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How to Create Your Own IoT-Controlled NeoPixel

12/6/2018 | By Staff

We have learned how to communicate with the micro:bit via a serial port, how to control NeoPixels, and about Adafruit IO. In this project, we will combine all three to create an IoT controlled NeoPixel using Adafruit IO, accessible with a modern browser on any device!


  • NeoPixel Module
  • micro:bit
  • USB micro B cable
  • Python 3
  • Adafruit IO account
  • Scheme-It

    How to Create Your Own IoT-Controlled NeoPixel

    You can find the full Scheme-It schematic for this project here.

    The Plan

    The plan for this project is to take advantage of a PC internet connection and serial connection to control a NeoPixel via a micro:bit. A PC is required because the micro:bit lacks an internet connection, but does have a serial connection. Commands can be sent from the PC to the micro:bit to control the NeoPixel.

    The code for the micro:bit will be designed using MakeCode blocks, while the IoT software that runs on the PC will be written using Python (mainly due to the Adafruit IO libraries available). Since Adafruit IO dashboards can be publicly shared, we can use any device with a compatible web browser to see the status of the NeoPixels. However, only a logged-in individual can use the controls. Therefore, control of a dashboard appears to not be shareable.

    The micro:bit Code

    The first block to be executed is the “on start” block with several tasks. The first task is to create a NeoPixel object that uses 24 LEDs, the P1 pad, and in the GRB format for sending data. The second task is to redirect the serial port to USB. This is vital as it instructs the micro:bit to use the USB port as a serial port, allowing for easy PC communication. The third task is to set the brightness of the NeoPixel to 15. NeoPixels are incredibly bright and this reduces current consumption from the micro:bit. The last task is to clean the NeoPixel display to start in a known configuration.

    How to Create Your Own IoT-Controlled NeoPixel

    The code for the micro:bit is rather simple and does not use the forever block, instead utilizing interrupt driven blocks. These blocks only operate when a specific event has occurred, such as “line received over the serial port.” If this occurs, the serial port data is read into a variable called “stringReceived” and a series of “if” comparisons determine the colour the NeoPixel becomes. The color value is sent via the serial port and the micro:bit program splits the incoming data stream into a color identifier (red, green, or blue), along with its specific value.

    The Python Code

    The Python application will be a middleman in this project and will not interact with any users at all. Instead, the Python programs job is to look for updates from Adafruit IO and then relay the new data to the micro:bit. This updates the NeoPixel to whatever is being instructed by the Adafruit IO dashboard. The incoming data from Adafruit IO is in the form of a hashtag color code, which first gets separated into the individual colors and then sent as a message with the color identified (red, green, or blue), followed by its value.

    Copy Code

    The Adafruit IO Dashboard

    The Adafruit IO dashboard only uses a single feed - “Color”- and a single dashboard object - the color picker. When the color picker object is selected, its color is changed using a color pallet. If the color option is saved, the color feed is also updated and the result is the NeoPixel changing color shortly after to match the color on the dashboard!

    How to Create Your Own IoT-Controlled NeoPixel