ST connector is the only way to access the GPIO, no other pins are broken for use. It’s a shame, because we would have loved to connect other devices to our board. But we can skip this as it will add bulk and mass of threads to the kit. Enviro Indoor is a device. We code it and hang it up to use. If we need the extra GPIO, we could easily buy our own BME688 and BH1745 with a Raspberry Pi Pico W.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The power supply of the unit is very similar to Inventor 2040W. Via the JST-PH connector we can use AAA batteries or a single cell LiPo. This is also where things get a little smarter than an average board. Enviro cards can be configured to enter hibernate mode. A mode where only the RTC is active.

By having the device enter deep sleep and only wake up to take a reading and send the data to a service every hour, we can run our projects for a long time. Pimoroni makes the bold claim “Between taking and downloading readings, Enviro spends most of its time in deep sleep which consumes very little power – it can stay in this state for years on just a few AA batteries! ” Note that there is no onboard charging, so your batteries/LiPo will need to be charged using the appropriate external charger.

The $35 price suggests it’s a device. It’s good for those who either want the ease of use of an internet-connected data collection device, or those who want minimal hassle and are happy to pay a premium. The construction is superb and the built-in hanger is a smart move that means we can snag this board and forget about it.

Enviro Indoor would be ideal in the science lab, home office or workplace. The wizard provides a frictionless path to data science, and the hardware looks great.

If you want to get into science projects based on electronics, Enviro Indoor should be your first choice.

Excellent build quality and great software are the basis for a great experience. Enviro Indoor offers that and more. The assistant is a smart move and opens up the board to those who are new to the subject. Of course, the price is a bit more expensive than buying the Pico W and the sensors ourselves, but we save time and ease of use for our cash expenses.

AFTER: Best RP2040 Cards

AFTER: Best Raspberry Pi Projects

AFTER: Raspberry Pi: How to get started

About Maria Hunter

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